Category Archives: Damage

Condo Insurance Won’t Cover Plumber’s Damage to Unit

M.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our plumber installed a dishwasher improperly and water leaked under the floor, destroying the laminate and ceiling tiles in lower room. Asbestos was found in vinyl under laminate and must be removed. The plumber is taking responsibility. Our insurer insists that this damage, restricted to inside our walls, and not caused by condo-owned components (such as a roof leak would be) is the condo association responsibility by law and we can’t go to plumber’s insurance (nor to our own). Our condo association denies this and has refused to file a claim. The only law I can find does not seem to say this, but only seems to make a condo association responsible for horizontal surfaces between stacked units. This is a 2010 law. Can condo insurance be held responsible for my dishwasher leak?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., I am sorry you find yourself in this situation. When insurers deny claims it is the homeowner who gets hurt. Asbestos abatement only adds to the problem. I can see where the association is denying your request as the damage is restricted to the interior of your unit. Until the plumber damaged the flooring, there was no liability. I am not quite sure why the plumber’s insurance would deny a claim of damage caused by his workmanship (isn’t that what his insurance is for?) but it still puts the cost of making the repair on you. Depending on how much the repair will cost, I would advise you one of two ways. If it is expensive (say more than $500), it may be worth speaking with an attorney to see if you can sue the plumber or the association. If the dollar amount is less than that (or if you were thinking of replacing the laminate floor) I would advise you to simply pay for the repair/upgrade and be done with it. I think it stinks that the insurance isn’t paying for this damage but unless the dollar amount is significant, I don’t think it is worth the time to try to sue for damages. All the best!

Underfunded Condo Association Leaves Common Area Repair to New Owner

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One year ago, an owner financed the sale of condo. Now the new owner says there is a serious drainage problem outside back sliding doors. He asked the HOA to fix the problem but there is no money available to do so. The HOA gave the new owner permission to do the job. Then the new owner got city inspectors involved who do concur that there is a major problem. Could the property potentially be condemned? New owner is telling us to either renegotiate our deal, thereby sharing cost of the job, or he will renege on the deal, putting all of the expense back on us. What can be done?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., HOAs with insufficient funds often make bad decisions. In this case, a really bad decision is coming back to haunt the association. Exterior drainage problems are the problem of the association and should have been repaired by the association, not the unit owner. Further, the correct way to raise money for such a repair is to raise common fees, levy a special assessment, and build a Reserve Fund for future repairs and improvements. The phrase “no money available” indicates to me that there is also no Reserve Study in place and that the common fees have probably been way too low for way too long. The immediate problem facing the association is the possibility of a city inspector condemning the property. While that is an extreme measure, it is possible of the unit is in such disrepair as to cause the inspector to make such a call. Typically, even if a citation is given, the association has enough time to make the repair and avoid condemnation (unless human life is at stake, i.e. a collapsing roof or broken foundation). Assuming the repairs can be made by the association, get an estimate on the job, levy a special assessment or take an HOA loan (if eligible) and handle the repair. Then, sit down and take a good look at the budget for the association. Chances are common fees should be raised this year and for several years to come until the association gets back on sound financial footing. This may prove unpopular with unit owners but it is necessary for the association’s long-term fiscal health and to make sure the Board doesn’t need to make future bad decisions on needed repairs. All the best!

Who Pays for Storm-Damaged Gutters Installed by HOA Home’s Previous Owner?

J.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Gutters were installed by previous owner and we’re damaged by a common area tree from a storm. Who is responsible for replacement and costs?

Mister Condo replies:

J.D., since the gutters were installed by a previous owner it is likely the current owner (you) who is responsible. However, it is certainly worth a call or letter to the Board to report the damage and inquire of the HOA’s insurance will cover the damage, especially if it is particularly expensive. If there is a deductible or the repair doesn’t meet the insurance threshold, you will likely be told it is your expense. Finally, check your by-laws. If there is wording that indicates such damage is association responsibility, you may wish to highlight the language and send it along to the Board along with your request for the repair to be paid for by them. If they refuse and you strongly feel you are right, you might wish to speak to an attorney to get a clarification on the rules. If the Board has refused to pay and the dollar amount is not significant enough to seek further remedy, I would suggest you simply make the reapir yourself and continue to enjoy your gutters. Good luck!

