After the Fire, Who Pays for Extensive Condo Repairs?


D.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There was a fire in our building, in the unit directly below my unit. In order for the building to be mitigated of smoke and soot, my unit has to be gutted because the building construction was balloon construction and there was not fire blocking. My unit has sustained smoke damage. Since my unit, new kitchen and baths have to be gutted in order for the building to repaired who is responsible for making my unit whole again?

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., I am so sorry for your loss and the damage that occurred at your condominium. You didn’t mention if there was a loss of life so I am assuming it was property only that was damaged. The answer to your question about responsibility lies in your governing documents and/or any state laws that might override those documents. For that reason alone, it may be worth your while to consult with an attorney and get a fully qualified legal opinion in addition to my friendly advice. Generally speaking, your own homeowner’s insurance would cover damage to your unit. That is what insurance is for and you should make a claim with your own policy to get things going. If you have the proper coverage, your policy may even cover your hotel expenses while the damage is repaired. Additionally, since there were undoubtedly common elements damaged in the fire, the association may have its own claim to make to pay for any damage the common elements sustained. Finally, the unit owner of the unit where the fire actually occurred may have some liability if the fire was caused by something the unit owner did. This is where the attorney may be able to offer an opinion as to whether or not a lawsuit may be needed. At the very least, I would like you to get a legal opinion before you agree on any settlement. There may be other factors besides smoke damage. Was water used to put out the fire? Is there wet drywall that could lead to mold? And so on, and so on. You don’t want to make a mistake in the claims settlement process that will leave you short at the end of the process. When entire kitchens and baths are gutted and rebuilt, there can be plenty of surprises. Don’t get caught short. All the best!

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