T.M. from New Haven County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I moved into a condo on the 2nd floor 2 months ago. My neighbor above me moved in the same week. Their dishwasher leaked into my unit after we both moved in. It is clear from the home inspection report for my unit that the damage did not previously exist to my purchase of the unit. The association is not responsible for the damage as the line was to the dishwasher from the wall and the unit owners are responsible for plaster/drywall and paint. The prior unit owner who still lives in the same building says he never used the dishwasher when he lived there, he always eats out, so it has been likely sometime since the dishwasher was used. Who is responsible for the ceiling damage to my unit? My insurance deductible is $1000 and the damage to my ceiling would be unlikely to exceed my deductible. I’m guessing it will be around $500-$600. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Mister Condo replies:
T.M., while I am certainly sorry that your unit was on the receiving end of the damage, it is most likely going to be you that ends up picking up the repair costs because your insurance deductible is above the cost of the damage. All of the circumstantial information you have provided about the previous owner not having used the dishwasher and so on will not have a bearing on the outcome. Homeowners insurance is used to protect you from catastrophic claims. For instance, if the dishwasher supply line ruptured and water ran into your unit for hours or days and caused $5,000 or more in damage, your policy would still cover you except for the $1,000 deductible which you will always have to pay out of pocket when damage occurs to your unit. Since the dollar amount is relatively small, taking your new neighbor to Small Claims Court is an option but likely would cost you more in time, effort, and legal fees than the actual settlement you would receive. You can certainly ask your new neighbor to pay up or even offer to pay for half of the cost of repair as a sign of good faith but they may have no legal obligation to do so. As you know, I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. If you feel you have a claim against your neighbor or your association, you should speak with an attorney to see what further options are available to you. If it were me, I would simply accept that accidents happen, pay for the repair, and investigate how much more it would cost me to have an insurance policy with a lower deductible. All the best!