Causes and consequences of water damage

The main causes of water damage include flooding, sewer backups, broken pipes and leaky plumbing fixtures, poor maintenance and changing weather conditions. A construction or design defect can also be the cause of water damage: for example, a defect in the tightness of the construction, a poor design of the drainage networks, a counterspend of balconies or sidewalks. In most cases water damage affects equally common and private portions, thus it is one of the most complex loss to adjust.


Origin of water damage

Water damage is sometimes difficult to detect, and its origin can be multiple. They can be caused by:

  • Walls or roofs that are not watertight;
  • Rupture of a pipe due to aging or freezing;
  • Defective window caulking;
  • An overflowing bath, leaking washing machine or dishwasher. The water will often find its way to the neighbors trough the ceilings;
  • The absent-mindedness or the negligence of a co-owner (such as: a window or a faucet left open);
  • Forgetfulness or negligence of a co-owner (e.g., a window or faucet that is not properly closed);
  • Sewer backups;
  • A blocked sewer;
  • A defective or outdated water heater;
  • Defective seals and washers in and around sanitary equipment (such as: a bath or shower).

Investigating the cause

During water damage, the leak can be more or less easy to detect. When it is visible, the intervention is simpler. However, some more discreet leaks require a precise methodology to find their origin.

Given the peculiarities of divided co-ownership, it is sometimes difficult to identify the origin of water damage. It is necessary to ask whether it originates in a common or private part.This question may have an impact on the civil liability of the co-owners or the syndicate. Recall that 1077 of the Civil Code of Quebec provides also that the syndicate is liable for damages caused to co-owners or third parties in the occurrence (amongst  others) of problems related to faulty design or construction defects of the immovable, or due to a lack of maintenance of the common portions  of the  co-ownership. 

Material and immaterial damage

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 immaterial 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.

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.

Consequences on the insurability of the co-ownership

Water damage represents, each year, some 50% of the claims paid by insurers in Quebec. Added to this is the effect of climate change, which is causing floods and tornadoes.According to some observers, this is not a business line that is particularly profitable for insurers, because of the number of claims, mainly water damage. This increase in claims has resulted in a tightening of the insurance market for syndicates of co-owners (more limited protection, increase in premiums and deductibles). 

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOWThere 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. 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!  Quebec co-ownerships are too delinquent for the taste of insurers, so many of them no longer insure these types of buildings. Those who persist in doing so do so at a high price. Many syndicates of co-owners note this: in terms of water damage, their deductibles can reach between $25,000 and $250,000.


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