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Condo flooded from Above, California

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#1
What is the name of your state? California

I own a condo in CA on the bottom floor of a 3 story building. The top unit was having work done. Someone apparently broke the fire sprinkler line. No one knew how to shut off the water. Fire Department came and helped clean out water and reported that someone working in top unit stepped on and broke the line. I do not have any insurance other than the Association provided insurance. Top unit has insurance. I have their claim number and spoke with their insurance company. They claim they have no responsibility to take care of the damage their insured caused.
The HOA sent in a water clean up company without calling or discussing with me. I have a tenant in the unit. Who is responsible for the water clean up bill? Who is responsible for repairing the damage to my unit? Who is responsible for costs to my tenant who has to leave the unit? HOA says they have a $10,000 deductible. Do I have to pay the $10,000 deductible for my unit? What will this master insurance cover for me?

Now clean up crew is claiming we have old mold that needs to be remediated. I have owned the unit over 10 years with no water issues before. If there really is mold, which I doubt who is responsible for that? They claim they cannot do any repairs until I pay them to do mold remediation. Is this a typical scam in water flooding issues?
 


#2
I do not have any insurance
Bet your sorry about that now. Insurance would have covered all your damage. And would have been dirt cheap compared to what you are going to be spending now.

Who is responsible for repairing the damage to my unit?
It's your unit. You pay.

Whether you can get reimbursed or not depends on exactly who broke the sprinkler line and whether you can prove them negligent or not. If the upstairs owner didn't do it then neither the upstairs owner or his insurance company is obligated to pay you anything.

The HOA sent in a water clean up company without calling or discussing with me. Who is responsible for the water clean up bill?
The HOA should pay for anything that is defined as "common elements" and you pay for anything defined as "unit."

Who is responsible for costs to my tenant who has to leave the unit?
Again, if the tenant has renter's insurance his temporary lodging costs would be covered. If he was also foolish enough not to have insurance then he pays his own costs and can seek reimbursement from whoever broke the sprinkler line. By the way, if the unit is uninhabitable the tenant may be entitled to a rent abatement.

HOA says they have a $10,000 deductible. Do I have to pay the $10,000 deductible for my unit? What will this master insurance cover for me?
The master policy covers damage to the "common elements." If the damage is less than the deductible the repairs to the "common elements" should be paid out of the HOA funds.

If there really is mold, which I doubt who is responsible for that? They claim they cannot do any repairs until I pay them to do mold remediation. Is this a typical scam in water flooding issues?
It's no scam. If the mold is on anything defined as "unit" you pay and can seek reimbursement from whoever broke the sprinkler line. If you doubt that there is mold, you can hire your own mold expert to investigate.
 
#3
Bet your sorry about that now. Insurance would have covered all your damage. And would have been dirt cheap compared to what you are going to be spending now.



It's your unit. You pay.

Whether you can get reimbursed or not depends on exactly who broke the sprinkler line and whether you can prove them negligent or not. If the upstairs owner didn't do it then neither the upstairs owner or his insurance company is obligated to pay you anything.



The HOA should pay for anything that is defined as "common elements" and you pay for anything defined as "unit."



Again, if the tenant has renter's insurance his temporary lodging costs would be covered. If he was also foolish enough not to have insurance then he pays his own costs and can seek reimbursement from whoever broke the sprinkler line. By the way, if the unit is uninhabitable the tenant may be entitled to a rent abatement.



The master policy covers damage to the "common elements." If the damage is less than the deductible the repairs to the "common elements" should be paid out of the HOA funds.



It's no scam. If the mold is on anything defined as "unit" you pay and can seek reimbursement from whoever broke the sprinkler line. If you doubt that there is mold, you can hire your own mold expert to investigate.
Thank you for your reply, the sprinkler line was broken by the individuals working for the owner in the top floor unit. They admitted to that at first but of course now are backtracking. Fire Department report states individual working for owner broke the line.

The tenant was required to have renters insurance per their lease but failed to do so.

The company doing clean up is trying to state the mold is from some old previous water leak. Not this current issue and is stating we pay for the abatement. This supposedly is from something that happened over 10 years ago. The unit has been completely dry for over the 10 years I have owned it.
 
#4
Many governing documents (Declaration, etc.) have a statement that the owner is responsible for the actions of their invitees and others such as contractors. Find that statement in your docs to show that the upstairs owner is responsible and give it to the insurance company of the upstairs owner.

Find out who stepped on the pipe. Contractors should have insurance. If they won't tell you, then go to your local government to find the work permit if any. Your association should also be seeking this information.

In CA the common elements are called "common area." You need to read your governing docs to know what is your unit and what is common area.

The old mold may actually be in the common area.

Get another company to do repairs. You don't have to accept that company. Many remediators are highly expert at getting the maximum from insurance companies. However, many regular building contractors now have training in mold and can do the repairs for much less. As always, get more estimates.
 

Just Blue

Senior Member
#5
Thank you for your reply, the sprinkler line was broken by the individuals working for the owner in the top floor unit. They admitted to that at first but of course now are backtracking. Fire Department report states individual working for owner broke the line.

