Water overflow pouring down from the apartment above me causing water damage, who should be responsible?

Hi People,

I live in an apartment in Sydney, and as owner, I am regularly paying for the Strata rates, which I assume also include the Building Insurance.

A few days ago, the neighbour above my apartment caused a terrible mistake when trying to set up the washing machine, they did something wrong and caused the hot water tap to burst and then flood their apartment, then flowing down to the apartment below, that is my apartment.

The water pours down practically like a waterfall through my false ceilings and light fittings.

Damaging:

False ceiling
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Floorboards
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and also the gas stove is now broken since it was soaked by the water.

Not to mention the other food items that have been damaged, thus must be thrown out.

In this type of scenario, the Strata manager has insisted that only the common area which is the false ceiling on top of the kitchen can be repaired, apart from that, the Floorboards, Stove and damaged food items cannot be claimed.

I wonder if the Damaged Stove and the Floorboards repair must be paid by the apartment unit above me or the Strata through the building insurance?

Any help and suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

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While every strata can be different, as a general statement the owner corp has building insurance for the exterior and common areas, and may or may not include any interior for structural issues. In the case cited it was not structural but essentially negligence, so my punt is you need to claim on the offending apartment owner.

Your owners corp would be the ones to give you authoritative information. It is unwise to ever assume regardless of how reasonable one might think their ‘assumption’ may be.

Strata ‘rates’ would be council rates, insurance only they can provide the answers to what is covered, and maintenance for common areas. Strata owners should be closely engaged with the owners corp to be sure of their situation, and that the OC is doing a good job for a fair payment.

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It doesn’t look good. I have had leaks in the roof above my unit as i live on the top floor. Bit different to your situation i totally understand what you mean who should be responsible. It all depends on how good the other owners are that live where you are. The more cooperative everyone is in your block easier to fix things. But you have another issue regarding a leak. I feel the person should compensate you as it is not your fault. Hope goes well.

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Two sources of further guidance.

And from one well known strata manager.

There is an FAQ which when opened provides some further insight.
https://stratafaq.com.au/unit-water-leak-repair-responsibility/?_ga=2.160763001.592717208.1658349645-170609392.1657853850

Assume by ‘Strata rates’ you are referring to the regular owners strata management levy. I pay ours every 3 months.

Some Owners Corporations (or Body Corporates) and their appointed managers are easier to deal with than others. For anyone not familiar with their function or experienced it can be useful to seek assistance in navigating the system. Often this can be from another owner who has taken a greater interest in the day to day performance of the current committee and appointed manager, or one of the committee members. YMMV.

From the linked web references and OP the Owners Corporation has some responsibilities relating to establishing the cause of the water damage and making an insurance claim for repairs to those items it is responsible for. That claim should support any further need for repairs by the affected owners.

Whether the insurance policy taken out by the Owners Corporation (represented by the appointed Strata Manager) extends to the unit owner in this instance. I’ve seen policies which would cover internal damage to the portion of a unit the responsibility of each owner, and policies that do not. Hence the prior advice by @PhilT to seek as much information as possible. A responsible Strata Manager would be communicating to each unit owner the status of the annual insurance renewals, and what is and is not covered. Not all are proactive, based on personal experience.

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Thanks, people for your input and suggestions.

Would it be appropriate or make sense for me to get any of the below involved?

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
NSW Fair Trading | NSW Fair Trading

In case the apartment unit above does not comply or no longer responding ?

The following may help. For those in other states/territories best to look specifically to your Govt web resources for their advice.

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Both you are the other apartment owner should each have liability (or similar) insurance that covers such misadventures as you describe, and actions/remediation should be claimed through the insurer.

It appears such insurance may be something that has never been on your radar but might have been on the other owner’s.

You need to have a read of your strata agreement. The issue may be a civil matter between you and the owner of the above apartment or it could be that the OC is or needs to be put into the middle especially if NCAT may get involved.

You also need to understand if there are any, and if so what restrictions there may be to doing/arranging your own work. Some stratas require ‘approved’ tradies/companies to perform all works while others are hands off anything inside your own property (apartment) that does not affect a common area.

If the apartment owner does not take full responsibility without pushback you would be well served getting advice from a lawyer with strata experience and not hesitate in pursuing whatever is recommended. The ‘oversight agencies’ can be toothless, waste time, and because of their scope may pass you around or decline to get involved.

FWIW a soaked gas stove might still be fine if given time to dry out. Whether it is repairable or needs replacing could be contentious so make your list of damages and claims accordingly.

