S.G. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I own a condo in New Haven. I used to live there but due to a job promotion and relocation, I moved to MA. Of course, I was unable to sell due to the market crash in 2008. I was able to rent it out with mixed success early. So you could call me a reluctant landlord. I have a good tenant now. But that’s a story for a different day.
My situation is the bank-owned condo above me had a water heater blow during winter, 2 years ago. It leaked down to my utility closet and caused some water damage. No biggie. Someone from the Condo Association turned off the water. This past May someone from the bank came to assess the condo to sell or rent. They turned the water back on and never turned it off. Of course, my tenant was away on vacation, the leak wasn’t found until her mom came to check on the condo like a week later. It caused quite a bit of damage to her sons bedroom (ceiling, 2 walls, insulation, carpet, paint & clean up). Now, I didn’t realize I should keep insurance on the condo (rookie mistake). So after being jerked around by the Condo Association that they may pay for it “but would have to check on it”. Meanwhile the clock is ticking for my tenant and me. Finally, I just said the hell with it, and paid out of pocket for it. But now I’m stuck with close to $3,000 I had to pay out of pocket expenses (repairs + discount off rent to tenant for damaged property and “inconvenience”). This is a huge hassle I live out of state and work crazy hours and don’t have time to go to court. What should I do to recoup my money?
Mister Condo replies:
S.G., I am sorry for your worries. Please understand that I am not an attorney so my advice here is strictly friendly. I strongly encourage you to speak to an attorney who can represent you in this matter as I suspect the only relief you will get will come in the form of a lawsuit, which you clearly will not have the time or ability to handle while living out of state.
Yes, you should have had insurance to protect your investment and your tenant. Also, your tenant should have had renter’s insurance although, in my experience, that isn’t all that common. Both of those insurances would have helped mitigate the immediate out-of-pocket expenses for you and your tenant. As you said, this is a lesson learned too late to help this time around.
The bank-owned unit is the responsibility of the bank and they are not without liability here. The association may also be on the hook as they may have a duty to you to repair the damage and file their own claim or pursue the unit owner (the bank) for the damage their negligence caused.
The bottom line is that you need to take action to get these wheels turning. “We’ll have to check on it” is not the response you should settle for. A lawsuit will get their attention. Yes, there will be additional expense to you for hiring an attorney to represent you in this matter. However, given your out of state and crazy hours work status, I don’t see what else you can do if you wish to recoup your loss. Best of luck!