leaking: who is responsible?

eyewatcherFebruary 3, 2010

I am living in 2nd floor in Condo. one day I got a letter from condo attorney that we, home owner, is responsible for leaking problem.we finally found where water leaking came from.

my condo has a terrace connecting to a room. I splited water around door. To clearly explain,

(room==> door==> outside terrace) is in order.

after few minutes, water started leaking to the downstair units. We told condo officer that water leaked from around door. but Condo said that we had to fix it becasue we are only one who is accessible to use and they don't maintein terrace. I don't think that this is right reason to put all fault to us. pls, help me out here. I desperately need help. one more thing! I copied exactly sentences that wrote on the letter. we removed all terrace improvements and condo checked with us.


accoring sentences above, terrace is belong to condo, not us. what can I do? if anyone knows a honest and good lawyer, pls recommend me!

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if anyone knows a honest and good lawyer, pls recommend me!

I don't know about honest, but I'll give you a tip on finding good (as rated by their peers and sometimes clients).

You might want to print this out.

Go to Martindale- Hubbel. M-H is a very old and respected company that offers a Peer Review rating system. (A link below explains how M-H does their ratings and what they mean.) This is not one of those silly sites where a lawyer can pay to join and get a good rating.

Left side is a menu for 'Find Lawyers & Firms'
In "Search for" box choose "law firms"
At "Practice Area" box, don't type in anything, instead go over to the right and click on 'Select'.
You'll get a pop up screen for "Select a Practice Area".
On the left (red Box 1) choose "Real Estate"
That causes entries for areas of expertise to appear in Box 2
In Box 2 tick off Condominium Association Law and Condominium Law
Now your narrowed search choices are listed in Box 3.
Below Box 3, click the Red "Select" button

Now you are back at "Find Lawyers & Firms" screen.
In "City" box put in Queens (I remember that from your 1st post)
In "State" box put NY
United States is automatically filled in now.
Click on red Search button

You'll now be presented with a list of firms or attorneys in your area that specialize and practice law in the areas you chose, Condo Association and Condominium Law. Make sure you don't choose an attorney that works for the same Law Firm that your Condo Association's attorney works for.

At this step, if you like, you can tick the little white box to the lower left of each firm on the list for Comparison. (Think you are allowed up to 5 at a time to compare.) Click on Compare after you've checked off some, that will give you general overview info.

But what you really want to do is click on each name that appears on your search results list. That will take you to a new screen showing general information (their location, areas of practice the firm specializes in).

Once you have clicked on a name or firm and get to the general info screen about them, off to the left is a white box with the heading "About this Firm".
This contains the rating that you want to see.
Click on "Peer Review Ratings"
You'll see a white box with red letters "Lawyers with Peer Review Ratings". That box will tell you how many lawyers in that firm have a Martindale-Hubbel rating and what the ratings are.

But you have to go a step further.
Next, still at the top of the "About this Firm" box, off to the right is a link that says "View All Lawyer Ratings". Click on that it will take you to a list of lawyers that work at that particular firm. It will tell you about each individual attorney there and show their rating. You might see some with nothing next to their name, but you will see some with codes "AV, "BV".

This page
explains how ratings are done and what they mean. Toward the bottom is they key, I pasted it below:

AV Preeminent (4.5-5.0) - An AV certification mark is a significant rating accomplishment - a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.

BV Distinguished (3.0-4.4) - The BV certification mark is an excellent rating for a lawyer with some experience. A widely respected mark of achievement, it differentiates a lawyer from his or her competition.

Rated (1.0-2.9) - The Peer Review Rated designation demonstrates that the lawyer has met the very high criteria of General Ethical Standing.


Now that you have an idea of how the rating system works, you want to check out the rest of the firms that came up on your search list. So use your browser's back button to get to go back to the screen showing your list of lawyers and firms. Click on names, read about them, and most importantly find what an individual attorney's rating is. And be sure they practice condominium law. It will be listed under their individual name. Were it me, I'd look for an attorney practicing condo law with a BV rating at minimum, preferable AV if there is one available. ( By the way, a higher ranking does not necessarily indicate that they are more expensive.)

