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A casualty or maintenance problem?

January 7, 2011

Question: My husband and I live in a multi-story condominium. My upstairs neighbor, who is a seasonal resident and not here at the moment, had a problem with a leaky water heater. The management company was able to stop the flow of water but my walls have been damaged. The association maintains that repairing my walls is the unit owner's responsibility. That would be me. This doesn't seem fair.

Answer: There are several things to consider when judging the fairness of their position. The first is whether the problem was caused by a casualty or a maintenance problem. A casualty event will involve the insurance provisions in the Florida Condominium Act. On the other hand, a maintenance failure is usually addressed by the declaration of condominium provisions.

Sudden, unexpected events that cause damage are casualty events. A maintenance failure relates to a problem that should have been addressed but has been allowed to become worse over time, like a slow leak from a pipe or faucet. A burst water heater is usually classified as a casualty event and is typically covered by insurance.

The Florida Condominium Act addresses the insurance and casualty repair obligations of the association. The statute provides that the association must insure all portions of the condominium property as originally installed or replacements of like kind and quality, as well as all alterations or additions made to the common elements or to association property by the association.

Unit owners insure their property as well as floor, wall and ceiling coverings, appliances including water heaters, electrical fixtures, built-in cabinets and counter-tops, and window treatments.

Contact your insurance company. Officials there will be in a good position to help you determine whether this is a casualty or maintenance problem. In the meantime, don't delay in stopping the ongoing damage that could result from moisture and the resulting mold.

If the cost of repair is truly substantial and not covered by your insurance, you may want to seek the help of an attorney who is well versed in the details of condominium law.

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 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.



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