HOA Repairs Handled in Untimely Fashion

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I made a request to repair flashing and downspout to our townhome exterior? How long should it take for the repair to be completed? Unit owners are now responsible for exterior insurance coverage.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., responsiveness to unit owner requests for repairs is a function of several items at HOAs and condominium associations. If the association is professionally managed, there is usually a process of issuing a work order and then the order being fulfilled, either by the management company or the contractor hired to do the work. In self-managed associations, the process is similar although there may not be as robust a response if the work coordination is handled by volunteer Board members who may need time to bid out the work, hire a contractor, and actually get the work done. In both situations, there needs to be ample money available to pay for the work and there may be some bureaucracy that slows the process. For instance, if the repair cost exceeds a threshold for spending that the management company does not have, say $2500 or more, the repair may need to be approved by the Board at the next Board meeting. Depending on how frequently the Board meets, this could be a significant delay. The job may have to be sent for bid, another process that could delay the repair by months. Finally, if the association is cash-strapped and doesn’t have enough money to pay for the repair, the project could be delayed for quite some time. Your job doesn’t sound too complicated or expensive so my guess is you just need to keep on top of the folks who handle the repair. The squeaky wheel usually gets the grease but be polite when you inquire about the delay. My guess is that the repair should be handled within a few months of the request. If not, write to the Board and ask for an explanation of the delay. Keep on top of them until your repair is made. All the best!

Condo Neighbor’s Leaking Air Conditioning Causes Moldy Nightmare!

B.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Mr. Condo! I hope you can help me. I’m an owner of a condo in an apartment style building. Last week, I discovered a leak from above into my AC closet which shares a wall with my linen closet. My AC is non-operable (since 2012) so I know it isn’t mine. I checked my linen closet and found the back wall covered in mold. I contacted the property management company right away. They said they would contact the above tenant/owner to stop the leak so I can begin repairs. I’ve since sent several emails and called twice. For the past 5 days I have not received any response. I even went so far as to call the tenant myself. No response there either. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., I am sorry for your problems. Leaks caused by neighbors are bad enough but mold problems are quite serious. You did the right thing by contacting the Property Manager. You should also document the mold intrusion with lots of photos in case they are needed down the road. The association is responsible for getting involved and making the repairs. Unfortunately, it sounds like the manager is off to a slow and ineffective start. You need to be persistent and write to the Board along with your documentation showing what is going on and demanding they make the repairs. The other unit owner’s lack of cooperation may be a problem for you but the Board can take legal action against them to make them comply. You should not need to contact them at all, email, in person, or otherwise. If they are responsive to you, you can certainly speak with them to ask them to be more helpful but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Board needs some time to get this situation remedied and you may wish to be patient for a few months while they get this straightened out. However, you may also wish to speak to an attorney if things are moving too slow for you. Mold can be deadly and you need to have it removed quickly. You may even need to vacate your unit if it is found to be toxic. In that case, you would turn to your own homeowner’s insurance to see if you have coverage that would pay for your temporary relocation while the mold is abated. Ultimately, you want the neighbor’s A/C unit repaired so it stops leaking. You want your unit dry and you want the mold removed. Once all that is done, you’ll be back in business. Be persistent and apply the right amount of pressure to make sure you aren’t forgotten. Your problem is there problem and it needs to be taken seriously by all involved. Good luck!

Condo Board Leaves Leaky Roof in Place for 8 Years!

K.P. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the fourth floor of a 4-unit condo. The roof is damaged to the point that when it rains it pours inside my apartment. It has been more than eight years and the condo association will not fix the roof. I stopped paying condo fees and informed the condo association that I was going to save the money to pay for the roof. I have not paid the condo fees for four years. The condo does not call for regular meetings. Two of the other owners had some funds on the condo and they spent it on things that they needed to fix without a voting from the condo association. Now they have a lien on my condo. I have damages in my apartment. Is it legal to not pay for the condo fees and save it for the roof repairs as the condo association has not fixed the roof after eight years of discussion? Can I request that the condo association pay for the damages in my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

K.P., I am sorry for your problems. If you read my column with any regularity, you will see that I never advise any condo owner to withhold common fees for any reason. As you are seeing first-hand, the Board will sue you for those fees and they will win. If you can’t make good on your arrears, you could have your unit foreclosed upon by the association. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you. Assuming you don’t lose your home in this debacle, let’s discuss what you can do to get your unit repaired. First off, hire an attorney. After 8 years, let’s face it, it is long past time to sue the association for dereliction of duty in maintaining the roof. There will undoubtedly be a Special Assessment to make the repair but a lawsuit and judgment against the association will force the issue. Keep in mind that this will cost you as well as the other unit owners a financial hardship but you really have no choice. Hopefully, the threat of the lawsuit will be enough to motivate the association to make the repair to the roof. If not, a lengthy and expensive legal battle will likely ensue. This is a “lose/lose” situation for you and the other unit owners but their ridiculous mismanagement of the roof has lead you all here. Once the repairs are made, I would strongly consider selling and getting out of this potential money pit. If they let the roof go for 8 years, I can only imagine what other nightmares await. There are better places to live. Good luck!

