The Blame Game
Most of us can be quick to point fingers. It might be a fender-bender, an overcooked hamburger, or losing the Superbowl on the last play of the game - I know my first instinct is to figure out who is to blame for my suffering. In life, this instinct may be correct most of the time. If someone hits your car, you call the cops then expect the other driver’s insurance to pay to fix it. If your hamburger is burned, you send it back and blame the chef.
But, in a condominium, the party responsible to pay for damage may not be the same as the party who caused the damage. For example, if an owner draws a hot bath, and forgets to turn off the faucet and floods their unit and the unit downstairs, our instinct is to point the finger at the upstairs neighbor and demand that they pay for the necessary repairs. Yet, under your governing documents the owner who caused the flood may not be the party responsible to for the costs to repair the other unit or the common elements.
Many condominium declarations do not force the at-fault part to pay for the cost of repair. Irrespective of fault, a condominium association’s property insurance policy is the primary policy, at least for the portions of the condominium it covers. If the Association’s policy is triggered and it covers units (which it probably does), it would be the association’s policy that likely pays for the repair to both units and common elements in a multi-unit flood like the one described above. However, the Association’s policy would not cover an owner’s personal property, and may not cover additions made by the owner such as high-end fixtures or other improvements. The Association’s policy is almost always subject to a deductible, and which party pays that deductible—the association as a common expense, or the owner who caused the damage, or both—depends on the language of the condominium’s declaration. There are numerous other insurance considerations, and provisions in a condominium’s declaration that dictate how repairs get made and paid for, like assessments based on misconduct, liability provisions, and the insurance deductible shifting provisions mentioned above.
When something is damaged, common sense may suggest that the person responsible for the damage should pay for it. But, in a condominium, common sense and your governing documents don’t always align. You must review and follow your association’s governing documents and state laws to ensure your association adopts the proper procedure when dealing with a loss.
If you’ve experienced damage at your condominium and don’t know who to blame, give us a call, we would be happy to help.