L.S. from New Haven County asks:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am hoping you can offer some guidance for an elderly friend of mine who lives in a condo. She has lived there for many years and she now has a hole in her floor. Repairmen went out to look at the damage and found that the wood surrounding the hole was bone dry. In their estimation, the hole was caused by old, unseen water damage caused by leaking windows that the association had replaced many years ago. However, the woman never realized the water was damaging the floor as it was covered by carpeting. She reported the damage to the property manager who told her she will have to pay the $1,000 to have it fixed. This woman is 92 years old and very sweet and it just seems to me that the association should have some liability here. Do you have any advice I can offer her?
Mister Condo replies:
L.S., it would appear that the Property Manager is not prepared to accept the association’s responsibility or liability for causing the damage that has lead to this hole in the unit owner’s floor. While I appreciate that at age 92, this is the last thing your friend needs to deal with, there may be only a few viable options available to her. Her condo documents should state what part of the building is her responsibility and what part is the association’s responsibility. If the hole is in the sub-floor directly under the carpet, that might be considered her responsibility and covered under her own insurance if she has homeowner’s insurance (HO-6, here in Connecticut). It is quite possible that her insurance will cover this damage or at least a portion (less her deductible). If she doesn’t have this insurance, the repair may be at her expense.
If the subfloor is the responsibility of the association, that is a whole different matter. She may wish to contact the Board of Directors directly to pursue a remedy or she may wish to hire an attorney if she feels the Property Manager is improperly denying her claim. In the Property Manager’s defense, the length of time from when the alleged damage occurred and today may make an insurance claim on the association’s policy all but impossible. That does not relieve the association from responsibility (if it is determined to be theirs); it just means the $1,000 for the repair will need to come directly from the association, not the insurer.
One other factor that may play into this solution is determining the exact cause of the hole. Damage that occurred many years ago may be difficult to prove for either side. The repairmen may need to provide written testimony as to their opinion as to the cause of the damage. The association may also wish to hire their own inspector to make their own determination. If the reports are in agreement and the association is at fault, the Board may have no choice but to make payment for the repair. However, if the reports are conflicting or inconclusive, this battle may drag on.
I hope that helps. Sorry for your friend’s troubles, L.S..