Q: I woke up on New Year’s morning to a waterfall in my bathroom. My upstairs neighbor’s water line broke and my bathroom is a complete wreck. She’s an out of town owner, and it took me an hour to get the HOA to send someone to turn off the water from the line into her unit. The damage is enough to make me sit on the floor and cry, because I just finished redoing it into the bathroom of my dreams. There’s also damage to my bedroom floor and baseboards from the flooding. The HOA sent in restoration guys to remove the water and dry me out, but restoring my bathroom and bedroom is going to be a big job. I can move into the other bedroom and use the other bath while it’s being repaired. Who’s liable in this instance?
A: I’m so sorry! What an awful way to start 2016 – and right after you finished a redo, too. You’ve got a good start by getting restoration specialists in before more damage can occur and mold can take hold. Once everything is dried out you’ll be better able to figure out what you need to do in terms of restoring your home to its previous condition. Get that paperwork for the improvements you did together, because that’s going to be a big part of your claim. As for who is going to be liable, that’s going to be tricky until it’s determined where the pipe broke.
- If it is determined that the unit owner’s negligence contributed to the pipe’s breaking, then the owner is responsible for the damages. This may even apply if the owner is an absentee owner.
- If the unit owner could not have known that the pipe was in danger of failure and the area where the breakage happened was inside the wall, then it will most likely fall within the master policy of your HOA.
Essentially, your HO-6 policy should cover everything from the bare walls in, and your building’s master policy has to cover everything from the bare walls out. So, your personal policy covers the improvements you made to your bath that are covered in your policy (you did have an adjustment to your policy after the work was completed – right?) such as new fixtures, cabinets, mirrors, tiling, and flooring. Your building’s master policy (which they have to have by law under by 718.111 (11)) covers damage to the structure, the plumbing, and other building systems that occur within the walls. This is a very legally tricky area, proving or disproving negligence, and you may want some legal advice from an actual lawyer. We’re just insurance guys, and we can’t offer you that.
What we can offer is to get an adjuster out there, help you with your claim, and advise you on your new insurance needs. When everything’s wrapped up, we’ll even bring the rubber ducks for your bathtub. Give us a call or come by the office, and we’ll do our best for you.