Responsibility for Water Heater Damage Between Condos

Condominium ownership is a unique type of home ownership. Owning a condo is considered the ownership of real property, like a house, rather than of “shares” like a cooperative apartment. It does carry with it, however, some of the same characteristics of cooperative apartment ownership, such as common areas and maintenance fees, that are the responsibility of an “association.” The general rule in a condo is that you own and are responsible for anything “inside your four walls” and are liable for anything caused by your negligence (such as leaving your water running and causing a flood). There should be something in writing that tells you the specifics as to what is considered to be common areas, and covered by the condo association , and what is considered the responsibility of the homeowner. The condo association would take care of anything that relates to the building itself, like the roof, common walkways, etc., and they should have insurance to cover those areas.

Condo units generally have separate water heaters for each unit housed within the unit. If the heater has a defect that causes flooding and damage to the neighboring unit, you may be responsible. Investigation needs to be done as to what exactly caused the flooding. If the flooding was due to a pipe bursting insidethe wall, then the damage may have not been caused by any negligence on the owner’s part and is not the owner’s responsibility.

The neighboring unit that had damage will most likely have insurance of their own covering the damage. What may happen is that they will make a claim under their own policy, and then their insurance company will “subrogate” the claim on their behalf. This means that they will be able to step into the shoes of the homeowner and sue the party that is liable for the damage. The homeowners may also have a deductible that they will be responsible for and then bring a small claims suit against the liable party to recoup that money.

You need to pull out your paperwork that you received when you purchased the condo and read the part that applies to this situation. If you are unsure or it is unclear then you should seek help from an attorney in the field familiar with these types of situations.