Q&A: Water World?

Q I've had a long existing leak in my full bathroom since the shareholders above  me have moved in. It so happens that the shareholder's son runs a bath for as  long as two hours at a time, blasting the water full force. Over time this has  caused damage to the pipes and I've had recurrent leaks in the bathroom  ceiling. An extensive plumping job was done two years ago to replace the broken  and deteriorated pipes. However, the beginnings of yet another leak have  surfaced on the ceiling as well as in cracks on the wall. I was told that there  is nothing they can do to prevent my neighbors upstairs from taking two hour  baths or 24 hour baths for that matter. Is there anything I can do? Please  advise.  

 —Wet & Wild in West Palm

A “Generally speaking, the association has the right to adopt rules and regulations  which are reasonable as to the use and occupancy of the common elements and  sometimes as to the unit,” says attorney Rosa de la Camara of Becker & Poliakoff in Coral Gables. “The breadth of the board's authority would be found in the governing documents.  I question, however, even with a broad grant of rulemaking authority, whether  it would be reasonable for the association to regulate how long and how often  an owner is allowed to run the water in his unit. Certainly, an owner's actions  cannot result in damage to the common elements or to another unit. This is a  question of fact that would have to be established.  

 “Oftentimes, the documents will also contain language providing that in the event  the unit owner fails to maintain the unit as required in the documents or  otherwise violates or threatens to violate the provisions in the documents, the  association shall have the right to proceed in a court of equity for an  injunction to seek compliance with the provisions. Sometimes the documents  allow the association to intervene and do the repairs and bill the unit. The  question becomes whether the upstairs owner is causing a leak given the  excessive running of water through the unit pipes and if this is the case, then  the condominium documents would indicate whether it is the owner of the  association which is responsible for the repair to the pipes and/or the unit  flooring to avoid causing water penetration to the unit below.  

 “Finally, Florida Statutes, Section 718.113(3), provides, in pertinent part: A  unit owner shall not do anything within his or her unit or on the common  elements which would adversely affect the safety or soundness of the common  elements or any portion of the association property or condominium property  which is to be maintained by the association. If it is determined that the  owner is taking action which is damaging the unit below or that he has  negligently allowed water to seep from his tub or through pipes into the unit  below, then, upon a showing of such negligence, the owner would be responsible  for the repairs to the unit below. Absent such a showing of negligence, it  would be difficult to establish liability for repairs to the downstairs unit to  the upstairs owner.”