Tag Archives: Damage

Condo Sump Pump Requirement

D.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is each condo legally required to have its own sump pump? We are a 2-unit condo and there is only 1 sump pump for the 2 units. If the sump pump fails/backs up is each unit both liable or just the unit that has the sump pump in it.

Mister Condo replies:

Since I am not an expert in local building code for your neck of the woods, D.H., I can only give you a generic answer. I am not aware of any requirement to have a sump pump in each and every unit. In fact, it is quite common for multiple units to be services by a singular sump pump, in my experience. The sump pump is typically owned by the Association and is a common element meaning that if it fails, the liability should fall upon the association. However, it is not uncommon for the unit owner where the sump pump dwells to have some maintenance responsibilities for the maintenance / power supply requirements of the pump. These details should be spelled out in writing if they exist at all. If the unit owner where the sump pump is housed deliberately disabled the sump pump, the subsequent damage could be charged back to the unit owner. I have heard tales of unit owners fed up with the banging that can accompany some models of sump pump where they cut the power to the unit. In that case, the association may have recourse with the owner for cutting power to an association-owned asset and any resultant damage. My best advice is to make sure the pump is maintained regularly and keep an eye out if it fails at all. Good luck!

Condo Insurance Check Issued to Unit Owner for Building Damage

S.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Insurance check for house damage was made payable to a condo owner, who is the brother of the president of the condo association. Why did the insurance company allow this? Check amount was substantial, for several thousand dollars.

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., there are a few reasons that the condo owner was reimbursed directly for an insurance claim. For starters, the policy holder typically designates the payee. Was this entirely association-owned insurance or was it homeowner’s insurance as well? Typically, the homeowner gets paid for claims made against their own policy. If the damage had already been repaired by the homeowner, the check may have been for reimbursement. A typical association claim for exterior building damage would go to the association, who would then hire the contractor to repair the exterior building damage. It the damage were internal (water damage for instance) and the association’s insurance were covering that damage, it would not be uncommon for the payment to go directly to the homeowner.

Keep in mind that insurance claims are also records of the association. As such, you have the right to inspect the claim. If you think foul play is afoot, I would suggest you review the paperwork to determine why the payment went to the owner and not the association. Good luck!

Responsibility for Broken Sewer Pipe in Converted Condo

J.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Who is financially responsible for replacing broken sewer pipe in a unit that was converted from an apartment to a condo? The complex was built in the 1960s. The condo’s new owner discovered the broken drain line subsequent to purchase and closing. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., the short answer is “it depends”. What it depends upon is who owns the sewer pipe? If it is part and parcel of the common area owned by the association, then it is likely the association’s responsibility to maintain and repair as needed. If, however, the pipe is owned by the unit owner (which would be very rare), it may fall upon the unit owner to maintain and repair. The condo’s governance documents are the place to turn for your answer. Typically, in conversions, unit owners purchase from the “paint in”, meaning they are only responsible for what is inside of their unit. If a toile line breaks inside the unit, the unit owner is responsible. If the sewer pipe is beneath the unit or buried in a common wall shared with other unit owners, it is likely the responsibility of the association. Either way, I hope if gets fixed quickly. Regardless of who owns it, I’ll bet it stinks! All the best!

Unapproved Remodel to Upstairs Condo Damages Downstairs Unit

L.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The question I have is this, I live in a condo that has 4 units per bldg. I own mine. These condos were built in the late 50’s maybe early 60’s. Unfortunately, there is an HOA fee of 150 dollars a month and the outside of the buildings look horrible. They really need to be painted and new front and rear doors placed. The front porch is falling apart. The condos were not built like the newer ones are. Someone purchased the upstairs condo and decided that they would remodel the whole condo. There was a wall removed and other major repairs without a permit that has caused damage to my condo. I spoke to a contractor who looked at the damage and informed me that if we were to try to fix it, it would cause more damage. The upstairs condo would receive damage also. I am just wondering who should pay for the damage. The owner knows that there were issues and he wanted his handy man who caused the damage and himself to look at it. I am not sure what good that would do. Should I file a claim with my insurance company and let them fight it out or is there another way to deal with this? Am I going to be stuck with a huge bill?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., you certainly have a lot going on inside your 4-unit building. Let me address each item separately. First up, the HOA isn’t maintaining the property as they should. There is no reason for painting to go undone other than there is no money in the Reserve Fund for the project. You mention a fee of $150. If that fee isn’t enough to cover operating expenses and set aside money for routine maintenance like painting and door replacement, there will need to be a Special Assessment and/or an increase to common fees. Neither option is popular but that is the only way to get the association back on track so it can fulfill its duty to maintain the building exteriors.

