C.H. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My wife and I are looking into purchasing a condo. We toured a unit earlier today that is significantly less expensive than any other unit in the complex because it needs quite a bit of TLC. There is a great deal of water damage through three of the floors and there is visible damage in the attic which appears to be from the roof. We are going to have it inspected to get further details on the extent of the damage. If the damage throughout the unit is due to neglect from the exterior would it fall under the responsibility of the condo association to fix the damage throughout the unit? And if so what advice would you give regarding to make sure there is no mold damage after it is fixed? Thank you for your time.
Mister Condo replies:
C.H., be weary and beware, my friend. The sweetness of a low price can go away quickly and be replaced by the bitterness of an expensive repair. TLC to me is new paint, wallpaper, carpets, and other cosmetics. A unit that needs water damage repair and mold remediation sounds like a potential cash cow to me. The fact that the association allows this unit to remain in such disrepair is another red flag. But let’s talk about the potential upside and why you might still consider purchasing this unit.
Association insurance covers the building exteriors and common elements of the condo unit. Common elements vary by association but, generally speaking, any damage done to a unit interior is repaired at the unit owner’s expense. That is why most condos require unit owners to carry HO-6 (homeowner’s insurance). The current or previous owner may or may not have had this insurance in place but that will be of no use to you once you purchase the unit. The new policy that you will purchase cannot be used to repair existing damage. Unless the damage can be directly linked to the failed roof and the association’s insurer agrees to pay for the damage, you will likely find yourself on the hook for the repairs. Ouch!
Mold remediation is another story. If the condo association has insurance in place for mold remediation, you may be able to have the mold remediated at the expense of the association or their insurance. Of course, mold doesn’t always appear right away and it may be years before it becomes a problem. Who pays for the remediation isn’t my only concern. I know many people who have become quite ill as a result of mold growing in their homes. You might want to think twice about the potential for long-term health problems before purchasing this unit. At the very least, you might want to spend some money on mold prevention before you rebuild this damaged unit. Again, this would likely be at your own expense.
So if the math works and this sounds like a good deal to you, C.H., then jump on it. If it were me, I would likely look elsewhere. There are many wonderful condos available to choose from. Most of them are in great shape. They may cost a little bit more but, in the long run, I think you’ll be happier. Best wishes!