The tenant was required to have renters insurance per their lease but failed to do so.

The company doing clean up is trying to state the mold is from some old previous water leak. Not this current issue and is stating we pay for the abatement. This supposedly is from something that happened over 10 years ago. The unit has been completely dry for over the 10 years I have owned it.
Do you have a mortgage on the condo?
 
#6
Thank you for your reply, the sprinkler line was broken by the individuals working for the owner in the top floor unit. They admitted to that at first but of course now are backtracking. Fire Department report states individual working for owner broke the line.
Individual? In what capacity? Contractor with a license and insurance or handyman as an employee of the unit owner?

The tenant was required to have renters insurance per their lease but failed to do so.
Then the tenant is on his own with regard to his own damages and costs. He can file his own claim against whoever. You need have nothing to do with that.

What strikes me as ironic is that you are aware enough of the need for insurance to require the tenant to have it but you have none of your own.

The company doing clean up is trying to state the mold is from some old previous water leak. Not this current issue and is stating we pay for the abatement. This supposedly is from something that happened over 10 years ago. The unit has been completely dry for over the 10 years I have owned it.
I don't know what to tell you about that. You either pay for the mold remediation or the mold stays put. Up to you. The clean up company can finish its work without addressing the mold if it isn't something that they will get paid for.

Many governing documents (Declaration, etc.) have a statement that the owner is responsible for the actions of their invitees and others such as contractors. Find that statement in your docs to show that the upstairs owner is responsible and give it to the insurance company of the upstairs owner.
And if the answer is still no, then the OP has the option of filing suit against whoever.

Do you have a mortgage on the condo?
Lack of insurance suggests not.
 
#7
The Fire Department report states individual working in top unit caused the fire sprinkler break. The owner of the unit refuses to answer questions regarding this issue. Won’t return phone calls. So we don’t know who the individual was. The association manager was aware electric work was taking place in the top unit attic. again, she is not aware who was doing the work. Work was taking place in the attic which is common area but considered exclusive common area as it can only be accessed by the owner of the top unit.

The reason for requiring renters insurance is that my Lease Agreement I was provided by Rocket Lawyer suggested this requirement.

The CC&R’s do not specify where the common area ends and the Unit begins other than stating owner of the unit is responsible for maintaining anything penetrating inside the unit. Lists specifically paint, cabinetry, tile and flooring. Only item listed separately to maintain outside of unit is phone lines.

Our governing docs do state that the owner is responsible for its invitees.

There are really 2 issues here. First, The damage inside my unit, as in the painting repair, flooring, cabinets etc. which I know and fully understand are my responsibility to repair because of lack of insurance. I know that I can seek reimbursement for these items by filing a claim for liability against the owner of the unit upstairs that caused the damage.

Second, the pre-exhisting mold that the remediation company says must be taken care of before they can finish their job. This mold they are stating is in the drywall in my ceiling and behind cabinets. I have no plumbing in these areas. I am the first floor unit. All water must have come from above as I have no plumbing to my unit in these areas. All plumbing in the building is tied together. No separate water meter. HOA fees cover water to the unit. From what I can read in my CC&R’s the drywall should be considered common area. Nothing anywhere lists it as an area of unit owner responsibility to maintain. CC&R’s do state I allow HOA access to my unit for emergency repairs to maintain the building. States they must repair all damage created in the unit to remediate the issue causing emergency. Drywall is never mentioned in the CC&R’s. Neither is insulation which obviously had to be removed to dry out the water. Without any definition in CC&R’s as to where the common area ends and the unit begins, where does responsibility lie?

No, I do not have a mortgage. Own it fully. Bought it cash from the outset. No one mentioned to me the need for separate insurance. Was told the HOA fees covered insurance to the unit. I misunderstood what type of insurance this was until this event occurred.
 
#9
What is your association doing to help you and to help resolve the dispute between owners and to find and fix the damage to the common area??? They should be looking after their interests and the common area.

I would be asking the association manager or board members for help in defining all of this and repairing the common area.

There has to be a description of your unit or the boundaries of your unit, because this is what you own, so it has to be stated for legal reasons in establishing the condominium and to establish unit ownership, and to handle situations like this. See if your CCRs have a section on definitions or ownership interests in addition to what you have already read. Your unit may be called your 'separate interest.' There should also be a statement that says everything outside of your unit is common area.

Since you mentioned paint, I suspect the unit boundaries are the undecorated surfaces of the ceiling and perimeter walls, which means that the wallboard is not your unit and is common area, but you need to find the definition/description of your unit to be sure. (Interior walls would most likely be yours.)

Mold in the ceiling would be in the common area of most condos.

Some of the clean up and water removal should be paid by your association.

Some condo associations carry extra insurance on all the units. Your association may have this, and many associations do not even know they have it. I would ask them directly, and also read the insurance section of your CCRs to see if it is required. See if the insurance section mentions units or separate interest, or states that each owner must get their own insurance and for what you get your own insurance. Even if the damage is less than the deductible, you may be able to make a claim to get guidance from the association's adjuster.
 
