Sorting out condo insurance mess

Don't get stuck paying for damage caused by neighbor negligence

DEAR BENNY: I live in a condominium. My neighbor’s washing machine drain hose became loose, and the leaking water caused damage to my unit. There are conflicting clauses in our legal documents. One says that a unit that causes damage to another unit or to a common area is responsible for fixing it. Another clause says that subrogation shall be waived if both units have insurance.

Because of the second clause, my neighbor’s insurance will not accept liability. It looks like I will have to sue my neighbor for the deductible and other out-of-pocket costs. I am assuming breach of duty. The hose could have been secured. Do I have a good small claims case? –John

DEAR JOHN: First, I cannot provide specific legal advice in this column; you should discuss your situation with your own lawyer. Second, whenever I get involved with insurance matters — especially relating to community association — I always seek advice from insurance professionals.

Was the master insurance policy for the entire association advised of the damage? It seems to me that the master should be responsible, specifically to reimburse you for the damage to your unit. Typically, the master policy will cover damage to walls and floors, but will not cover what is known as "betterments" — new things added to the original unit, such as a new kitchen or parquet flooring. And typically also, the deductible will be a common expense, paid for by all owners.