So now what you've accomplished is you've narrowed all the law firms and attorneys in Queens area down to those that specialize in Condo law. And you've narrowed that list down down to the ones that have a good M-H rating. Much better than randomly picking someone from a phone book!

Once you've picked some with a good ranking, the next part is deciding if you like their personality or approach. Sometimes attorneys will offer free consultations about your case, sometimes they will charge for a consultation. So when you call their office, you might want to ask about that. From this point on, you'll just have to follow your gut in choosing one, but you at least have narrowed it down to some very good potential choices.

Once you've gotten familiar with the basics of finding an attorney or firm in M-H, you can do a new search using advanced features. Go to the main screen (link above) and
in the "Find Lawyers and Firms" box on the left, click "Advanced Search". You can add extra criteria there if you like, such as foreign language spoken, etc.

I hope that makes sense and I hope it helps!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 1:56PM
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If water spilled from your unit damaged units below you, I would think you should be responsible. Certainly I don't think that whether or not the board maintains common elements matters. It's as if you were to have torn someone's jacket (even by accident) and then you don't want to pay because the jacket was dirty... that's not your business. You still have an obligation to pay for the jacket - whether or not the owner kept it clean is not relevant.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 7:18PM
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eyewatcher probably should have just posted another follow up rather than start a new thread, less confusion. Anyway, original post is here.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 8:22PM
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I think you need a lawyer. While it does sound as if the terrace is a common area that is maintained by the condo association, that fact could be canceled out by whatever "improvements" you made to/placed on the terrace. It appears that the "improvements" were not approved by the condo association and even though they have been removed, the water problem still remains.

You need a lawyer who is experienced in the laws surrounding condo associations for your state/city. You may also need some sort of home inspector, who could determine if the leak is caused by a flaw in the building itself or due to damage caused by the terrace "improvements." But let your lawyer advise you on that.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 2:53PM
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TKs for advices, I consulted with an attorney. but he said it is very ambigious whether the sliding door on the terrace is an common elements. if you claim a suit, it will be long-term case. he is not sure how long it takes to end. so I am going to write a letter to the condo. however I am not sure if I wrote it correctly. Any opinion about the letter below wl be appreciated.
In accordance with the Condo Boardos direction, we have removed the improvements that was made to the terrace on the date of Jan. XX, 2010.

As per a phone call conversation with X on Feb XX, 2010, the water leaked around the sliding door connected to a room and terrace. It appeared that the improvement performed on the terrace was apparently not the cause of water backing up/being retained and causing a leak.

It is necessary to investigate/inspect to determine the reasons why there is water leakage around the sliding door. Before the leakage causes additional damage to the lower unit, we are going to fix the situation as soon as possible. However, the actual cause of this leakage has to be known to both parties. If the leak is caused by a flaw in the building itself, the condo should asset the cost of the work and repair.
In addition, he promised that he will write a formal letter whatever we want regarding the terrace and leak upon completion.
The confirmation should be commenced within ten(10) days of this letter.
We will start to fix the leak upon your response.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 12:00AM
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Hi, in the first sentence, you want to say "... that were made" rather than "was made" to show correct grammar. In the last paragraph you said that you will fix the situation, which is something (in law) that I don't think you can 'take back' once you commit to it. I would ask another (better!) lawyer about it all before doing that as you could be looking for a big mess of expense that may not be necessary, or even your responsibility beyond the original spill, or leak.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 5:54AM
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I'm glad that you consulted an attorney. For a small fee he/she could have helped you construct a letter that leaves you covered. Agree with larke, you don't want to use language that's going to remotely imply you are taking on any portion of liability or responsibility here. Not until a professional has made the determination of what exactly went wrong and when.

Can you ask the attorney to compose a letter for you?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 9:35AM
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You should talk to a better lawyer. One who knows what he/she is doing would tell you to not send a letter saying "we are going to fix the situation as soon as possible." That admits fault even if it isn't your fault.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 8:26PM
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