Condo kitchen flood. Now what?
August 26, 2022 10:41 AM   Subscribe

First-time condo owner of 1.5 years. My kitchen flooded while I was away due to a main stack back-up. I have insurance, including water damage insurance, but they're saying that since the biggest damage is to items belonging to the standard unit definition, the building should pay. Now what?

Two weeks ago, my kitchen sink and dishwasher flooded dirty water all over the concrete floor, travelled under two drywall doors and were finally repaired by two plumbers; one whom I called after the plumber recommended by the building didn't pick up the phone when I called in with this emergency the night before. The plumber's report identified a clog in the main stack as the cause of the flood. My insurance's water restoration experts have cut down one foot at the bottom of the drywall walls, and removed two sink counters affected by the flood. They also said the bottom half of the kitchen will need to be ripped out and replaced. Finally, I have a number of affected items that need to be itemized and either dry-cleaned, fixed or replaced.

I forwarded the plumber's bill to the the condo's new property manager, as my insurance adjuster told me that as the issue was caused in the main stack, the building should be covering the bill. Now, having reviewed my condo's by-laws, my adjuster is saying that the insurance cannot actually repair the drywall and replace the bottom half of the kitchen because it's part of the standard unit definition, which means the building should be paying for it. The insurance adjuster was very calm about it, and said to just let the property manager know. I asked if the condo's insurance would be paying for this instead, and he said that, as deductibles for condo buildings are 20-25K, they will probably just hire a contractor to do the renovations.

I've cc'ed the property manager on the email from my insurance, but she hasn't responded yet.

I'm pretty nervous about getting into any kind of issues with the place where I live, and the timelines for the building to do this work. I've never worked with a contractor before, except on very small things, and am a new owner; the property manager is also 3 weeks into her job.

Has this ever happened to you? Is it reasonable for the building to pay, and is this something that they would normally do? I'm otherwise fine to live in my place - beside being minus two kitchen counters and having the bottom of my walls covered in plastic, fixing it isn't urgent. I am, however, worried about being potentially on the hook for the costs myself, or having issues with property management.

Thoughts/advice/experience welcome.
posted by elsmith to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
Response by poster: Forgot to mention: the reason the drywall and part of the kitchen had to be removed, and the bottom half of the kitchen will need to be ripped out, is because the main stack back up connected to the sewer, meaning a portion of the flooding was sewer water. I'm not entirely clear on the technical details of how the sewer line connects to the main stack, but there it is.
posted by elsmith at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2022

I don't have any idea what is whose responsibility in this case, but I have dealt with similar situations, both with a terrrible landlord and with a fire in an adjacent unit in a co-op. This is what I've learned:

Take a lot of pictures, and keep a timeline where you note any communication, so you can avoid getting into a dispute about basic facts of who said what and when. Don't overthink whether this or that detail is important to log, just log it. When did you discover the leak, when did you call the plumber, when did you reach out to the property manager, etc.

As long as you're polite and firm, and not getting into name calling and yelling, it shouldn't lead to longstanding resentment.

I would reach out to the property manager directly and be specific about what you want: "My insurance is saying this is a building issue, so I need the building to do XYZ."

I would get the board involved at this point, and just map out the issue: it looks to you like this issue was created by the building, not by you or a defect in your unit and you need the building to resolve it. You have tried XYZ ways to contact the property manager and you aren't having any luck.

I would also just stay on top of the property manager. "I reached out on Aug 3 and again on Aug 8 and I still haven't seen a response. I need the following from you." Do not let a full week lapse without getting an update, and if they say they'll contact you Tuesday, reach out at the end of the day Tuesday reminding them that you were expecting an update by today.

I don't have a lot of expertise with condos, but did own a co-op and we had to really stay on top of the management company to get cleanup and renovation done properly after a fire in an adjacent unit. It was a lot of work to get them to do their job, which was frustrating and time consuming, but it didn't create long term tension. If anything, I'm still resentful about how the management company handled it.

Persistence and politeness, basically.
posted by amandabee at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2022

I believe in this case as the fault was in the condo's property (outside your walls) it is their responsibility and will ultimately be on their insurance. But you will almost certainly have to deal with your own insurance at first. We have had damage in our building from various projects and often the person has gone to their insurance, their insurance goes to the building or contractor's insurance, and they work it out over several months.

YOU are not the one who has to argue this though. It should be all taken care of by the rules themselves, property manager, insurance companies etc. It is not your personal responsibility to convince anyone, it is your insurers and they will do a better job than you. Focus on making the necessary repairs, document everything thoroughly, and be patient and persistent as amandabee notes. You're just an innocent bystander in this battle.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2022

« Older Basement water proofing. Is some amount of water...   |   Can you translate these signs I found in the woods... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.