Tag Archives: Damage

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!

Previous Condo Owner Installed Hardwood Floors Improperly

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are having problems with our hardwood floors cupping. We just found out that our Management told the previous owner that the floors were not being properly installed and this could happen. Isn’t it the responsibility of Management to let us know of this improper installation before we purchased the unit? Shouldn’t they help pay for some of the very expensive repairs we now have? Thanks for your help.

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position. In my opinion, this is your problem and not anyone else’s. I assume you had the home inspected before you made the purchase. I could argue that the previous owner had a responsibility to let you know about the potential problem as a disclosure to the sale of the property but other than being an “oversight” on their part, I doubt any real estate disclosure laws were broken. Typically, units are sold “as is”, meaning the unit is now your responsibility, defects and all. My understanding is that is it very difficult to cure cupping hardwood floors as moisture is typically the culprit. Unless you can remove the moisture, it is likely you will need to replace the floors. My recommendation would be to heed the advice of proper installation so you don’t have a repeated failure. Sorry I don’t have better news. 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 Maintenance Fees on Condemned Building

J.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an association charge maintenance fees for a condemned building that has legally been condemned by the city of Hartford because of a fire that caused structural damage?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., condemnation does not prevent common fees from being charged and collected. Condemnation simply means the building has been deemed unsafe and uninhabitable. The building and the association are still incurring other expenses that are part of the maintenance fees and all unit owners are still beholden to their covenants to pay those fees. I know it seems to fly in the face of reason that maintenance fees are collected on a condemned property but unless the association is dissolved (unlikely), the common fees continue to accrue and the association is entitled to collect. I hope they get the building repaired or rebuilt in timely fashion for you and other unit owners. Good luck!

Neighboring Condo Unit Owned by a Hoarder

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The unit next to me is owned by a hoarder who moved in during 2015. The owner is hoarding on the deck/common elements outside as well as inside the unit. There are no window treatments so you can see piles upon piles of “stuff” inside the unit. I have complained to my association in June of this year because my unit had mice. (I have owned for 10 years and never had a rodent prior to this) They have done very little and communicated very little to me despite my calls/requests for assistance. They had the County Board of Health come and just confirm that it is a hoarding situation, that the mice are most definitely coming from there but the BOH has stated there is little they can do about the conditions on the inside of the unit. I had the Fire Marshall some and speak with the unit owner but they have limited power as well. He did let them know a neighbor is upset and asked them to clean up and they said they would. Of course, they did not. I had an exterminator come out, they did their best but stated if the cleanup doesn’t happen this will be a recurrent issue and it could get much worse. Well two months later and I have mice again. I have contacted the Board several times with zero response, Mister Condo, without the board acting. We have antiquated by-laws that’s don’t address hoarding. What are my options at this point? I was told to sue the board and the neighbor. Do you have any wisdom on this issue? I’m really losing hope and thinking I need to sell my condo.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., hoarding is a real problem at condos and apartments around the country, not just in your community. I am very sorry for your particular horror story. You are doing all the right things. You also need to contact an attorney. Regardless of what the Board can and cannot do to get this hoarding situation under control, you need to have your property rights protected and that might very well include a lawsuit against the hoarder and the association. The problem is that hoarding isn’t properly addressed in association rules and by-laws. Further, the courts have often sided with the homeowner right to live in their home as they see fit. The legal battle happens when their lifestyle creates “nuisance” for other unit owners (like you). Selling your unit is certainly a viable option but finding a buyer is likely to be quite challenging with a mouse infestation problem. A savvy buyer would surely notice the sights and smells that are usually associated with a neighboring unit housing a hoarder but I wouldn’t rule it out as one possible and realistic solution to your problem. My advice is that you consult with an attorney, gather up as much information as you can, and make an informed decision about whether to stay in place or sell your unit. Good luck!

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!

Unit Owner’s Car Finish Damaged by Association-Owned Tree

A.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have two assigned parking spaces. There is a lot of debris coming out of the tree above which destroys car paint. Am I entitled to request reassignment of parking or request tree removal from the HOA?

Mister Condo replies:

A.T., it is doubtful that you will get it but you can certainly request that the Board reassign your space or remove the tree. The Board controls the parking lot assignment and you more or less get what you get. I am sorry that there is a particularly nasty tree above your space but the Board is not obligated to do anything about that. Are you the only one effected? If not, gather a group of signatures to present top the Board. Perhaps there will be strength in numbers. Other than that, a car cover may be your best bet for protection. 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!