A recent California appellate court case, Dover Village Association v. Jennison, et al. sheds some light on the sometimes tricky and seemingly ever-present issue of exactly who is responsible for maintenance and repair of sewer pipes. This issue often comes into play with condominium associations where a pipe may serve only one unit, but is still interconnected with other pipes and ultimately feeds into a common line.

In this case a condominium association attempted to hold an owner responsible for repairs to a sewer pipe that exclusively served the owner’s unit. The association’s theory was that the pipe was an “exclusive use common area” because it was a “fixture designated to serve a single separate interest”, as defined in the Davis-Stirling Act, which is the statute that governs California condo associations.

The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”) is similar to the Davis-Stirling Act in that it provides guidance on what could be designated a limited common element (similar to an “exclusive use common area”) if the declaration is silent. This is an important distinction because often maintenance and repair costs depend on whether a component is a limited common element.

CCIOA, at 38-33.3-202(1)(d), designates a number of components as limited common elements, including “fixtures designed to serve a single unit”, except as provided by the declaration. So, one could argue that a sewer pipe that serves only one unit is a “fixture designed to serve a single unit” and, therefore, a limited common element allocated exclusively to that unit. Note that this particular provision of CCIOA is only applicable to associations created on or after July 1, 1992.

The California court, however, found that due to the fact that the sewer pipes were interconnected, and ultimately fed into a common line, it would be unreasonable to consider them fixtures of any particular unit. Therefore, regardless of the fact that the pipe served only one unit, the association had to bear the pipe repair cost.

It would be wise, with an eye towards this recent case, for associations to determine maintenance and insurance responsibilities over interconnected sewer pipes and other lines. To read more, click here.

Melissa M. Garcia
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