Category Archives: Insurance

Condo Owner Floods Uninsured Neighbor’s Unit

H.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Recently my washer broke (the tube was incorrectly installed by the previous owner and it popped off). I didn’t realize anything was wrong until the unit below me called in a panic about the water leaking from his ceiling. Water was pooling in my catch tray and the overflow was then leaking under the floor boards, so there was never any pooling to alert me. Unfortunately, neither my unit insurance or the master will cover repairs to his ceiling, and he does not have unit insurance. He asked me to split the repair cost. I’m torn! It was my washer that caused his water damage, but the cost would be WAY less if he had insurance (half the deductible versus half the repair cost!). We are very neighborly, so part of me thinks to maintain the relationship I should eat the cost… but I’ve also put a lot of my blood, sweat, tears, and loans into this association to keep it afloat, and after paying the plumber I’m kind of tapped. What should I do?!

Mister Condo replies:

H.W., your neighbor’s lack of insurance is troubling and may even be against your association’s regulations. Many associations require all unit owners to carry their own homeowner’s insurance for just such occurrences as this. If so, and your neighbor was delinquent in his duty to insure, you may not have any liability whatsoever. If that is not the case, you may be on the hook for half or all of the damage. It really depends on how your neighbor proceeds. If he sues, in Small Claims, or other, then and only then. Might you find yourself held legally responsible for the damage. I appreciate your “good neighbor” attitude and paying some of the expense, which you did, should help keep the relationship between you and your neighbor congenial.

Why in the world are you loaning money to your association? Are you a bank? Why does your association need money to “keep it afloat”. You have signaled a big problem with your association’s finances. Common fees should be sufficient to keep any association afloat. Individual unit owners should not be loaning the association money. It is time for your association to get some real world training on how to run itself and practice sound fiscal policies, which include adequate common fees for the association to fund itself. All the best!

Condo Leak Leads to Mold for Downstairs Neighbor

G.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My unit had a leak which was reported by downstairs neighbors who had a water bubble in the ceiling of the bathroom. Repairs were made in my unit but the leak continued. Long story short we went back and forth for a few weeks where we thought we resolved the leak but then a week or two later the unit below reported water. Part of the problem was the below unit is never home. So, they only report their floor being wet days after a possible leakage. During this time, the unit below had the ceiling opened up to allow it to dry before patching it. Finally, one night the unit below called that they see water dripping and we finally figured out it was my AC unit leaking water. My insurance came out and made repairs to my unit. My water damage was cleared within days. My insurance said the below unit should file a claim with their unit. 3 weeks later they are barely getting the insurance company to come see their damage. But now the unit below is saying they have mold growing and want my unit to pay for it. The owner also told me they have still been using their shower during these last few months. I feel responsible for water damage but not mold. The owner took no precautions to reduce damage, to dry the area, and steam from their showers was not helping the situation. Help, am I liable? Neither of our insurances will cover, and the HOA says it’s an issue between owners.

Mister Condo replies:

G.H., I am sorry that this unfortunate issue has escalated to this point. At the end of the day, it is likely to end up in court unless you and the unit owner below you can come to a practical solution. Homeowners insurance should have covered the initial damage for both of you. The HOA is not likely liable as this issue was not caused by a defect between the two units. Water from your air conditioner caused the damage to the unit below yours. Mold that results from water damage is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance but, in this case, your downstairs neighbor’s insurance carrier is not being responsive to the claim. The issue of your liability will only come into play if a lawsuit is filed. If that happens, you should hire an attorney to protect yourself. Do you have a price for the mold remediation? It is quite possible that your downstairs neighbor may have some out of pocket expense to remediate the mold (which they should do as mold can be toxic and even deadly). To be a good neighbor, you might offer to split the cost of the mold remediation but I do not believe you have a liability to do so. The real culprit here is the insurance company. Ideally, they would simply pay the claim and this matter would be resolved. However, many insurers would deny this claim based on the repeated nature of the damage and the lack of a timely repair after the initial claim which lead to the mold problem. I hope you and your neighbor work out a reasonable solution. All the best! 

Condo Association Provides Inadequate Insurance


J.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a condo association is maintaining flood insurance, but not the proper amounts as required by lenders to provide financing, how can condo owners force the board to purchase the proper amounts of insurance. A vote would be the simple answer, but a number of units are not interested in selling or refinancing. Is there a duty for the board to insure to the amounts that meet today’s lending requirements? Please note I looked at CT laws concerning duty to insure and the flood insurance provisions are somewhat gray to me.

