Category Archives: Insurance

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!

Who Pays to Repair Condo Vandalism?

M.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I serve on the board and had my property vandalized who’s responsible, me or the Condo?

Mister Condo replies:

M.N., I am sorry you had your property vandalized. Regardless of your position on the Board, if a crime has been committed against your own personal property, it would typically be your responsibility to repair it and, hopefully, your insurance would cover the damage. If association property were damaged, then it is the association’s responsibility to repair the damage. Whatever the damage, I hope you contacted the police. Vandalism is a crime. The Board isn’t the Police Department. The Board governs and enforces the covenants of the association; the local police handle criminal matters. Good luck!

Condo Roofers Damage Unit Owner’s Air Conditioner

R.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In doing work on the roof of my mom’s large condominium, they needed to move the air conditioners and my 86-year-old mother is the only resident out of maybe 50 units whose A/C was damaged. The contractors admit that they dropped materials in it and said they had fixed it earlier in the week but today, Saturday, it won’t cool. It is set at 75 and remains at 80. Who is responsible and how can I best advocate for my mom? The management company calls the contractor and the contractor claims that it isn’t his fault, it’s the unit’s. The unit is over 10 years old… BUT IT WORKED BEFORE THEY MOVED IT AND DROPPED STUFF IN IT! I appreciate your help.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., I am sorry that your mother’s air conditioner was damaged. Most states require that a damaged product like an air conditioner be replaced at the market value at the time the damage occurred. My guess is that a 10-year-old air conditioner isn’t worth too much, regardless of how well it worked before it was damaged. Clearly, the blame lies with the roofing contractors who moved and damaged the unit. However, the real question here is liability and cost of replacement. You can continue to complain to anyone who will listen but unless you can prove the value of the air conditioner to be significant. I am afraid your best bet will be to simply purchase a new air conditioner. I am sorry I don’t have better news for you. Good luck!

Failed Condo Water Heater Creates Question of Responsibility

M.A. from New Haven writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My hot water heater leaked into the condo below me. I had the heater replaced. Am I responsible for the damage caused to the ceiling of the downstairs condo unit?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., I am sorry for you and your downstairs neighbor’s damage and problems. Whether or not you are responsible depends on a few things. If your association provides and enforce maintenance standards for common wear items like water heaters and you didn’t violate those standards, then the association may have insurance to help cover the cost of your neighbor’s damage. Your neighbor should have his or her own homeowner’s insurance policy which should cover some of the damage, less a deductible, that could be passed on to you or the association. Your own homeowner’s insurance may offer you some coverage against these costs as well. If you didn’t follow any published maintenance standard for replacing your water heater (typically every seven years or so) then you may be on the hook for the damage. I am not sure what you have been asked to pay but make sure all of the players involved have checked with their own insurers before you start parting with any cash. If it turns out you are being asked to pay money that you do not agree with, you may wish to speak to an attorney who can tell you what your legal responsibilities are. Good luck!

Condo Roof Leak Creates Insurance Mess for Unit Owner

G.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo roof is over 20 years old (I believe 23 years). Was already patched once when we first started getting water two weeks ago. With more rain it has begun to leak into the ceiling and wall in our kitchen/dining area (shared with a neighbor who currently isn’t having any water issues). The ceiling drywall was so saturated it began pouring into our unit through the seams of the drywall. We tore out the drywall. Damage appears to be very extensive. Our association doesn’t want to file a claim with their insurance. They called roofers (for the second time) to come patch the flat roof over the area. We called contractors for water damage out for an estimate. Who is going to pay for all of the damage? As of now it looks as though the wall behind our cabinets is damaged, cabinets are wet, and the subroof is also saturated and water is still pouring in. Since this wasn’t caused by a storm or anything we did as the unit owner, does that make the building/association liable?

Mister Condo replies:

G.G., I am sorry for your troubles. Water intrusion is a nasty, messy situation that requires professional help to remedy. Typically, your insurance would pay for the damage done to the interior of your unit. In fact, your insurer may be the ones who go after the Board to help pay for the damage, especially if it was caused by negligence to maintain. The Board is not under any obligation to submit an insurance claim. However, that does not free them from the responsibility of repairing the roof (which they did) and the possible claim against them for the damage caused to your unit. My best advice to you is to work with your insurer to collect as much money as possible to cover your loss. You might also want to involve an attorney to see what other legal rights or claims you may have against the association. My guess is that this might take some time to remedy but you will get your damage repaired without too much more than your deductible as an out of pocket expense. Good luck!