L.J. from New Jersey writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
It has taken 4 years for the association where I live to remediate a water damage / mold issue in my unit which made it uninhabitable for the past two and a half years. I have had tremendous hardship and out of pocket expense (tens of thousands of dollars!) because of this. How should I proceed?
Mister Condo replies:
L.J., 4 years is certainly too long for anyone to wait to have use of their condo unit after water damage or mold has become a problem and I am sorry for your problems. I do know of situations where it does take a year or longer to rebuild after fires or other disasters. Generally speaking, insurance will pay for some relocation or temporary living expenses but I am unaware of any insurance that would pay for so long an absence from an insured property.
As you know, I am not an attorney but, clearly, this is one of those situations where some legal guidance is called for. Ideally, you would have had an attorney involved much sooner than this because it would appear that you have “fallen through the cracks” when it comes to having the association repair your unit and make it habitable. “Reasonable” time has to be allotted after any disaster. I think most associations would have a hard time justifying 4 years as “reasonable” based on what you have told me. There may be mitigating circumstances but that is where an attorney could advise you as to what your rights are in this situation. Also, there may be an opportunity for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which would be an opportunity for all of the involved parties to come to the table in a non-legally binding arbitration to get to the matter of the problem and devise a plan for correcting the problem. Honestly, at 4 years out, I would try just about anything to get back to having the use of my unit, even if it was just to sell it and move on. Good luck!