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$43.5 Million NIBCO PEX Class Action Settlement Announced

$43.5 Million NIBCO PEX Class Action Settlement Announced

It appears as though allegedly defective plumbing products have hit the market again. On October 26th, 2018, the NIBCO PEX Settlement Administrator and Plaintiffs’ law firms announced a class action settlement involving allegedly defective PEX tubing, fittings, and clamps. Per the settlement website: “You may be entitled to benefits from a class action settlement if: (a) you have owned or occupied at any time since January 1, 2005, a residential or commercial structure in the United States that contains or contained NIBCO’s Pex Tubing, Fittings or Clamps and have unreimbursed costs or damages resulting from water leaking from one of these products, or (b) you have repaired or paid to repair damage resulting from water leaking from one of these products in one of these structures.”

This is yet another setback for product manufacturers and represents a continuing set of challenges for the industry. Back in the late 90’s, certain PEX piping systems used yellow brass fittings which, under certain circumstances, dezincified and failed prematurely resulting in a series of class action lawsuits and settlements. Before that, in 1995, a one-billion-dollar class action settlement resulted in tens of thousands of homes being repiped but left tens of thousands more unprotected after they failed to replace their pipes during the qualifying settlement period.

For more information on the latest NIBCO settlement, please visit: http://www.pexsystemsettlement.com

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Know the Life Expectancy of Your Community's Pipes – Before they Fail

Know the Life Expectancy of Your Community's Pipes – Before they Fail
Like most things in life, pipes don’t last forever. To accurately estimate the useful life of the piping systems at your property, as well as plan for maintenance costs and large capital improvement projects, it’s critical to understand how the environment, geography and other factors impact the resilience of those systems. When it comes to different pipe types (i.e., polybutylene, copper, galvanized steel pipe), each has an overall expected usable life based on their material. But when you look beyond the manufacturers’ data and national averages, location is key. With over 25 years of industry experience, we know that in certain areas of the United States, piping systems are failing at a faster rate.  While nationally the average life of polybutylene (“poly”) pipes is 26 years, in states like North Carolina and Virginia, poly pipes are failing up to ten years earlier.  Likewise, for galvanized steel pipes, the average life nationwide is 50 years, but in states like California, we are seeing galvanized pipes fail in as few as 18 years.   We have seen some copper pipes in perfectly good shape at 75 years old, while others have sprouted pinhole leaks at only 10 years of age due to the quality of the copper and the corrosiveness of the water. Cast iron pipe is expected to have a usable life of 50 years or more based on manufacturers claims, but there are reports of newly made Chinese Cast Iron that are failing at a much faster rate. For reasons “why” these certain......
Recent Comments
Guest — Phil
John, am I reading the chart wrong? We are in the San Francisco Bay Area and have problems with galvanized pipes failing now. Bu... Read More
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 12:33
John V. Griffith, Jr.
Phil,Thanks for taking a second to read my article and for the note. While the article focuses primarily on the negative impacts ... Read More
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 14:04
Guest — Phil
The pipes started failing at about 28 years, which seems a little early. We are having massive failures and spend alot of money t... Read More
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 15:07
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Polybutylene - 20 Years Later

Polybutylene - 20 Years Later

Polybutylene or “poly” for short was a plastic resin used in domestic water pipes and fittings between 1978-1995.  This gray plastic pipe was installed in up to 10 million garden style apartments, condominiums and single-family homes throughout North America.  

Unfortunately, common municipal water additives like chlorine attack poly pipes and fittings, leading to stress fractures and catastrophic failure, suddenly and without warning. In 1995, polybutylene manufacturers paid out a billion dollar settlement, but the timeline for making a claim has expired. For owners and property managers, only a small percentage of polybutylene properties were repiped during the settlement period, leaving millions of feet of defective piping unaddressed.  As a result, the prevalence of poly is still considerably high across the country.

The longer polybutylene is in use, the greater the risk of serious complications.  Left unaddressed, polybutylene cracks can result in severe property damage from flooding, mold infestation from undetected leaks, higher insurance premiums or even cancelled coverage, and not to mention – unhappy residents.

In recent years, the presence of polybutylene has impacted real estate transactions, both from the buyer side (unable to secure financing or insurance) and the seller side (decreased valuation and increased risk).  Currently, if you buy, sell or refinance a property, most insurers require polybutylene pipe replacement as a condition of the transaction.

