Fixing Wet Basement Issues in a Condo
LESLIE: Elizabeth in Utah has a condo situation. Hopefully we can help. What’s going on?
ELIZABETH: Hi. This is the situation. I’ve been in a condominium six years; that I purchased new. And the condominium – I bought 27 feet of bookcases and was going to – and a pool table, et cetera to finish the basement. And when you go down in the basement and you stand and look at where the cement meets the wood on the ceilings around the outer perimeter of the condo, when it rains really hard it’ll leak down about three inches all the way around. And if – when you go in the garage during that time there’s about a foot-and-a-half of cement up from the floor then I had a paneled part of it and you will see – every three or four feet you’ll see water leakage down to the floor. I don’t think that the thing really meets code as far as the distance from the land to the bricks. It’s stucco and then a flange of metal and then brick. And I think it’s about four inches, in some places, from the ground.
TOM: Yeah, that sounds very low. That’s a tricky grading situation. Elizabeth, the likely cause of this is a drainage problem. If there’s water ponding in the outside somewhere in this area, that’s going to absorb into the concrete and, through the force of capillarity, it will get drawn up and it can evidence itself in odd ways, which is kind of what you’re describing here. So you need to do a couple of things.
The first thing to do is to look at the drainage system on the roof. Do you have any downspouts that are any – that are discharging anywhere near the foundation?
ELIZABETH: You know what? There was a downspout that was underground and it was connected from the downspout to the condo adjacent, which is about 14 feet away. And it was kind of in the middle – it’s kind of – it’s an upside-down L shape. You know? The corner of my – because my house is a duplex so it’s like the back half of my house then a long, long side where it’s leaking.
TOM: OK, and what happened to this downspout?
ELIZABETH: And the downspout – they didn’t tell us, when we bought the condo but they connected and there was an underground drain that brought the water up to the surface of the grass and it was about halfway between the full length of the outside of it. But we had them move that down by the driveways and it’s still doing this.
TOM: Now, can you trace the water coming off of the roof down the downspouts and know where it’s ending up?
ELIZABETH: Not for sure. Because – well, it used to be that you would step out there and there’d be kind of a puddling. And nobody knew where it was coming from and we started digging and found this. Went down by the driveways. I haven’t – I’ve not noticed any water puddling and I haven’t gone down there and checked.
TOM: Alright. You know, the condominium association typically – and I don’t know what your ownership structure is, but the condominium association typically is going to have some responsibility here. And the board is going to have a fiduciary duty to make sure that your property, your structures don’t deteriorate from water leaks. So you may have to get together with those other property owners …
LESLIE: With the other people who are having the same situation.
TOM: … and perhaps even with an attorney and see if we can get this addressed. Because this is not an Elizabeth problem. This is a condominium problem. This is an association problem. And one of the benefits of living in an association is that you get to, you know, deal with these maintenance issues in a collective, communal way and, therefore, the cost doesn’t have to be borne by any one unit owner. Just because the leak is showing up in your unit doesn’t mean you’re responsible for fixing it. The line of demarcation, in terms of what’s real property and what’s not, is going to be set out in your condominium documents. But generally the structure is part of the association’s responsibility and if the structure is leaking the association has to fix it. So you’re just going to have to get some legal help and get to the bottom of this.