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!

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