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Association Liable to Owner for Damage From Sewer Pipes Which Are Not Exclusive Use Common Area

A California condo owner sued his association for repair costs In plaintiff’s suit against the homeowner association for repair costs to his condo aused by a leaky sewer pipe beneath the concrete slab underlying plaintiff’s condominium. The association argued that the sewer pipes were exclusive use common areas, so the owner was responsible for repairs.

The Davis-Stirling Act (sec. 1351) defines “exclusive use common area” as a portion of the common areas for the exclusive use of one or more, but fewer than all, of the owners of the separate interests and which is or will be appurtenant to the separate interest or interests. This includes fixtures designed to serve a single separate interest, but located outside the boundaries of the separate interest.

The court held that interconnected sewer pipes couldn’t really be said to be the “fixtures” of any particular unit. A sewer system is a series of interconnected pipes which ultimately feed into one common line. Differentiating parts of that interconnected system is unreasonable. The portion of piping coming from one unit is no more affixed to that unit than it is to the sewer system and other pipes or piping within that system. The court affirmed the award of about $17,000 is affirmed as, under a natural reading of the CC&R’s, the sewer pipe was a genuine common area to be maintained and repaired by the association.

Features such as the patio, deck, or window boxes are truly features designed to serve the single separate interest. The association took a big risk in deny responsibility and losing the suit.

Dover Village Ass’n v. Jennison, No. G042741