The remodeling project is another issue entirely. It sounds like the upstairs unit owner did some unauthorized and unpermitted work on their unit causing damage to your unit. It’s time to speak with an attorney about suing the unit owner for the damage. You should file a claim with your insurance if you have suffered financial damage worth filing a claim over. However, the fault is clearly with the unit owner who did the unauthorized remodel. You governance documents likely spell out what types of repairs and improvements can be made to unit interiors. If they knocked down a supporting wall, you could be looking at a very expensive repair, not to mention the potential danger you are in. I would want to get this taken care of immediately. If they are amenable to correcting the problem at their expense, you may not need to sue but, in my experience, once the dollars start adding up, a lawsuit is almost inevitable. You should be able to recover your damages though and I am hopeful that your upstairs neighbor will do the right thing. Good luck!

Condo Insurance Payment to Unit Owner or Association?

S.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our building’s exterior was damaged by a falling tree. The claim check for six thousand dollars was made out to one of the condo owners. Should it have been made out to the condo association?

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., I am sorry that one of your buildings was damaged. Typically, the check is made out to whoever holds the policy. So, if the association was the policy holder and the damage occurred to association-owned property, the check is cut to the association. If the unit owner held a homeowner’s policy and that policy covered the damage, the check should have been sent to the unit owner. Building exteriors are almost always owned by the association and covered by an association policy, but exceptions do occur and insurance companies can also make payments directly to vendors or third parties at the policy holder’s request. Without knowing all of the circumstances, I cannot offer an opinion on exactly who should have received the check. However, as long as the damage was repaired and the vendors have been paid, there may be “no harm, no foul” to the association or the unit owners. All the best!

Condo Unit Owners Finds No Water Supply Shut Off in Unit

M.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My friend has a condo and her water pipes burst. Her shut off is in her neighbor’s unit, and she was never told that. Is this legal? I just don’t see how it could be if you wanted to have work done to your own condo you would have to make sure your neighbor was going to be home?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., yes, it is legal and quite common for condominium units to share items such as water shut-off valves. She may not have been “told” but the association is responsible for having access to shared common elements such as the water supply. If she wants to have plumbing work done in her unit that involves having the water main turned off, the request should go to the association and access is granted by the unit owner where the shot-off resides. The association’s right of access to such items is outlined in the condo governance documents which is where all unit owners are “told” about such items. Emergency situations such as a water line bursting are not uncommon and the association’s right of entry into the unit where the water supply shut-off is housed is protected by the condo’s governing documents. Routing repairs and upgrades are another matter. Depending on how many units will be effected by the water supply disruption, approval to do so could take a week or longer to get allow the association to properly notify all unit owners who will be effected. Good luck!

Jersey Co-op Unit Owner Strong-armed into Questionable Repairs

L.S. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have unit in a large co-op (almost 500 units) which is rented out. The Manager of the co-op is pushing me into renovation of 2 bathrooms in this unit. The claim is that high moisture reading in adjacent hallway is caused by my bathroom. The reading of moisture is provided by co-op engineer who does what Manager wants. The Board doesn’t want to help. The Manager has only 2 approved contractors who do all work in co-op and gets paid from them (no proof, all cash). The Manager has same bullying background and law suit from previous work place (co-op) requesting unit owners to do unnecessary repairs and getting kickback.  Both bathrooms have no visible defects and look perfect from inside. What can I do? The Board doesn’t respond to my complaints. I wrote to them showing Manager’s background. All correspondence goes through Manager. Is there any organization that protects unit owners in co-op in NJ?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., thank you for writing. I am sorry for your situation. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you legal advice. You are describing a particularly legal situation that may very well require legal action to settle. Further, since the Board isn’t amenable to take your side and question the tactics of the Property Manager, that leaves you alone in your battle. If you can’t afford an attorney to represent your best interests you may have little other practical choice but to sell the unit and buy elsewhere.

In NJ, the Department of Community Affairs is tasked with investigating allegations of HOA abuse, which this may fall under. Their website is http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dhcr/ and I encourage you to look there and see if there isn’t a resource to assist you. Good luck!