#10
The owner of the unit refuses to answer questions regarding this issue. Won’t return phone calls. So we don’t know who the individual was.
Then, when all is said and done and you have paid for everything that needs to be paid to restore your unit, you file suit against the upstairs owner and "John Does I, II, III etc" and, during discovery, you demand the names so you can amend your complaint and serve those parties.

The CC&R’s do not specify where the common area ends and the Unit begins
Agree with Festival. I've read hundreds of sets of CC&Rs and they all have a section defining "unit" and "common areas" or "common elements." Take another look.
 
#11
What is your association doing to help you and to help resolve the dispute between owners and to find and fix the damage to the common area??? They should be looking after their interests and the common area.

I would be asking the association manager or board members for help in defining all of this and repairing the common area.

There has to be a description of your unit or the boundaries of your unit, because this is what you own, so it has to be stated for legal reasons in establishing the condominium and to establish unit ownership, and to handle situations like this. See if your CCRs have a section on definitions or ownership interests in addition to what you have already read. Your unit may be called your 'separate interest.' There should also be a statement that says everything outside of your unit is common area.

Since you mentioned paint, I suspect the unit boundaries are the undecorated surfaces of the ceiling and perimeter walls, which means that the wallboard is not your unit and is common area, but you need to find the definition/description of your unit to be sure. (Interior walls would most likely be yours.)

Mold in the ceiling would be in the common area of most condos.

Some of the clean up and water removal should be paid by your association.

Some condo associations carry extra insurance on all the units. Your association may have this, and many associations do not even know they have it. I would ask them directly, and also read the insurance section of your CCRs to see if it is required. See if the insurance section mentions units or separate interest, or states that each owner must get their own insurance and for what you get your own insurance. Even if the damage is less than the deductible, you may be able to make a claim to get guidance from the association's adjuster.
Here is what it says in the definitions section of the CC&R’s

Separate Interest or Unit-
Separate interest or unit, which shall consist of a Living Unit, shall mean a separate interest as defined in Section 1351(f) of the California Civil Code. Each Separate Interest or Unit shall be a freehold estate, as separately shown, numbered and designated in this Condominium Plan. In interpreting deeds, declarations and plans, the existing physical boundaries of the Unit constructed or reconstructed in substantial accordance with the Condominium Plan and the original plplans thereof, ifsuch plans are available, shall be conclusively presumed to be it’s boundaries, rather than the description expressed in the deed, Condominium Plan or Declaration, regardless of settling or lateral movement of the building and regardless of minor variances between boundaries, as shown on the Condominium Plan or defined in the deed and Declaration, and the boundaries of a building as constructed or reconstructed.

Insurance-

Would the insurance your are speaking of be under, Fire and Casualty Insurances? In it it talks about the common areas but also buildings housing the Units. Talks about Fixtures, installations, appliances, cabinets and initial floor coverings installed in the units, or additions installed at the expense of the owners.

Also, insurance individual owners are to obtain states-

Owners to provide insurance on the Following, personal property and improvements within the Unit for which the association has not purchased insurance for. These are listed as Public Liability Insurance and Fire and Casualty Insurance in the CC&R’s as the Association responsibility.
 
#12
Common Area per CC&R’s definition

Common area shall mean the entire property, except the Separate Interests therein. The Common Area is more particularly described on the Condominium Plan.
 
#13
Then, when all is said and done and you have paid for everything that needs to be paid to restore your unit, you file suit against the upstairs owner and "John Does I, II, III etc" and, during discovery, you demand the names so you can amend your complaint and serve those parties.



Agree with Festival. I've read hundreds of sets of CC&Rs and they all have a section defining "unit" and "common areas" or "common elements." Take another look.
Please reply to Festival. I can give more actual definitions but they continue to be vague to me. Explanations help. Thank you.
 
#14
The following is a sample of "unit" description that Festival and I are referring to:

UNIT BOUNDARIES
(1) If walls, floors, or ceilings are designated as boundaries of a unit, all lath, furring, wallboard, plasterboard, plaster, paneling, tiles, wallpaper, paint, finished flooring, and any other materials constituting any part of the finished surfaces thereof are a part of the unit, and all other portions of the walls, floors, or ceilings are a part of the common elements.
(2) If any chute, flue, duct, wire, conduit, bearing wall, bearing column, or any other fixture lies partially within and partially outside the designated boundaries of a unit, any portion thereof serving only that unit is a limited common element allocated solely to that unit, and any portion thereof serving more than one unit or any portion of the common elements is a part of the common elements.
(3) Subject to paragraph (2), all spaces, interior partitions, and other fixtures and improvements within the boundaries of a unit are a part of the unit.
(4) Any shutters, awnings, window boxes, doorsteps, stoops, porches, balconies, patios, and all exterior doors and windows or other fixtures designed to serve a single unit, but located outside the unit's boundaries, are limited common elements allocated exclusively to that unit.
If there is nothing like that in your CC&Rs then you will have to locate the building plans referred to in the paragraph you quoted.

If the association doesn't have them, you can try your city's building permit department to see if the original plans are still on file.
 
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