Question: I wish I'd known more about a condo owner's responsibilities to repair damages before the bathtub in the unit above mine leaked into my unit. The damage was significant. I'm told that the responsibility for the repair is solely mine and that the association doesn't have insurance to cover it. Is that true?
Answer: Many unit owners first learned about the issues of water damage when they have to deal with problems in their own units. They are surprised to hear that the association is not responsible to repair damages, even if the source is someone else's unit.
The association is responsible for repairs to drywall and ceiling coverings as they were installed originally. Damage to these items is usually covered by insurance but this type of insurance does not cover the personal property of a unit owner. In other words, it doesn't cover any of the damage to anything but the original drywalls and coverings.
The law does not specifically say that this insurance must be in place but the language, custom and legal interpretation does suggest it is required, "Every property insurance policy issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2009, for the purpose of protecting the condominium must provide primary coverage for all portions of the condominium property as originally installed or replacement of like kind and quality, in accordance with the original plans and specifications."
The statutes also state that the coverage "must exclude all personal property within the unit or limited common elements, and floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit." Repairing or replacing these items is clearly the responsibility of the unit owner.
Damage caused by the negligence of another unit owner should be discussed with the owner. Your neighbor may be inclined, in the spirit of neighborly behavior, to pay for the damages he caused. If the issues are complicated or have significant monetary exposure, consider asking for the advice of an attorney.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.