Mister Condo replies:

J.F., Connecticut’s laws on the association’s duty to provide adequate coverage for units can be a bit confusing. At the very least, you have highlighted a specific area of concern that the law may not address clearly. As long as the association is providing adequate coverage to follow the law, there is no additional requirement that they follow what mortgage companies feel is adequate coverage. In other words, if a mortgage company determines the value of your unit to be higher than what the association has deemed appropriate, the mortgage company may claim a delinquency in insurance and either provide the additional insurance (at a premium to you) or mandate that you provide the additional insurance. This is particularly tricky for units that are in flood zones as the flood insurance is a separate policy from the association’s Master Policy. I have found that there is an additional layer to add to this confusion. If the insurance underwriter changes the amount of the Master Policy coverage, it may create a discrepancy with the flood insurance purchased by the association. In other words, the coverages may be for differing amounts which again cause the mortgage companies to claim a discrepancy and require matching amounts of property and flood insurance. The bottom line is that Boards need to keep a close eye on these policies by working with an insurance professional to make sure they are both adequately insuring the association and complying with state law. I do know of homeowners who have sued their association, claiming the association failed to provide adequate insurance. Will you need to do the same? Maybe. I would bring the insurance delinquency to the Board’s attention and see what they do. If you aren’t happy with the results, seek the advice of a local attorney who will let you know if you have a case. All the best!

Trying to Prevent Condo Water Damage

L.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

After my pressure relief valve poured water on my basement floor and caused damage to the floor of my rec room, the property manager informed me that it is a new law in CT that requires all condo owners need to install pans and sensors under their hot water heaters. One of the plumbers that gave me an estimate on the job to install these items, advised me that because I had no drain in the floor, my problem would not be solved, as the pan would not accommodate the amount of water that the hot water heater or the pressure relief valve would release. My question is: what can condo owners in my situation do to eliminate future potential water damage?

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., that is a great question! I am sorry for your problems with your water system. Did you ask the plumber what he would do if it were his home? My guess is that the repair would be in the association’s best interest and they may allow you to install an expert recommended solution. I am not sure of any law that requires condo owners to install pans and sensors although many insurers now require preventative maintenance and standards or they will not honor claims. You might ask the Property Manager to cite the law for you so you know what you are dealing with. If it is just a maintenance standard, do as they suggest so you are covered in the event of damage. Also, once the plumber gives you a proposed solution, speak with the Board about implementing it. Covering yourself from uninsured damage is one thing. Actually solving the problem is another. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Seeks Legal Recourse for Poorly Maintained Roof

D.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

After living in my condo unit for many years, the roof recently came off during a rainstorm. The Association’s master policy is paying for the property damage which means they will put the home back to the state it was sold to me. However, do I have any legal recourse against the property management company and the board for not maintaining the roof in good order in addition to what the insurance will cover. The roof was originally scheduled for replacement in August. My roof came off in July. The state of the roof of my unit as well as the other roofs in the building unit I am in was in very poor shape. It appeared as though the roof should have been replaced or maintained quite some time ago. I was wondering if I had any recourse against either or both parties for not maintaining the property at the level it should. I have always paid my condo fee in full and feel I deserve to have my property maintained.

Mister Condo replies:

D.N., poorly maintained condos are almost always the result of “deferred maintenance”, the polite term for not collecting enough common fees to make adequate Reserve Fund contributions over the years. I am sorry that you had a such a direct impact from such a poorly maintained roof and I am glad that you have had the benefit of insurance to help you rebuild. As for your ability to seek additional damages against the association, I am doubtful. That isn’t to say you couldn’t try but the reality is no real crime was committed here. The Board is democratically elected by the unit owners like yourself and has likely changed over many times in the years of neglect involved. The Property Management company does the bidding of the Board so they are not at fault. Who exactly would you sue? The association paid to replace your roof after it failed so they fulfilled their obligation as well. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. My friendly advice is to be happy that you have been made whole by insurance and that no one was injured by the failed roof. You might ask the Board what steps they are taking to start saving for the next roof now that the current one is new. My guess is your common fees need to increase 20% or more to properly reserve for future repairs. As you can imagine, that won’t be popular with unit owners who are unlikely to want to pay more today for tomorrow’s repairs. Yet, that is the right solution. Good luck!

Condo Landlord Reluctant to Pay for Damage to Neighboring Unit

D.J. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a condo. A little over 1 month ago, water was pouring out of my linen closet. I immediately ran to my neighbors, thinking they must not be home or left water running. They were and I advised water is pouring out of my linen closet. They came down to take a look. They are renters. I’m an owner. I notified the HOA that night, by phone and email. Eventually, after 2 days the HOA sent out professional to dry vac my carpeting and to detect the problem. Once the bathroom ceiling was opened up, linen closet ripped out the problem was located, and it was & has been determined the renter’s condo owner is responsible for basically getting my bathroom back together/carpeting replaced/drywalls repaired: I have no linen closet, because it was ripped out.

The owner of the other unit and the HOA are going back and forth as to who is responsible. The HOA has brought in an attorney to confirm they, meaning the other condo owner, are totally responsible. The owner feels as though the HOA is responsible, because it’s a common area. This is so bad, the owner has asked for the bylaws, which was provided. No one is doing anything, and I’m caught in the middle, totally. I can’t see this being resolved any time soon. The owner will not provide his insurance information, so a claim can be started. I’ve already asked the HOA for information & was told, the owner will not provide that information.

I’ve been very patient and understanding, but nothing is being done. I’m at the point I need to contact an attorney and sue the HOA, as well as the Owner, for my insolvencies, as well as repairs/replacement of items.