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Corrosive Consequences Of Low-Flow Toilets

Corrosive Consequences Of Low-Flow Toilets
The Energy Policy Act of 1992, which became law in 1994, mandates a maximum flush volume of 1.6 gallons for toilets manufactured and installed after this date. Prior to enactment of the Energy Policy Act, toilets used from 3.5 to 5 gallons per flush.  According to the EPA, the water saved through implementation of the act has had a number of positive environmental consequences, including restoration of wetlands and fisheries and savings in the amount of energy needed to pump water. While intended to yield environmental benefits, the Energy Policy Act has unfortunately resulted in some unintended consequences on the nation’s plumbing systems. In older properties, the majority of drain pipes are galvanized steel or cast iron, which over time become corroded and rusty.  When an older property upgrades to low-flow toilets, there is often not enough water to keep waste and other disposables moving through the pipes. Further, as a result of the low-flow requirements, the ratio of water to sewage has changed, making the flow of waste thicker and slower, allowing the build up of bacteria, and producing a corrosive acidic gas that also causes corrosion in the piping system. Often, if the pipe is already corroded, toilet paper and waste can get caught on the rough corroded surface, further exacerbating the problem.  In the end, reduced flow and more concentrated waste result in a rapid acceleration of the corrosion process, ultimately leading to clogs, back-ups, broken pipes and leaks. Corroded drain pipes cause the overwhelming majority of water d......
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Brent Williams
Fascinating blog - thanks, John.
Friday, 23 September 2016 13:41
John V. Griffith, Jr.
Sincerely appreciate the venue Brent and thanks for the note.
Friday, 23 September 2016 14:57
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Rising Tides: The Catch 22 For Condos That Need A Repipe

Rising Tides: The Catch 22 For Condos That Need A Repipe
Your building is leaking.  Your pipes are failing.  Your insurance company might even be calling.  You need a repipe.  The problem is that it’s going to cost millions of dollars, and your board doesn’t have it in your reserves.  Do you take out a loan, issue a special assessment, or both to cover the costs?  Or do you wait, hoping you can raise the funds over the next several years, and try to buy more time? Unfortunately, for boards facing the prospect of a repipe in their community, making this choice is increasingly difficult, increasingly costly and increasingly litigious.  As I write this article, there are pending lawsuits against condo boards on both sides of the equation.   Pay Up and Stop The Leaks! In Hawaii, where a typical cast iron waste line replacement costs tens of thousands of dollars per unit, most properties, and homeowners, simply don’t have the cash to pay for it out of pocket.  Buildings that are in critical condition are declaring a “state of emergency,” and taking out loans to get the pipes fixed.  To pay off the loan, each owner’s portion of the loan payment is added to their monthly condo fees in order to cover the loan costs.  Sure, no one is happy about the increased fees, but the job gets done and the leaks stop. Clogged drain pipes, like this one, are causing a variety of problems in buildings across Hawaii including leaks, odors, slow running drains, and corrosion. But what happens when you live on......
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Daniel Andersson
Thanks for the useful article.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 00:28
John V. Griffith, Jr.
You're quite welcome Daniel and thank you for taking time to read it.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 00:34
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Selling a Multifamily Asset? Don’t Let Leaking Pipes Sink Your Deal

Selling a Multifamily Asset?  Don’t Let Leaking Pipes Sink Your Deal
There is no doubt, leaking pipes at your apartment complex are a nuisance.  From residents to property managers to maintenance supervisors to owners, everyone is impacted when a property is leaking.  Oftentimes, the thought of selling the property to get rid of the headache seems appealing.  However, leaking plumbing is hard to hide, and chances are you will not be able to pass off the property without taking a valuation hit unless you get the pipes fixed. If you are thinking of selling your property and are in need of a repipe, it is in your best financial interest to get your piping systems fixed before you list. With turnkey contractors who are able to quickly and cost effectively complete a repipe without moving out residents, selling a hassle free building will most assuredly increase the value of your property, which will typically offset the cost of the repipe. Because new pipes (installed behind patched walls) have no curb appeal and an ambiguous correlation to increased rents, many property owners are hesitant to make this upfront investment before listing their property.  However, inspectors, insurance agents, appraisers and potential buyers are sure to uncover the evidence if your property is leaking, and will either lose interest or submit a low-ball offer knowing the property has issues. By being upfront about the investments you have made (just like you would promote a new roof or renovated kitchens), promoting a recent repipe indicates to buyers that the property is well maintained and worth their......
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Multifamily Acquisitions? Don’t Let A Repipe Deter Your Investment

Multifamily Acquisitions? Don’t Let A Repipe Deter Your Investment
It’s common knowledge in the multifamily industry that as properties age, they experience complications and failures of essential services including their various piping systems.  Historically, investors have stayed away from these properties due to the misperception that a leaking property is a money pit. However, an older property in need of a repipe doesn’t have to be an automatic disqualifier during the acquisition process. Recently, savvy investors have been specifically seeking out these types of properties, knowing they can scoop them up at great prices and have the repairs completed at a reasonable cost. With turnkey contractors who are able to quickly and cost effectively complete a repipe without having to move out residents, buying a property in need of pipe replacement can be a great financial investment if you plan ahead. By building the cost of a repipe into your transaction, you can very quickly realize some significant gains. Taken at face value, property owners are hesitant to invest in pipe replacement because new pipes (installed behind patched walls) have no curb appeal and an ambiguous correlation to increased rents.  However, what is often missed in the financial analysis of the potential acquisition is that a repipe can significantly improve your bottom line. Reduced maintenance/operating costs, decreased damages, fewer insurance claims and increased resident retention all contribute positively to your operating budget, and can often quickly offset the costs of the repipe. Those benefits, paired with the reduced purchase price of a leaking property, can all add up to a sig......
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Is Your Property’s Reputation Being Flushed Down The Drain?