Condo Owner’s Insurance Pays for Deductible on Master Policy With No Claim

J.R. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I had water damage in my condo from my washing machine. I called my personal homeowners policy and they inspected and quoted $8000 worth of damage. But because my condos master insurance policy has a deductible of $5000, my personal insurance will not be moving forward and gave me a $5000 check to give to the condo association and have them put through the claim under there master policy. But now the property manager is telling me he doesn’t want to put through a claim and wants to pay for the damages out of pocket. Is this okay? Do I tell him about the $5000 check? Do I give it to him? Do I tell my personal insurance? Am I going to get in legal trouble for not putting the $5000 check towards a deductible? Are the repairs going to be of less quality? Do I have a right to tell the property manager that I don’t agree? Please help. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., I am sorry you had damage inside your condo. I am not quite certain of why the condo’s Master Policy has come into play here. Was there damage to a unit other than your own? Typically, damage inside your unit is covered by your policy. Damage to the common grounds and/or neighboring units may be cause for a Master Policy claim but not necessarily, especially if the association has published maintenance standards for typical wear items such as laundry line supplies that do fail over time. Regardless, unless the association is making a claim on their policy, the repair can be handled however the association sees fit if they are claiming to have responsibility. Depending on the agreement made between you and your insurer, you may be committing fraud by not letting them know how the true cost of the repair. I wouldn’t be as worried about the quality of the repair as I would about what happens if your insurer finds out. In a worst-case scenario, they could drop you and come after you for any monies that were allocated for the $8000 repair. In this case, they have paid a claim for $5000. Their expectation is that the Master Policy will pay the difference between the cost of the repair and the deductible. Whether or not they ever find out about it is largely up to you and the repair company. Let your conscience be your guide. Good luck!

Who Pays to Repair a Water Pipe Leak in Concrete Slab Floor of Condo?

P.H. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo is over 30 years old located in Florida. We had a water pipe leak located under the concrete slab in the kitchen. Who is responsible for repairing and paying for work done? I had to hire a company to locate leak, remove concrete, repair leaky pipe, replace concrete. Total cost was: leak detection $395.00, plumber repair $300.00.

Mister Condo replies:

P.H., I am sorry you had a water pipe break in your unit. The answer to who should pay for the repair lies in your governance documents. If the association owns the concrete slab and/or the plumbing running through the slab, it may be their expense. If you own the slab and plumbing, it is your expense. For many associations, plumbing is considered a common element because it services multiple units. Have you asked your Board? My guess is you should have notified them of the leak and they should have hired the contractor and assumed the expense. Since you did this on your own, you may be on the hook for the cost or the association may offer a partial reimbursement. The good news is that your pipes are repaired and it only cost $695. It could have been far worse. Check your documents and see who owns the plumbing. That should prepare you in case this happens again. Good luck!

Coast to Coast Damage – Florida Condo Unit Damaged by Neighboring Unit Owner from California

B.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Seminole County, Florida and own a condo which my family and I occupy in a community of 150 units. Many of those units are owned by out-of-state or even out-of-country owners and managed by local property management companies. Our unit was damaged by the unit above us two months ago when that unit’s A/C air handler (original air handler, dating back to 1984) had its drain line back up (horribly clogged and not maintained), overflow and leak a considerable amount of water into our unit’s ceiling, walls and floor below. The unit is owned by someone in California, but it is managed by a local property management company. That company had initially agreed to pay for the damage to our unit, but has since reneged on that promise. Can I sue the management company in small claims court or do I have to sue the California owner? If it is the owner whom I must sue, can I have the process service done on the management company instead of having the owner served in Southern California? Please help if you can! Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

B.C., I am sorry your unit took damage from an improperly maintained air handler from a neighboring unit. I am not an attorney or an expert in Florida state law so I can only offer friendly advice here. Your claim should be against the unit owner. The unit owner needs to be served papers according to your state’s laws on such matters. My guess is that will require a certified letter from you (or your attorney should you decide to use one) and the owner of record according to your local real estate authority. After that, it is simply a question of working through the legal process of a hearing, which, from what you have told me, you would likely prevail. Ideally, the expense and inconvenience of a lawsuit can be avoided by the unit owner simply paying for the repairs or issuing a claim against any insurance they might have to either pay the claim or a portion thereof. In my opinion, you cannot have process service done against the management company because they don’t own the unit. Good luck!