Water damages

Water damage is the leading cause of loss in co-ownership. It is more and more costly, for syndicates and their insurers. In the last ten years, occurrences of water damages in co-ownership have more than doubled.

Lack of maintenance, sub-standard construction and climate changes are the main culprits.  In most cases water damage affects equally common and private portions, thus it is one of the most complex loss to adjust.


The origin of water damage

 It is sometime difficult to discover as it may be the result of many causes, such as:

  • Walls or roofs that are not watertight
  • The failure of a pipe by reason of obsolescence or frost ;
  • Defective window caulking;
  • An overflowing bath, leaking washing machine or dishwasher. The water will often find its way to the neighbours trough the ceilings;
  • The absent-mindedness or the negligence of a co-owner (such as: a window or a faucet left open);
  • A sewer backup;
  • A blocked sewer;
  • A defective or outdated hot water tank:
  • Defective seals and washers in and around sanitary equipment (such as: a bath or shower).

The inherent characteristics of divided co-ownership makes it difficult to pinpoint the origin of water damage. One must determine if it originates from a common or a private portion.

The consequences

Often, water damage affects more than one apartment. It may impact equally movable property of the co-owners and the common and private portions of the building. It often causes costly material damages to the co-ownership and to the co-owners and intangible damages, such as the loss of enjoyment of the premises. Dampness following water damage may, also, be instrumental to the proliferation of mildew detrimental to human health. If you do not react appropriately to an occurrence of water damage, it may also damage the structure of the building.

How to prevent water damage?

There is no foolproof easy solution to these losses. However, in view of their impact on the budget of a co-ownership, preventive measures must be implemented to reduce the risks attached to high risk components and equipment such as Jacuzzis and roof terraces).

Common portions

The maintenance of common portions is under the responsibility of the syndicate. You should know that generally the envelope of the building (roof and perimeter walls) and pipes are common. These components are (in theory) maintained in accordance with the maintenance logbook of the syndicate. The latter has custody of the mechanical and plumbing plans of the building and must keep up to date a log of the interventions to such equipment.

For example, regular maintenance of the water mains and sewers and of the water proofing elements of the roofs and terraces is in the best interest of the co-ownership as it will prevent leaks. Furthermore, the pipes running close to the perimeter walls and the roof must be protected from frost.

 Private portions

The following will help preventing water damage:

  • Replacing water heaters before the end of their useful life;
  • Never leaving an apartment with an open window ;
  • Avoid using a washing machine or dishwasher when nobody is present, even for a short period of time;
  • Closing the water main of the apartment in the case of a long absence;
  • Verifying, on a regular basis, if the windows are watertight;
  • Keeping an eye on the gaskets under and around the sanitary equipment (such as: bath and shower);
  • Regular maintenance of the water main, including the shutdown valve or faucet;
  • Installing a water detector and an overflow alarm, to shut down the water main in case of leaks or frost;
  • If a plumbing contractor is at work, being careful, and not leaving the premises as long as the work zone has not been adequately secured.

The management of the loss

In the event of water damage to common portions, the syndicate of co-owners must immediately take emergency measures. The leak must be identified and stopped, insofar as possible, and then the most pressing interventions addressed

It is necessary to declare the loss to the insurance companies of the syndicate and of the co-owners involved. Once the claims adjusters have finished their work, you must retain the services of a contractor to carry out the necessary repairs.

Insurance coverages

More often than not, many parties are involved in a loss, including the resident- co-owner, the tenant, the co-owner- lessor and the syndicate. In theory, there is an insurer for each party. Essentially, when a water damage loss occurs and causes damage to common or private portions, the syndicate’s insurer is the primary insurer taking charge of the damage. The syndicate must subscribe insurance to cover the common and private portions, to the exclusion of the improvements to the private portions. The insurer will then pay an indemnity equal to the amount of the damages, less the deductible. The amount of this deductible is supported by the self insurance fund or divided between the co-owners, in accordance with their fraction of the immoveable. We remind you that the co-owners must insure their own movable property, their civil liability, and the improvements to their private portion.

Why can water damage become a major expense for the co-ownership?

Even though insurance covers the repairs, the co-ownership must nevertheless pay a deductible and support foreseeable premiums increases. In some cases, the insurer can cancel the policy, after giving notice, when he is of the opinion that the co-ownership has filed to many claims. The co-ownership is then compelled to find a new insurer, who will no doubt charge a much higher premium.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! There are various alternatives to limit the risk of being affected by water damage. One of them is prevention.  A few enterprises in this field offer smart devices to reduce water damage, even though it is not  possible to eliminate the risk entirely.

WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND: Insurance policies do not cover all losses. They provide for exclusions. For example, some insurers do not cover or reimburse damages caused by a “lack of, or defective repairs” or a “characterized lack of maintenance known to the insured”.  

 WARNING! It is crucial to read the exclusions” in the chapter “property damage” of the insurance policy of the syndicate. All damage caused by water is not covered by insurance policies, such as sewer backflow.

 CONSULT THE PUBLICATION: Condo Insurance: Everything you should know at pages 177 and following


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