Town home owner struggles to fix bathroom leak

Q: I have read your column for years, and I’ve been a Realtor here in Las Vegas since 1979.

We have a serious problem in our home of water intrusion from our neighbor’s upstairs bathroom. We noticed a small leak in our dining room ceiling and called a plumber. We assumed the leak was coming from our master bath, which is on our second story. Our property is a town house, not a condo. Upon inspection, the plumber told us the leak was not coming from our bathroom, but from the unit next door. This was after he cut a hole approximately 3-foot-by 1-foot in our dining room ceiling and inspected the affected area.

Since that time, the tenant that lives there and the owner, who lives in Texas (there is no property management for the property), will not allow a plumber to investigate and fix the leak. We cannot stop water intrusion or repair the damage that is occurring every day until the leak is fixed. Our insurance adjuster has been out to inspect the damage. Remediation and repair companies have been out to access damage, but no one can do anything until the leak is addressed. This is turning into a nightmare for my husband and I. It’s been going on since Oct. 23. We have contacted our homeowners association, but these are not condos, and it seems like no one knows what we can do other than maybe file a nuisance complaint. The owner of said property has a notice of default from the association for over $14,000 because he doesn’t pay his HOA dues.

Do you have any suggestions?

A: There is a new law passed under Senate Bill 239 that amends 116.30312 and addresses this kind of situation. In fact, the new law provides the authorization for the association to enter the unit and take affirmative action. Unfortunately, the law applies to condominiums and vacant units.

This homeowner, who is not willing to fix his side of the town house, is already in trouble with the association for failing to pay his assessments. The association should continue to foreclose on this home and, if possible, obtain the contact number for the mortgage lender (assuming that there is a mortgage on the home) to place some pressure on the lender to exercise its rights to enter the home to remediate the leak.

Obviously, that takes time. You should contact code enforcement from either the county of the city where you reside. In addition, you need to contact the Southern Nevada Health District, as this is a health issue. Hopefully, these agencies can assist you.

If you have not approached the tenant, you should ask him or her to allow the plumber to at least assess the problem and provide you with a bid to repair. If the cost to repair on the tenant’s side (at least to stop the leak) is not unreasonable, you should send a registered letter to the Texas owner that you are stopping the leak and paying for the repair work. You could then take the owner to small claims if he did not pay. Now, I realize the probability of the owner reimbursing you is slim to none, but you may be able to be reimbursed by your own insurance company.

In addition, you should contact the association’s insurance company to see if there is any coverage.

The association should, at least, send a health and safety violation against the homeowner.

Q: As a member of an HOA, I have been an avid reader of your column for many years. Having now become a member of our executive board, I wonder if you would provide an update on the status of the order of lien priorities in Nevada. I understand that there are ongoing differences between legal entities and would greatly appreciate a review understandable at the lay level that I can pass along to our community.

A: In response to your question, the priority of liens listed in this article is limited to that stated in Nevada Revised Statute 116.3116. There may be other kinds of liens that could take precedence of law outside of my knowledge. Here is what NRS116 states that an association lien is “prior to all other liens and encumbrances on a home,” with the exception of the following:

■ “Liens for real estate taxes and other governmental assessments” (IRS)

■ Liens for any fee or charge against the home under NRS 444.520, which pertains to municipal solid waste

■ “Liens and encumbrances recorded before the recordation” of the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions).

■ “A first security interest” on the home (your mortgage, seconds, equity loans) recorded before the date the homeowner became delinquent, with the exception of the nine-month superior lien of the homeowner’s delinquent assessments.

There is one other superior lien that an association can place against a unit owner that is found under NRS 116.310312, which pertains to the exterior of a home that is not being maintained where the association, after due process, has maintained the home and has incurred expenses — a “maintenance superior lien,” so to speak.

Barbara Holland is a certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager. Questions may be sent to holland744o@gmail.com.

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