Water damage issues.
October 22, 2012 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Water damage due to an defective appliance. Unit is a townhouse, property management company won't file claim, saying it's my responsibility. Do I have any recourse?

The washer in my townhouse started overflowing because of a defective pressure switch. Leaked quite a bit until it was noticed. Immediately called out a company who handles water issues to perform cleanup/repair/replacement. The bill was around $2000.

The company says they normally just bill insurance. My property management company handles insurance claims, and they say it is my issue due to this clause:

"Each owner shall, at the Owner's sole expense, keep the interior of the Unit and its equipment, appliances, and appurtenances in a clean and sanitary condition, free of rodents and pests, and in good order, condition, and repair".

So the washer has been working 100% for 5 years, it is not at end of life. I consider this in good repair. I had it fixed the next day.

Does an accident like this mean that I need to pay out of my pocket? It seems like this situation is just what insurance is for.
posted by wongcorgi to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it needed to be repaired, it wasn't in good repair. I assume you rent? Do you have renter's insurance?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:31 AM on October 22, 2012

Yes, this is what YOUR homeowners or renters insurance is for. This assumes that you own the washer and the townhouse. If you don't, then your landlord is responsible.

Call your agent and file a claim.

Think about it this way, in what way is the property responsible for what happened with YOUR appliance in YOUR unit?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:31 AM on October 22, 2012

I'm not sure what you mean by "my property management company handles insurance claims." If you own your home, you should have homeowner's insurance regardless of the fact that it's a townhouse. Those are the people you should be calling.
posted by something something at 10:37 AM on October 22, 2012

I take it you are an owner of a condominium townhouse and that your building insurance is one of the services provided to you by building management and that its cost is included in your maintenance fees. This was the arrangement when I owned a condo. If so, the previous posters don't know what the situation is and haven't given you useful advice, so just ignore them.

It does seem to me that you have a case. You could not have reasonably expected the washer to malfunction in this way. Unforeseen mishaps are exactly the kind of thing insurance should cover.

I would try contacting the insurance company myself (get the policy and group numbers if you can) and asking them about it. Otherwise seeing a lawyer might be an option, but that could easily be more expensive than just repairing the damage yourself. Hopefully others in this thread will have better ideas.
posted by orange swan at 10:43 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to be on the Condo board at my condo and while the building has insurance for which a portion of your HOA dues pay, it's for common areas and the actual building. For example, damage to the roof in a wind-storm, or a fire in the common laundry room.

Things going wrong with YOUR appliances in YOUR unit are the pervue of your own insurance.

If you are the owner, I doubt that the bank would allow you to have a mortgage without proof of your own insurance, so call your own agent to determine the best course of action.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I disagree with orange swan. Having owned a condo and worked on the condo board, I am certain that the building insurance does not cover the contents of your condo nor damage your property causes to the building.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 10:49 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems like this situation is just what insurance is for.

It is. The question is, "Whose?" Sounds like the management company wants it to be yours.

This is not an obviously unreasonable position to take, though whether or not it's the right one will depend on how your contract is written. Interpreting your contract for you would be legal advice, and I'm not going to do that for you, nor should you listen to anyone who offers to do so other than an attorney licensed in your state. But if part of your "bill" is for cleanup/repair to your personal effects, then the odds that the management company is going to pick up that tab are pretty low.

The easiest thing to do would be to call your renters'/homeowners' carrier and file a claim.
posted by valkyryn at 11:04 AM on October 22, 2012

100 % this is your homeowners insurance policy's job to cover. This is one of the very reasons why you have homeowners insurance. You will be responsible just for the deductible.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2012

HOA insurance doesn't normally cover personal property, as mentioned above it covers common areas and the building. You're supposed to keep your appliances in good working order so they don't cause problems for your neighbors, like a leak damaging a neighbor's home. You're also supposed to have homeowner's insurance to cover the repair damage.

It's not clear from your question whether you're an owner or renter. If you rent and the washer is owned by the landlord, he should be responsible for its repair. Damage that occurs as a result of its failure probably falls to you and should be covered by your renter's insurance.
posted by shoesietart at 11:43 AM on October 22, 2012

IAAL, IANYL. I assume you are an owner, but the advice doesn't really change for you if you are a renter.

Based on what you say in your question, I think this is your responsibility. You had an incident in your unit that you own. It is your property and no one else's, so why should anyone else be responsible?

You are correct in that this is just the sort of situation that insurance is for: insurance paid for by you for your unit. I haven't seen your covenants, but if they are like any other HOA agreements ever in the history of the universe, the HOA is only going to be responsible for common areas.

I assume that you do not have insurance because you make no mention of having an adjuster coming out to survey the damage. If not, I recommend purchasing owner's insurance.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:47 AM on October 22, 2012

My condo docs say the same thing. It's to give the HOA leverage in case anyone starts letting their house go to shit.

Keep reading through the docs to the part where insurance is discussed. There should be some provisions about insurance. Generally, in townhouses, you cover "studs in" and the master insurance covers "studs out" and common areas like decks, bulkheads, steps, walkways, grass... you get the idea.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:29 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do have your own homeowner's policy and you decide to file a claim against it, you run the risk of having the insurance company cancel you after paying off. They don't like water damage, because it may lead to mold issues. If you are cancelled, you'll have to go to the high risk pool for insurance at a very high rate. Take it from one who knows (broken washer hose).
posted by DandyRandy at 2:14 PM on October 22, 2012

Response by poster: I am an owner of a unit but it is rented out. I do have homeowners insurance. I do pay homeowner dues which pays for some form of insurance. The fact that the exact terms of the policy covered were not provided led me to believe that the damage is covered.

I pushed back and the HOA is going to pay for the cleanup/repairs.

Thanks for all the replies.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:06 PM on October 22, 2012

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