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Water in Your Co-op or Condo?

Guzov's Good Advice, Real Estate Legality

As the saying goes, April showers brings May flowers…but in New York, April showers bring leaking roofs, ceilings, and floods. Unfortunately, when choosing where to live it is not as easy as buying a raincoat. “It is very difficult to confirm that a building is either 100 percent waterproof or 100 percent water resistant, whether it is from groundwater or from rainwater.” (President of CGI Northeast Inc. George Doukas). And unlike a raincoat, your ownership of property or shares cannot be easily returned when water slips through the cracks.

How can your co-op or condo protect itself from the rain? By ensuring that the building is up to date with any maintenance repairs and plumbing so that water cannot seep through roofs, ceilings, walls or floors. However, ensuring that a building is leak-proof goes beyond the installation of a drainage system on a roof. It’s all about the maintenance. The issue with water is that the damage is not always noticeable at the first instance. Water damage can cause deterioration to the building structure, your health via hazardous mold, and can even make the living space uninhabitable. The costs of fixing water damage and the health issues that come with living in damp or moldy conditions are very high. Confirm that the exterior and interior of your building is waterproofed to avoid any potential damage.

What are the most vulnerable parts of a building? The roof, windows that are not properly sealed or caulked, and the mortar between bricks. It is important that a building has waterproof membranes and flashing systems. Preventing leaks is directly related to the construction of a building and its ongoing maintenance. Just because a building is new, does not mean that it underwent adequate waterproofing measures. When you are moving into a new co-op or condo, make sure the waterproofing membranes and exterior layers are structurally sound. Waterproofing the roof is most crucial as the roof acts as the barrier for the rest of the building. Roofs need to be replaced every ten to twenty-five years. To waterproof a roof, buildings to need to use the right materials such as steel, rubber, a thick layer of insulation, and a waterproof exterior. Secondly, since most New York buildings have flat roofs, it is important to have efficient draining systems to get rid of any excess water. These drains must be regularly maintained in order to prevent blockages and flooding.

If you are renting an apartment, you are entitled to have your landlord to fix the water damage in your apartment at their expense. This includes any material that is a part of the unit, but unfortunately excludes personal items. For co-ops and condos, it is important to revert to your building’s governing documents to see who is responsible for repairs and how they should be dealt with. Water damage in co-ops and condos have overwhelming and disastrous impacts on the buildings and unit owner/shareholder relations. Ensure that your building regularly undergoes inspections to keep up to date with any maintenance and plumbing issues. As soon as a leak or flooding occurs, get in contact with your board so that repairs can start as soon as possible in order to prevent any further damage.

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