RE Q&A: Whose Ins. Covers Condo Water Damage?

What if condo damage was caused by something part of the building itself, like a ruptured water line? Does the unit owner’s insurance pay or the condo associations?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: I read your article about what to do if your neighbor causes damage to your apartment. Please explain what to do if the water comes from our condo building, such as from a poorly maintained drain pipe or a burst water line.

Does the building’s insurance cover this, and what happens if our association stops carrying insurance? – James

Answer: Dealing with damage caused by your community association is similar to dealing with an issue caused by a neighbor. However, some differences need to be dealt with.

Most condominiums governing documents make the association responsible for building elements from the outside of the walls of each apartment. This means your association must maintain the inside of the walls, the building’s plumbing and HVAC systems, the roof, and the exterior.

If a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, causes damage, the unit owners will be responsible for the walls and contents, while the association will be responsible for everything else.

If a community association fails to maintain the parts of the condo it is responsible for and its negligence causes damage to a unit owner, the association can be held liable.

Typically, the building’s insurance will cover this cost, but if the association does not have a policy, this cost must be carried by all of the owners in the association.

If the damaged unit owner has an individual policy, their carrier will generally cover the repairs and then try to get the money back from the association.

For these reasons, it is imperative for the association and each unit owner to carry insurance.

Dealing with this issue follows the same course as dealing with most legal problems. The damaged unit owner should document the problem and take plenty of pictures. They should put their association on written notice of the damage and promptly make a claim to their insurance carrier.

However, if the unit owner does not have coverage and their association does not want to pay for the damage it caused, the owner will be forced to seek a remedy in court.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review.

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