Mold and Water Damage and The Condo Association’s Duty to Maintain Common Elements

I am sitting here in my law office in Hollywood, near Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Aventura and the rain is pouring down. I figure with all the rain we are getting today it is probably a good day to make a visual inspection of my own home for signs of water intrusion. As a homeowner of a single family home I am the one ultimately responsible if water comes in through the roof or a crack in the foundation. Therefore it is important that I address my responsibilities. Unfortunately for many Florida condominium owners, Association Board Members and Property Management Companies charged with similar responsibilities are not as diligent.

As a Trial Attorney that helps individual condo owners, I get calls every day about various condo associations that have not maintained the common roof, walls, slab, or plumbing. In many of these cases the Condo Board or Property Management try to blame the problem on someone or something else or they simply try to ignore it altogether. In other cases they hire inexperienced, untrained workers to perform roof repairs and other work that should have been done by properly licensed and highly qualified experts in their field. In almost all of the cases the individual condo owner has seen their condo unit severely damaged due to water intrusion resulting from the Condo Association’s failure to maintain the common elements. In some of the more serious cases the condo units have become uninhabitable due to the presence of toxic mold.

According to the Florida Department of Health an increase in the levels of mold in the home can significantly increase the risk of potential health problems.    The Florida Department of Health  has come up with a guide for individuals to use in conducting their own inspection of their home:

  • Look for visible mold growth (it may look cottony, velvety, rough, or leathery and have different colors like white, gray, brown, black, yellow, or green). Mold often appears as a staining or fuzzy growth on furniture or building materials (walls, ceilings, or anything made of wood or paper). Look for signs of moisture or water damage (water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation, etc.).
  • Check around air handling units (air conditioners, furnaces) for standing water. Routinely inspect the evaporator coils, liner surfaces, drain pans and drain lines.
  • Search areas where you notice mold odors. If you can smell an earthy or musty odor, you may have a mold problem.
  • If mold-allergic people have some of the symptoms listed above when in your home, you may have a mold problem.
If you decide to hire someone to come in to inspect or assess your condo unit for mold or water damage make sure that you hire a reputable company and check to see if they are properly licensed.   Prior to 2011 companies would come in to “assess” for mold and water damage, write up a huge estimate and then solicit you to hire them to do the repairs and mold remediation.    This clearly presented a conflict of interests. Now the law prohibits this type of practice.  Under Florida Law a mold assessor means any person who performs or directly supervises a mold assessment.  A mold remediator means any person who performs mold remediation.  Mold remediation is the removal, cleaning, sanitizing, demolition, or other treatment, including preventive activities, of mold or mold-contaminated matter.  According to Florida Statutes Section 468.8419 a person may not:
 (d) Perform or offer to perform any mold remediation to a structure on which the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company provided a mold assessment within the last 12 months. This paragraph does not apply to a certified contractor who is classified in s. 489.105(3) as a Division I contractor. However, the department may adopt rules requiring that, if such contractor performs the mold assessment and offers to perform the mold remediation, the contract for mold remediation provided to the homeowner discloses that he or she has the right to request competitive bids.
Many individual condo owners in Dade, Broward  and Palm Beach County contact me to assist them in getting their Condo Board to take action.  Usually the first thing that needs to be done is to get the Condo Association to hire properly licensed contractors to repair the source of the water intrusion in accordance with current building codes and acceptable industry standards.   YOU CANNOT REPAIR THE INTERIOR OF THE UNIT OR REMEDIATE FOR MOLD UNTIL THE CONDITION CAUSING THE WATER INTRUSION IS FIRST REPAIRED.   Many Condo Association Boards try to argue that the individual unit owner is responsible for the repairs to the interior of the unit and the  contents that were damaged as a result of the Association’s failure to maintain the common elements.  While the Florida Statutes do require individual owners to provide insurance coverage for the interior of their unit that does not relieve the Association of it’s non-delegable duty to maintain the common elements.   In fact many claims that are submitted to the individual’s insurance carrier are denied because the source of the water damage originated from outside of the Condo Unit.

Over the past 24 years we have handled hundred of Condo Water Damage Cases.   In almost all of the cases dealing with Florida Condominiums,  the water intrusion or leaks usually originate from outside the unit and involve  the common elements.  The Condominium Declaration usually precludes individual owners from  hiring their own people to fix a leak or source of water intrusion coming from outside the Unit if it involves repairs to a common element.   Many individual condo owners that initially attempt to work with the  Association to resolve the matter on their own have encountered  difficulties trying to get the Association to  fix the problem.  Association Boards and Property Managers try to blame the cause on other owners or third parties like roofing companies and plumbers.

If you are tired of  dealing with the matter on your own, you should seek out legal advice from an experienced Trial Attorney that  represents condo owners. Your Association keeps expensive Florida Law Firms on Retainer so they can fight and delay your claim, and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. You should not be forced to deal with trained Property Managers and Attorneys without having someone fighting for you in your corner?

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.   We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation.  You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you.  Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now  (954) 966-3909!

If you have water or mold damage in your condominium, townhouse or cooperative in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, or anywhere in Florida be sure to contact us for a free case evaluation.

 

* FREE CASE EVALUATION IS BY TELEPHONE AND DOES NOT INCLUDE LEGAL ADVICE.  OFFICE CONSULTS WITH LEGAL ADVICE ARE AVAILABLE ON A FLAT FEE BASIS.
Categories
Archives

Get A Free Case Evaluation Now!

Please fill the form below