This is a very popular question that often highlights opposing views and differing interpretations of policy wording.
Whether the pipes are on common property or within the section, a burst pipe will be covered by the body corporate’s insurance policy as long as it is sudden and unforeseen damage, not wear and tear.
The law fundamentally states that, whoever is responsible for the maintenance of the pipe will be responsible for paying the excess in the case of a burst pipe.
Let’s approach this problem by distinguishing between cold water supply and hot water supply:
Cold Water Supply:
Here, there are three possible scenarios:
- Where the cold-water supply passes through a section, the owner of that section will be responsible for maintenance and paying the excess. Some people will argue that it has servitude.
- When in a common area duct, there is a strong argument that the service duct pipes are under the control of the body corporate.
- There is also an argument that where a pipe runs over common property, clearly servicing a particular section, the responsibility for that pipe, excess etc. remains for that owner. This argument complicates matters in some instances and unless a rule is made in this regard, the pipe is still technically common property until it reaches the median line.
Hot Water Supply:
Prescribed Rule 31 comes into play:
“Notwithstanding that a water-heating installation forms part of the common property and is insured by the body corporate, a member must maintain, repair and, when necessary, replace such an installation which serves that member’s section or exclusive use area; provided that where such an installation serves sections owned or exclusive use areas held by more than one member, the members concerned must share the maintenance, repair and replacement costs on a pro-rata basis”.
It is generally accepted that the hot water system flows from the geyser to the hot water tap. It follows that the owner whose hot water pipe goes through sections or common property is responsible for the maintenance and excess.
Author: Mike Addison
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*This article has been checked and edited by Marina Constas, a director at BBM, who specialises in sectional title law and co-author of “Demistifying Sectional Title” (third edition). You can order this book here.