J.K. from Anne Arundel County, Maryland writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Are you familiar with the Maryland Condo Act? If so please advise me on how best to proceed. I recently closed on a condo and soon after a leak in the unit above me caused a flood which affected his unit, an adjacent unit, and my unit. The property manager of my condo has advised that it appears the damage claims will be well over $5,000 and that they will have to decide whether the condo association will pay the claims out of their funds, and not make a claim on the community’s insurer, because of concern of a future insurance premium increase on their master policy.
The damage to my unit was limited to a room of carpeting, and baseboard removal. Servpro advised my carpet is not salvageable. My personal condo insurance has a $1,000 deductible so I will not file a claim on my one-month old policy, because the carpet replacement will cost about $1,500. My question is how to best proceed with my claim. The insurance carrier for the owner where the leak occurred advises that under Maryland law their liability in a claim over $5,000 will most probably be to pay the condo association $5,000 and that the other parties with damage claims will have to make them against the condo association’s insurer. The property manager of the condo is dragging his feet and not answering my calls about remediating my damage. I cannot wait any longer an must replace the damaged carpet now as it is developing mold. Will the condo association be obligated to pay my cost?Should I also submit a claim to the insurer of the unit in which the leak occurred? Any advice on how to best resolve my claim will be greatly appreciated!
Mister Condo replies:
J.K., I am sorry you have had such a miserable experiencing in your new condo. While I am familiar with the Maryland Condo Act, I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice or opinion in this column. Typically, homeowner’s insurance is the insurance that covers damage inside an individual unit such as yours. You have the insurance but do not wish to make a claim, which is your right but that doesn’t mean you can then pass on the cost to other parties as they are not liable for the damage inside of your unit. The association has liability for the common areas (walls and floors between the units) but is rarely responsible for damage inside of individual units. The owner who caused the damage is protected by liability limitations on his own policy. By refusing to file a claim against your own insurance policy you are basically saying you would rather pay the $1500 for the clean-up and replacement than pay the $1000 deductible and risk higher premiums or cancellation by your insurer because you are making a claim on a “brand new” policy. That choice is yours but so are the consequences. You can speak with a locally qualified attorney to see if you have any other rights I may have missed here but I think since you are not willing to file a claim, the cost is yours. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen again. Good luck!