Condo Sheetrock Project Creates Dusty Nightmare for Residents

J.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 65-unit owned condo. Our manager refuses to clean the hardwood laminate flooring until the plumbing project is complete. It is covered in sheetrock dust and tracking everywhere in the common areas. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., there isn’t too much you can do as a resident other than complain to the Board to apply pressure to the Property Manager and/or the contractor doing the work. Sheetrock projects generally create dust and a better plan for the project would have included dust control measures. That component was either overlooked or the Board decided to take a cheaper route and not include it. The end result is the messy situation you have right now. Not all projects are as simple as hiring a contractor to do the work. Sometimes you need to think about the side effects on residents. This is a great example of how that lack of foresight lead to a bad living experience for residents. The good news is that “this, too, shall pass” and that the project is likely already over and the repaired area looks great. Remind the Board that future projects should include a plan for dust remediation, even if it costs a little extra. All the best!

Condo Board Unwilling to Maintain and Upkeep Common Grounds

J.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The association refuses to repair muddy spots in my lawn. They are from the clay dirt and require maintenance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.W., maintenance and upkeep of common areas are the purview of the Board. I assume the area you are describing as “my lawn” is, in fact, common ground. The Board is not actually under any obligation to do anything although most would want the association landscaping to be in good shape so as to increase curb appeal and unit owner enjoyment of the property. If your Board has no interest in the maintenance or upkeep of the property, it is time for a new Board. Perhaps, you would like to serve? Ask the Board to make the repair, not just to the portion of the common grounds that abut your unit but to all of the common grounds. If they are unwilling, find better candidates to serve on the Board and vote the current Board out at your next election. All the best!

Condo Grease Trap Back-up Leaves Unit Owner Footing Amelioration Costs

K.K. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo sustained water damage from a backup in the sink drain line shared by three units, in a three-story building. My unit is on the first floor, and when the exterior grease trap backed up, water was forced up through my kitchen sink and into the unit. I was out of town at the time, and by my return there was a significant amount of water, slime and mold in the unit. The amelioration bill was $2,300. My insurer covers everything except this, and the condo board refuses to file a claim with the association’s insurer. Also, this happened before to the previous owner of my unit, and to other first floor units. Doesn’t the association have the responsibility to file a claim rather than deny responsibility? The condo is in Illinois.

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., they don’t necessarily have to file a claim but they are likely still responsible for the damage seeing as it was caused by a common element. Your homeowner’s insurance is always your first line of defense and it looks like they paid for the worst of the damage. If your association is refusing to file a claim or pay for the amelioration, it may be time to seek the advice of an attorney. Personally, I would file a suit (most likely Small Claims although I don’t know what your local laws dictate for a $2300 claim). If the association doesn’t want to file a claim, they don’t have to. However, if they are liable, they still have to make you whole. I am sure finding your condo water damaged was stressful enough. Getting the association to pay for the amelioration shouldn’t be. Good luck!

Condo Board Installs Fence; Damages Unit Owner Patio

G.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo board just put in all new fencing in the back of the units & between our attached neighbors. In doing so, they removed the retainer wall for my patio pavers. When asked why, they said that it was going to be too close to the new fencing. Fencing is done and there is now a big gap between my patio & the fence (so they were wrong). The pavers are now separating because of the rain and they are refusing to put it back. The President of the Board is my direct neighbor. He “volunteered” to help us put it back. We refused on principal. Why should we have to do anything? They caused the damage they should repair it. Am I correct in my thinking? I have spoken to a lawyer, who agrees with us. But I would like for this to be resolved without having to go that route. I don’t understand WHY they won’t just do the repairs. What are your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

G.M., I am sorry for your patio problem although I cannot say it is too surprising to learn that the removal of a retainer wall has made for a problem. That is exactly what retainer walls are for. The real question here is who owned the retaining wall? Unless it was actually a part of your unit, it is likely the property of the association. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should have removed it or left if removed once the fencing project was complete but it may make for an interesting case if you decide to take your attorney’s advice to go after the association to make the repair. Keep in mind that you aren’t going to be the only one with an attorney and the association’s attorney will likely argue that the retaining wall was owned by the association and they had every right to remove it. Your attorney will counter with the fact that the removal damaged your patio (again, built on association property). My opinion is that you very likely should have taken the President up on his offer to help you rebuild the retaining wall. At the very least, you might have offered to pay for the contractor to do the job if keeping your patio intact is important to you. If you prefer to stand on the ground that you are right and the association is wrong, you have every right to do so but I foresee a long and protracted battle while your patio crumbles. Always look for a “win/win” situation. Legal solutions are costly and can take a very long time. The time and money would be better spent hiring a contractor to repair the wall, especially since the Board President seems to be on your side. All the best!