If you have suffered water damage in your Florida condominium, it is important to understand your rights and obligations. Whether or not you will have any responsibility to pay for the resulting damage will depend primarily on its cause. Generally speaking, if the damage was caused by an “insurable event,” meaning something unusual, unexpected and sudden, your condo association is responsible for repairing damage to the common elements (drywall, infrastructure) while you will be responsible for repairs inside your unit. Your homeowner’s policy should cover such interior damage. However, if your condo association has been negligent — by, for example, ignoring a leaky pipe or failing to properly maintain a common element — then the association may be responsible for all damages. Different rules apply when the damage is caused by a neighboring unit. A Florida condo attorney can help you navigate the complexities of Florida Condo Law and the interplay between the law, the association’s governing documents and insurance coverage, and your homeowner’s policy.
The Condo Association Will Likely Be Responsible for the Common Elements
In general, your condo association should pay for water damage to the condominium’s common elements as long as it was caused by an insurable event. The association’s responsibility includes damaged ceilings and drywall, as well as damaged wiring behind the walls. This includes any resultant mold growth. That said, many condo insurance policies have very limited coverage for damage due to mold, and your association will likely try to minimize their responsibility for what may be a very expensive mold remediation process.
An experienced Florida condo attorney can help protect your interests as an owner. Florida condo and homeowners associations keep expensive local law firms on retainer so they are able to fight and delay your claims, while paying these law firms with your dues. We provide legal representation to the individual owner so you are not forced to deal with experienced property managers and association attorneys on your own.
You Will Be Responsible for the Finished Interior Surface
As a condo owner you will likely be responsible for repairs to the finished interior surface or the covering of the drywall. In other words, if your walls or ceiling sustain water or mold damage, the association must replace the drywall but you will likely be responsible for repainting or replacing wallpaper. You will also be responsible for repairing or replacing kitchen cabinets, floor coverings, personal property such as furniture within the unit, as well as:
- Electrical fixtures
- Water heaters
- Water filters
- Window treatments
Your homeowner’s insurance should cover all damage not covered by the association’s policy.
If the Association was Negligent It May Be Responsible for All Damages
If, for example, the association has been notified of a problem with a common element and ignored the problem, or failed to properly maintain the comment elements (such as the roof or exterior building walls), the association may be responsible for all damage, including interior damage to your unit, caused by the problem. On the other hand, if a condo owner is found to have violated a condo rule, resulting in water damage, the owner may be responsible for all damage (including damage to common elements).
A Neighboring Condo Owner May Be Responsible
When a neighbor’s unit is the source of the water damage, the association may be responsible for common drywall repairs if the cause of the leak was not foreseeable, such as a burst water heater. However, if the owner of the neighboring unit failed to timely fix a known or foreseeable issue — such as accidentally leaving a faucet running, resulting in flooding of the unit below — the owner of the upstairs unit would be responsible for all portions of the condo property not covered by the association’s insurance, as well as any damage to the unit below.
Be Aware of Possible Hidden Costs
The full extent of costs related to water and mold damage to your condo unit may not be apparent at first. Toxic mold can lead to serious health problems for the condo’s occupants. To maximize your recovery for these related health costs, you should consult a Florida condo attorney.
It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities before signing an insurance settlement agreement. Without the advice of an experienced attorney, you may end up being short-changed by your condo association or your own insurance company.
We serve the legal needs of individual condominium owners, home owners and cooperative owners in resolving disputes with their associations throughout Florida, including Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties, as well as Miami, Naples, Brickell, Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale, Sunny Isles, Aventura, North Miami, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. We never represent the associations or their boards so we always know who we are fighting for.
How a Florida Condo Attorney Can Help You Maximize Your Recovery for Water Damage
If you have suffered water or mold damage to your Florida condominium, we welcome you to contact us at (954) 966-3909. Please note that free case evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.