Mister Condo replies:

D.J., I am sorry for your worries and problems. Water damage at condos is far too common and, as you are seeing first-hand, it isn’t always a simple case of pointing to the cause and assessing the cost of repairs. Your closing comments are my best advice to you. It is long past the time of being patient and understanding. The other parties have hired attorneys, so should you. If the damage came from a common area, the other owner may have a point. If not, he may be responsible and have to pay or have his insurance company pay. Either way, your best interests will be protected by having your own attorney look out for them. Have you read the by-laws yourself? Sometimes it helps to have your own understanding of what is being contested. It doesn’t necessarily help resolve the matter any sooner but it might help you understand what the legal bickering is about. All the best!

Homeowner’s Insurance Should Cover Damage from Condo Neighbor’s Air Conditioner

A.B. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 100-unit condo in Cambridge, MA. My upstairs neighbor’s air conditioner leaked, causing water damage to my unit. Who is responsible and who files an insurance claim?

Mister Condo replies:

A.B., I am sorry you took damage from a neighbor’s air conditioner. Your own insurance is your first line of defense. Your insurance should cover any interior damage to your unit, less your deductible. Your neighbor may also have insurance that would come into play if your insurer goes after him/her for the damage caused. There are also times when the association insurance can come into play but this doesn’t sound like one of those times. File your own claim with your own insurance and get your damage repaired. Good luck!

Condo Owner Flooded Twice by Vacant Unit Above

D.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our 2-level condo was flooded last week for the second time in 17 months by a bank-owned unit above ours. The first time the above unit was unfinished and not winterized; a pipe burst, flooded us below and we were out 47 days for repair. This time the bank owner’s subcontractor broke a sprinkler head, resulting in more damage than last time. What is our legal status with owner and with subcontractor? Settlement? Lawsuit? Other remedies? It will be repaired but we will be out an indefinite time.

Mister Condo replies:

D.B., I am so sorry for the double whammy you have experienced. I can’t even imagine the heartache and inconvenience these back-to-back disasters have caused you. Unfortunately, the nature of having units stacked on top of each other creates the possibility for exactly the types of problems you have experienced. The good news is that insurance covers most of the loss. The bad news is that lawsuits are typically only used for your “out-of-pocket” expense. They rarely cover paying you back for your inconvenience and time. I don’t think I see the basis for a lawsuit or settlement based on what you have shared with me. However, I am not an attorney so I offer no legal advice in this column. If you think you are entitled to damages above and beyond what has been offered, you should seek the advice of a local attorney who can best guide you. I wish you dryness and a comfortable living space moving forward. Good luck!

Condo Manager Claims Unit Owners Cannot Assist Someone Who Falls

J.T. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A lady trips and falls on condo grounds and just needs assistance to stand up but no one will help her. The condo manager says it’s against the bylaws. We have the Good Samaritan law in Texas so I don’t understand why no one can help. What do you think?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., what litigious times we live in that we cannot help our fellow man when they need our assistance for fear of a lawsuit! I would ask the condo manager to show you where it says no one can help someone who has fallen on the common grounds. My guess is that this is a misunderstanding of how the insurance regulations read about “slip and fall” type accidents. The insurer may insist that people who fall get medical evaluations to protect the insurer in the event of a lawsuit after the fact. That being said, it is very sad that we are being told not to help a fellow human being. If it were me, I would help and I would certainly want someone to help me or a loved one if they fell. Get the clarification you need and always practice kindness. This world is a negative place without it. All the best!

Unit Owner Pissed Off at Condo Board Over Dog Urine Remediation

K.R. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I just purchased a unit that was a short sale. It had visible dog urine damage. The board was aware of this unit’s condition. After removing the carpeting and padding there is wet sub floor and wet framing from the dog urine. I am replacing the sub floor and some insulation as the dog urine seeped through the abutting sub floor and caused damage to some of the insulation as well. I received a note from one of the board members saying I need their permission to do any work in my unit. I read my bylaws and I own the subfloor. Why would I need permission to replace the sub floor or even update my kitchen cabinets? Does the board really have this much control over my home? What about my quiet enjoyment? What does CIOA have to say about this situation? Thank you for your anticipated response.

Mister Condo replies:

K.R., I am sorry for all of your problems. I hope you have been able to fully remediate the issue and get your unit in a livable condition. As to your interaction with the Board regarding repair and restitution work, I have a few thoughts to share. The ownership of the subfloor is not in question; it’s yours. Most associations require unit owners to inform them of any modifications to their units (including restoration) and for good reason. For starters, you may have contractors coming on to the property. These folks need to be licensed and insured and you may need to provide proof of same to the association. Second, depending on the nature of the repairs and/or upgrades, the Board has to make sure you aren’t working on any supporting walls or structures. Finally, if the association’s insurance policy is “all in” coverage, any upgrades you made need to be reported to the insurance company so they are covered. CIOA doesn’t come in to play with any of these issues as far as I know. Living in a community association means playing by the rules. My guess is once you have finished this project, you won’t have anything further to report or ask permission of the Board. All the best!