M.T. from Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My unit is right above a water pipe that supplies water to the condo’s common area. I have about 1200 square feet of exotic wooden floors that have been completely ruined and damaged because the water from the burst pipe was absorbed into the concrete ceiling and into the subfloors of my unit. All of my wooden floors need to be removed and replaced due to the water from the association-owned burst pipe. I also currently have black mold in my subflooring and flooring. My HOA sent over a plumber that broke two walls down in my guest bathroom to get to the broken pipe. These walls have not since been fixed nor have my floors been replaced or repaired. The condo’s insurance carrier refuses to pay for any damage done to my unit even though the entire situation was caused by an association-owned pipe that was not in my unit but in a common area. Can I sue my HOA for the removal of the mold? Can I also sue them for the removal and replacement and cost of the damage done to my floors and guest bathroom walls?
Mister Condo replies:
M.T., I am sorry for your loss and what sounds like a messy situation. There are several questions here that I will try to answer for you. Let’s start with what I think is most important. Mold can be really dangerous. There are mold removal experts to help with that. In fact you’ll find some that specialize in condo mold removal at http://www.caict.org/?page=Directory#Mold
As far as who pays for what, things get a little tricky here. If you didn’t already have a homeowner’s insurance policy, known as HO-6 here in Connecticut, you may be getting an expensive lesson on why you need one. HO-6 is the insurance that covers damage inside your unit, regardless of how that damage was caused. Here is a great example of something that wasn’t you fault that this type of insurance would cover. Condo Association insurance is primarily designed to cover the association from risk. It helps individual unit owners by protecting the exterior of their units and their commonly owned assets and provides important coverage for damages that could occur on the common property like “slip and fall” accidents. It is uncommon for the association’s insurance to cover damage inside a member’s unit.
That being said, you really need to speak to an attorney. Between the costs of new flooring, interior walls damaged by an association-hired contractor, and potential mold remediation you very likely have a lawsuit on your hands. At the very least, the threat of the lawsuit might get the wheels turning to get your interior walls repaired. The attorney can advise you far better on what other expenses you’ll have that are recoverable. Again, I am sorry for your loss. I hope 2013 is a better year for you and your condo!