Is Your Property’s Reputation Being Flushed Down The Drain?
In the age of ‘everything online, all the time’, bad news spreads quickly; and residents are leveraging various online channels (BBB, Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook, ApartmentRatings.com, and others) to communicate their displeasure and frustration with property issues – particularly when it comes to plumbing. Prospective tenants are utilizing these channels to gain insight into how property management responds to requests and handles problems, before they decide where they want to live. Repeated negative posts and reviews tarnish a property’s reputation. Sometimes all it takes is one negative review to impact your occupancy rate and for prospective tenants to look elsewhere. To become the property of choice for new tenants, as well as to increase or maintain your current tenant retention rate, properties must now address and solve problems before they tarnish their reputation.  This includes taking proactive steps to maintain functional and problem free plumbing systems, such as using a seasonal checklist for properly maintaining your pipes. In addition, ensure your property management staff is proactive in responding to any and all online feedback by providing timely responses and direct contact information for residents to reach out with their concerns. Not only will tenants be pleased with your property’s dedication to resolving their issues, but potential residents will see the diligence & commitment of staff to providing top-notch customer service. Don’t let negative reviews tarnish your property’s potential. By providing a comfortable and properly functioning property for your residents while maintaining a proactive and professional customer-service model, you’ll be well on your way to kee......
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Chinese Cast Iron: A Colossal Cause For Concern?

Chinese Cast Iron: A Colossal Cause For Concern?
Throughout the last decade, the housing industry has been flooded with high-profile Chinese-manufactured product failures prompting a worrisome construction defect epidemic. The multifamily industry has already been exposed to these troubling products, that often produce negative health effects to residents and damage to buildings, in addition to the reluctance of insurance companies to cover or remediate costs associated with replacing the defective product. The following examples show a history of concern regarding Chinese-manufactured products:   Chinese Drywall During the construction boom in the early-mid 2000’s, and following a severely damaging hurricane season in 2005, a shortage of drywall spurred builders to import Chinese-manufactured material, particularly to the Southeast region. Issues with the product included pre-mature corrosion of electronics and appliances, caused by hydrogen sulfide, as well as health effects from short and long-term exposure to low-levels of sulfur gases emitted from the material. Several class action lawsuits have been filed against importers and manufacturers to varying degrees of settlement success. Last March, when CBS News’s “60 Minutes” exposed Lumber Liquidators practice of importing defective laminate flooring to the U.S., the company pulled Chinese-produced flooring from distribution. However, the negative effects of the material linger: the CDC recently published a report announcing that “certain Lumber Liquidator flooring from China could have triple the amount of cancer-causing formaldehyde than originally thought.” While this material involved only certain product lines of the laminate flooring, class action lawsuits are currently in the works.   Is Chinese-produced cast iron piping next? Many mid to high-rise buildings located in ......
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Copper Corrosion…It’s The Pits.

Copper Corrosion…It’s The Pits.
Copper Corrosion…It’s The Pits. Copper piping has been used in domestic water supply systems for nearly 100 years.  Originally, copper piping was projected to last 20-25 years, but with changes in water chemistry and other environmental factors, the rate of corrosion has accelerated, and the longevity of copper pipes has become a valid concern.   The Causes Many theories and a lot of research exist regarding the primary cause of copper pipe corrosion and it can be difficult to identify one single cause.   Once you navigate through the media noise and scientific engineering jargon, it’s clear that copper pitting corrosion is caused by a combination of factors–including improper pipe installation, bacteria, electrical grounding, soil acidity, pipe manufacture quality, water chemistry, the environment and more. In hotbed areas like Florida, Texas and California (where one could argue copper corrosion is an epidemic), there are increasing reports of premature copper corrosion and leaking pipes, often in buildings that are just a few years old.  But, it’s not limited to just those three states.  Trends show that states with higher amounts of chloramines and sulfites have copper pitting problems, ultimately resulting in the ubiquitous “pinhole leak” phenomenon.   But Why The Sudden Increase In Copper Corrosion?  Ironically, it’s the result of an increased public health effort to keep people safe.  Municipalities, following state and federal standards for safe drinking water, add chloramines and sulfites to treat the local water and keep the drinking water free of bacteria (and safer to drink).  Chloramines are chemical compou......
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