The line between the owner’s responsibility for damages, repairs, and improvements and the HOA’s responsibility is oftentimes extremely hazy and uncertain. Among these much-debated topics is the question of who is responsible for water damages to individual properties. In an area where heavy rainfall is common during the summer months, the issue becomes more pressing. So, is an HOA responsible for water damage?
Holding the HOA Responsible for Water Damage
HOA repairs and homeowner repairs are usually differentiated based on whether the damage is to the exterior of the building or the interior. However, the governing documents are often vague and the issue of HOA water damage is more complex. Water damage often starts on the exterior and works its way inward. Other times, it can originate from leaky pipes inside the home, making it difficult to decide where to draw the line.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that insurance companies often refuse to pay for water damages. This leaves the bulk of the financial burden on either the HOA or the owner.
Additionally, when water damage is not addressed immediately, consequences follow. Mold will grow and start to affect the health of everyone who surrounds it. For this reason, it is critical to pinpoint who should be responsible for what when it comes to water damage.
So, when exactly is water damage the fault of the HOA and when is it the fault of the homeowner? More than that, what can an HOA and homeowner do after encountering such damages?
1. Check the Governing Documents
Is an HOA responsible for water damage? The answer to this seemingly simple question is often found within the governing documents themselves.
The best documents will be thorough and meticulous, often with a section on HOA water damage responsibility specifying the exact situations wherein an HOA or a homeowner should be held accountable.
For instance, if it is the result of an HOA or condo water damage negligence, then the homeowner should not be responsible for it. Similarly, if the water damage was caused by the association failing to fulfill HOA plumbing responsibilities, they must answer for the damages as well.
If the issue is addressed, the governing documents will usually specify that any interior damage due to water is the responsibility of the homeowner. Alternatively, any water damage affecting the exterior of the home, such as shingles or paint, is the responsibility of the HOA. This falls under HOA exterior maintenance.
2. Determine the Cause
who should pay for the repairs. Cases may be handled very differently depending on how the damage occurred.
For instance, an overflowing toilet or leaking pipe inside the house will usually be the responsibility of the owner. In addition, the fault may also lie with a neighboring unit if the damage originated outside of the owner’s home.
It is difficult to play the blame game without all the facts. So, it would help everyone involved to determine the cause of the HOA water leak or damage first.
Sometimes, the source of the water damage cannot be pinpointed with a mere look. Without a certain level of expertise, it can be near impossible to gauge where it originated. For this reason, if water damage is encountered, it is a good idea to contact a professional for help. Plumbers, in particular, have great experience in this arena.
Communication is key when it comes to water damage cases. Should a homeowner find water damage stemming from outside of their home or condo unit, they must notify the association as quickly as possible.
The leak must be resolved immediately to avoid further complications. Additionally, knowing the response of the HOA will help the homeowner decide on a course of action to take.
Furthermore, if the water damage occurred between two units, both property owners must discuss the issue at once. Because mold can grow quickly and damages can increase exponentially with time, it is important for everyone involved to meet the problem head-on and without delay. Open communication between parties will help to prevent further negative impacts on the property.
4. File a Claim
After determining who is liable for the damage, it is time to file an insurance claim. If the liable party is the homeowners association, then the claim must be filed with the insurer of the master building policy or the master HOA policy.
Conversely, if the liable party is the homeowner, then the claim must be filed with the insurer of the individual policy. If no individual policy exists, the homeowner must shoulder the cost of the damage.
If the water damage happened between two units, the insurer may reject the claim filed. In this case, the two property owners involved must tackle the issue directly with each other. Should either owner refuse to cooperate, the other may resort to legal action.
Claiming insurance can be a long and drawn-out process. To make sure things go as quickly and smoothly as possible, the HOA or homeowner must prepare all necessary details before filing the claim.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, one of the best things that an HOA and homeowner can proactively do to prevent heated disputes over the issue of water damage is to review the governing documents. The more specific and detailed the section is, the less likely it will be to encounter an issue. If the owners understand responsibilities in this area, it will be easier for everyone down the road. It is also helpful to review insurance policies and to encourage residents to do the same.
So, is an HOA responsible for water damage? It depends. The party that should be held accountable for water damages varies from association to association. It is important to review the governing documents to see where your HOA stands. In addition, preparedness and prevention, as well as communication within the community, can go a long way in solving the problem.
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