tangled plumbing--what to do?

writersblockMarch 16, 2012

I live in a fourplex townhouse development and today my neighbor's water heater developed a leaky connection. We looked everywhere for her unit's shutoff valve without success. Eventually we discovered that her water heater, at least, is feeding off the plumbing for my unit, through the party wall. I could see where the inflow line outside her kitchen had been cut off at some previous time, and I would assume that's when someone had this brilliant idea. (Neither of us were here then.)

We're on well water so metering/water stealing isn't a problem, but I'm planning to have the plumbing completely redone here when I remodel and I don't feel inclined to let that continue, since sooner or later I'm sure they'll decide to opt for municipal water instead. Also, I travel a lot and always shut the water off when I'm gone--I don't really understand how nobody in her place ever noticed this before.

What's the best way to handle this? Should I just tell her flat out that she'd better start saving up now?

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If you are a condo owner, you don't normally own anything inside a wall so you would have to get condo board approval to change anything. On the other hand, if your neighbor's plumbing has been altered during an emergency at some time in the past and is in violation of the site plans, you and your neighbor have every right to demand it be fixed and restored to compliance in a timely manner.
If the ownership is freehold, your rights may be better defined.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:53AM
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The Plumbing codes require one main water shutoff valve for each structure, but in the case of a multi-family structure there is no requirement to have a separate shutoff for each living unit.

Years ago many municipal water suppliers would install separate meters for each living unit, but as a rule they will no longer do that. Where a separate shutoff for each living unit is desired it is the common practice to install a manifold on the structure side of the Main water shutoff valve, but there is only one supply line from the street and one meter for the structure. That is why in most apartment complexes the water, garbage and sewer fees are included in the rent or lease agreement instead of each tenant receive a separate bill from the water supplier.

If your community will permit a separate meter for each living unit it will require making a separate tap into the municipal main and a separate curb stop & supply line for each living unit.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 2:15PM
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Thanks for the replies. I should have clarified that these are not condos, but rather fee simple ownership. My main concern is that I want to be able to shut off the water when I'm not around for more than a day. I don 't understand why it hasn't been a problem yet, but I don't want them coming around and turning my water back on when I'm not home, which they would have to do as it stands.

These buildings originally had only a whole-building shutoff, but most of the owners had individual ones for the units put in at their expense, including the then owners here. It was at some later date that the neighboring unit opted to tap my interior plumbing rather than make repairs to their outside line.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 12:02AM
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