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As I understand it, your CONTENTS insurance should pay for damage (as a CONSEQUENCE of the above unit’s leak) to YOUR property which is everything from the paint on the walls and above the concrete slab of a floor upon which you installed floorboards. The stove is also YOUR property.

The Owners’ Corp is responsible to fix the pipes, walls, floors etc which are all COMMON PROPERTY.

I suggest you notify your insurer of your claim. I expect it will deal with the unit above’s insurer. This is a slow process. You must formally claim with YOUR insurer; an assessor is sent out to your unit; a decision is made as to what will be repaired or replaced and last but not least, repairs/replacements are undertaken.

You can be sure that the OC’s insurer will deal with the unit above’s insurer.

By the time the assessor has come out, hopefully the OC has outlined its repairs and hired a tradesman to do them.

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This advice is best. You have taken photographs, but contact your contents insurer as a first step.

If you don’t have contents insurance, you are going to have to contact the apartment owner of the source of the leak. It will get complicated from that point, and you will need to create a claim, including fully itemised bill of repairs and replacement of damaged goods etc.

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I meant Jon01’s comment is the best advice.

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Have you spoken to your strata manager and/or building manager? They should be the first port of call.

The strata manager is responsible for the administration of the owner’s corporation, and should be able to assist with issues such as determining who is responsible. The building manager is responsible for the physical building.

The key question is: what is the source of the leak? If it is common property, such as a water main, then it is the Owners Corporation. If it is something like a leaking hot water system within the apartment then it would unfortunately be the lot owner from which the water originates. The strata manager should be able to advise you on this.

I am assuming that you are in NSW, but I imagine it is similar in other states.

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It probably a long shot, but depending on when the timber floor was first installed, it may be classed as common property. See recent legal decisions on common property in this Mondaq newsletter. My reading is that if the timber floor was installed when the strata plan was established, it is classed as common property.

When was your timber floor first installed?

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Some managers are slow to act with anything i have had dripping roofing as i live on the top floor ceiling is bad in some areas i would never buy a top floor unit ever again unless it is newer maybe but older style unit no way. The manager is supposed to work with the owners. But i can only keep asking again and again. I am also trying to get the eve repair by them as it is part of the building.

Hi @B-man, sadly, the original building was installed using carpet, so the timber flooring was installed by the previous owner before I purchased it from them.

Therefore, it is not classified as common property :expressionless:

Hi @jezz, yes, I am in NSW.
After speaking with the Strata and the Building manager, the unit above me should be responsible to pay for the damage. However, in the event of the owner above me does not want to pay or ignore my request, would it be appropriate to report it to fair trading?

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I doubt Fair Trading would involve themselves in a civil dispute between two homeowners. Your insurance company may payout the damage and seek restitution from the homeowner above you. If you don’t have insurance or insurance doesn’t cover any of the cost, or the full cost of replacement/repair of your items, you could take your case to your State’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal to try to recover the difference or the replacement cost.

i strongly suggest you talk to a solicitor about what steps you would need to take before commencement of any legal action. There are free legal advice centres that will provide this advice for free or you could use a non free solicitor and add that cost to your claim from the other homeowner. Most of us are not legally trained to give you any legal advice, so we only provide general advice here.

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Roof leaks can be extremely difficult to diagnose and resolve. If you are an owner then your strata committee should be able to inform you of progress.

I am secretary in a building which has an end of life roof. There is only one company which will even quote for work for us (for patch repairs) at the moment due to roofers all being flat out. Proper remediation is a major long term project which we are of course undertaking, but the time line is years.

So, it may not be your building manager’s fault. But if it is, then lobby to get a new building manager.

If you are being told it is the lot owner’s responsibility then it implies that the leak did not come from common property.

I fear you will have to claim for damages in the civil court system. Good luck. You may want to obtain legal advice. IANAL.

Another possibility is that it is covered by your contents insurance. Contents insurance in strata includes fittings and fixtures which aren’t common property. Of course, your insured amount would need to be sufficient.

If insurance doesn’t cover it and you can’t reach an agreement with the other owner, the legal option is definitely an option but it will cost you. As i see it, the options available are:

  • Fair Trading mediation then NCAT if you still can’t reach agreement. You can do this yourself but requires a lot of your time.
  • Pay solicitor to resolve.
  • Drop it and pay for the repairs yourself.
    You need to weigh up each option in terms of the overall costs, your time input, stress, inconvenience, etc to arrive at the best option. Although the third option is a hard one to swallow, there’s no point spending more money, time and stress than its actually worth.

Trust me i have had lot of leaks in many areas which have been repaired but one area still hasn’t been fixed i have asked so many times. Anyway i purchased a lemon of a unit which i never knew would cause so much problems