Marie-Claude Dulac

By Marie-Claude Dulac

August 28, 2015


How to Prevent Water Damage in Condos

Article revised on 20 September 2017

Seepage through the roof or walls, a water heater breakdown, an overflowing bathtub that seeps into the unit of the neighbour below, sewer backups… There are so many sources of water damage in condos, and these are just a few! It’s easy to see why water damage is the main cause of claims by condo owners. What can you do about it, and can it be prevented?

Water damage: the pet peeve of condo owners everywhere

Some of the main causes are difficult to control, like changes in temperature or inattentive condo owners (windows or faucets left open accidentally).

You can easily avoid other inconveniences. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), proper maintenance of the building can significantly reduce the risk of losses. This reduction in risk will obviously be reflected in more stable insurance premiums.

Of course, maintenance expenses are a necessity in condo living, because the group formed by the owners (the syndicate) is mandated to maintain all condo owners’ assets.

How do you deal with water damage?

By being proactive and well-informed.

Attend the condominium’s general meetings! You will then know how much effort is dedicated to the maintenance of common areas.

By asking the directors of your syndicate a few questions, you will have a better understanding of your building’s overall condition and will know how to react if water damage occurs in your unit.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your building keep a maintenance book, which logs all completed work?
  • What measures are taken when a defect is discovered in the building?
  • Who should I inform if water damage occurs in my unit or in a common area?
  • Does the maintenance staff or one of the condo owners know where the building’s main water supply valve is located?

Make sure your home insurance provides adequate coverage.

Think you don’t need to be covered for sewer back-ups because you don’t live on the ground floor? Think again, because it’s not that simple!

If there was water damage in the building’s lobby, the expenses that are not covered by the condominium syndicate insurance would be distributed evenly among the condo owners. If you’re covered for groundwater damage, your insurer will assume the cost of the expenses. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay from your own pocket.

The insurance coverage you choose should therefore take into account the types of coverage included in the syndicate’s insurance and related limitations and loopholes.

Prevent and limit water damage in condos

1. Be mindful when you fill up your bathtub or sink. If you must leave the area, turn the water off.

2. Don’t throw solid waste such as cat litter or grease into the toilet. It can clog the pipes.

3. Only use the washing machine or dishwasher when you are at home. In the event of a problem, you’ll be able to react quickly. Get into the habit of checking your pipes every year. If you see any signs of weakness, have your pipes replaced as soon as possible.

4. Check the joint sealings around your showers, bathtubs and sinks often. If you see signs of change, reapply sealant. You can also try placing a few drops of food colouring into the toilet’s tank to see if it leaks. If the colouring appears in the toilet bowl, there’s a leak.

5. Replace your water heater every 10 to 12 years. It must also be replaced if you see rusty water running from faucets and seepage or leakage from the water heater. A water heater should be installed in a spill tray connected to a floor drain to allow water to drain in the event of leakage. Also make sure that the appliance is installed in compliance with the manufacturer’s requirements. If you don’t, the manufacturer may waiver liability in the event of a defect.

6. Consider having leak detectors installed on your household appliances that use water. The principle is quite simple. Small sensors are set up where water damage is more likely to occur. As soon as they detect water leakage, a warning (alarm, email or text) is issued to you to stop the leakage. Some models shut off the main water supply automatically. Other devices are linked to a central monitoring station that contacts the home owner or any other designated person if a leak is detected.

7. Use sinks, traps and sanitary appliances that are in good working condition. Handy trick: Keep a strainer (round metal mesh basket) in shower, bathtub and sink drains to prevent hair or any other debris from clogging the pipes. Too late? Pour some baking soda into a clogged drain and wash it down with at least 500 ml of hot vinegar. Use a plunger to unclog the drain until water flows freely again.

8. Plan to be away for several days? Ask a friend or neighbour to check in on your home once in a while to make sure everything is under control.


Additional resource: Download our complete e-book on condo insurance.

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