G.B. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A neighbor’s water line to the washing machine broke and flooded her unit. The association is now paying to clean and fix her condo. Shouldn’t she use her home owners insurance?
Mister Condo replies:
G.B., the short answer is “it depends”. In my experience, unit owners generally rely on the condo association’s insurance policy first and their own homeowner’s policy second for just about any insured loss. If your association had insurance in place to cover the loss then I see no problem with using that policy to pay for the repairs. However, you didn’t mention any insurance. You just stated that the association is paying to clean and fix her condo, which I may take issue with. Was the water line that broke owned by the association? That is not very common but if so, they may have the responsibility for the repair. If not, then the repair should have likely been covered by the unit owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Typically, burst washing machine lines and subsequent damage are the homeowner’s responsibility. Many policies even limit the amount of damage they will cover if it is determined that the burst hose lines were not properly maintained or replaced within a certain time interval as their failure is imminent over time.
As you can imagine, insurance companies don’t like paying for claims they are not technically responsible for and it is not uncommon for lawsuits to become necessary for claims to be paid. Depending on the amount in question, it is possible that your association just thought it would be less expensive to pay for the repair than to fund a lawsuit against an insurance company. As a member of the association, you certainly have a right to know why the repair was handled the way it was. Send a nice letter off to the Board and ask for a clarification of what damage occurred, what if any insurance was used to pay for the clean-up, and what plans the Board has so that the problem doesn’t reoccur. After all, if association funds were used for the repair, a portion of that money came from your common fees.