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Nieves v. Agarwal

A-3355-01T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; COMMON ELEMENTS— The condominium association, not a unit owner, is liable for the repair of, and damage caused by, leaks from pipes located between floors.

Water leaked through the ceiling of a condominium unit. The resident of the damaged unit claimed that the owner of the unit above him was responsible for the water leak. The owner of the upper unit had a plumber repair the leak. The resident of the damaged unit, had his landlord repair the interior damage. At trial, the upper unit owner contended that the “Condominium Association was responsible for the leak because the leak came from pipes ‘between the floor and the ceiling,’ through a ‘common drain which goes between the two walls, which is my wall and [the lower resident’s wall].’” The lower court held the upper floor condominium unit owner responsible for the damage. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed. It pointed out that the resident of the damaged unit “failed to prove that the leak emanated from [the upper floor] condominium unit.” It noted that the proofs supported a conclusion that the leak was caused by a damaged pipe, “which was a common element.” Common elements include “all central services and utilities.” A condominium association “is charged with the maintenance, repair, replacement, cleaning and sanitation of the common elements.’” Consequently, the Appellate Division ruled that it was the condominium association, not the upper floor unit owner, that was responsible for maintenance and repair of the pipe. Therefore, the upper floor condominium unit owner had no liability for the leak.

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