Homeowner vs HOA - slow water leak cause mold in unit and cabinet

7 Replies

I currently own a condo, tenants recently moved out and he reported some damage on the wood flooring that we previously thought it was related to a plumbing issue that was already fixed. When we got the condo back, we thought there were no more issue since everything was dried. I had the contractor to begin kitchen tile work, and he then noticed there were water sipping thru the subfloor and notice there was some other leak that we were unaware of. He asked my permission to open up the wall to trace the leak since the leak wasn't visible. We then found out that it was a sprinkler leak and notify the HOA right away. They sent mold remediation team and are currently working on it. We found out that the mold damage has extended to cabinetry, the wall. We were told that the cabinetry replacement wasn't HOA issue since it is part of "content", they filed HOA insurance for me but got declined. Part of the cabinets were discovered with mold in it after the mold remediation team start tearing everything out, and now the cabinets can't be put back, so full kitchen renovation is needed, and it costs about 15-20k!

I'm oblivious to the process and want to seek advice on what are my responsibility against theirs. Also seek damage due to this sprinkler leak on loss of rent, and existing repair (floor), and future kitchen repair

@Gigi Tsui

Insurance liability with associations can be complicated. If the Association is filing a claim for the loss, then your damage (regardless of whether or not it's considered "contents") would be the HOA's responsibility. Typically, cabinets are not considered personal contents but carriers can vary. Regardless, a sprinkler leak is HOA and they should be covering all of your costs. Now, loss of rent and use would be covered under your HO6 policy (the policy you carry on the unit). Ask management for the adjusters name and phone number and call if you can't get anywhere with the management company or the association.

And, who filed HOA insurance but got declined? That's really hard to believe that the Association's policy would not cover all the damage. Bu then again, I've seen it all with insurance companies, they don't like to pay on claims. It can take some fighting but it's worth it. And who told you the cabinets were not included? If the workers in your unit are advising you don't listen to them, condo insurance claims are complicated. Again, cabinets may fall to your insurance but then you should bill the Association for your deductible. This is all an association expense, period (unless it was a resident that caused the sprinkler to leak - I've seen that happen where people hang things from the heads and then they break).

Thank you Nicole for the insight. HOA manager filed the insurance for me and got declined, the reason being she didn't file within 14 days window, and she was the one who told me I didn't have to do anything and she'll help me file the claim.

Since the HOA insurance was dead-end, now the Associate said they're not going to take care of the cabinets since they are "contents". I'm so annoyed with this case, so am seeking legal counsel and wanted to reach out to see if anyone can share their experience. Thanks Nicole for your perspective.

I would talk to your own insurance company. Consider a claim with them, they will then subrogate. This means that if damage that was covered by them was caused by another party they then will go after that party for reimbursement. That also means possible litigation and legal fees on the insurance companies part. Once they see the costs of defense, that may change their mind as to covering your portion.

The drawback is that at that point you would have a claim on the property that stays with your records for 3-5 years. I would only do this if you can't reach a resolution with the HOA's coverage 1st?

@Gigi Tsui

If the management company didn't file the claim on-time that's a problem. The manager should've put the carrier no notice right away. Have you reached out to the board to let them know that the manager missed this important deadline? 

How is the Association determining that you're cabinets are contents?! Your governing documents should be clear on this. Again, it doesn't matter because the Association should be responsible for the damage. 

I think the best course of action is seeking counsel. This is very unfortunate! 

@Gigi Tsui

It shouldn't matter if it's content or not.  What matters is the cause of the issue.  If the cause is something that the association is responsible for, they have to pay for all damages.  I would consult an attorney and have them draft a letter that trust me, will be taken very seriously by the association. The association should also have an attorney on staff that should help represent any of your interests.   Let us know how it turned out!

When I had a condo, I was responsible for anything inside the walls.  Why don't you just file an insurance claim?  If the place is a rental, you can write off any loss, including any increased premiums.  Way easier and cheaper than getting an attorney in the mix.

Sprinkler leak HOA responsibility- clearly. Regarding unit damage, technically the HOA is only in need to replace drywall. Mud, and coat of primer. If your cabinets are damaged, you'll likely need to file a claim with your insurance on this. I'd be interested to hear how this pans out. The aforementioned is purely based on my experience with these issues - I could be entirely wrong. Different states and all.

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