Real estate Q&A: How should I handle major flood damage caused by neighbor?
Published in Business News
Q: I read with interest your recent article about the condo-dweller damaged by his neighbor’s leaky toilet. In that situation, the damage was minor. We had a situation where our upstairs neighbor had a major flood that severely damaged our apartment. Should we address this differently? —Janet
A: Yes, addressing a small leak that causes minor damage can be different from dealing with more significant damage.
However, some parts of dealing with the problem remain the same.
When dealing with an issue such as this or any legal issue, ensure the damage is well documented. Write down what happened while it is still fresh in your mind. Take a lot of pictures. When helping people in my law practice, I want as much information as possible, and you never know which picture or data point will help me win your case. Keep taking detailed notes throughout the process, including who you speak with and when. Then discuss the problem with your neighbor and report it to your community association manager.
Your next step is to make a claim with your insurance company. While most condominium associations carry insurance, it usually only covers the building and common areas. Unit owners must get coverage for their units and their contents.
While many people forego this coverage to save money, I strongly recommend that every condo unit owner get an individual insurance policy. This insurance should cover the damage to your ceiling, walls, and floor, as well as your cabinets, fixtures and personal items.
As part of this process, your insurer will want you to be “subrogated” for the claims, meaning they will try to collect the money they paid you for the damage from your neighbor who caused the problem.
You may not be able to go after your neighbor for any damage the insurance did not pay you for, so speak with your insurance company about this if you think you may want to go this route.
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