Q: I have been told that Florida law makes the condo association responsible for drywall repairs, but how can our Board possibly pay for repairs when the damage was caused by the unit owner’s carelessness. My understanding in this case is that it is the damaged unit owner’s problem. Can you provide some clarity for us?
A: One of the most common questions about the law on water leaks and drywall repairs is: Who insures what? The association’s policy of hazard insurance covers “all portions of the condominium property as originally installed or replacement of like kind and quality, in accordance with the original plans and specifications”. In a nutshell, this means that the association’s insurance covers all drywall in the unit for losses caused by a covered hazard or casualty. What do we mean by “covered hazard or casualty”? The condo association’s insurance only covers losses such as fire, water intrusion, windstorm and other perils identified in the policy. Not all events that might cause damage are covered by hazard insurance. For example, the breakdown of an air conditioning unit caused by age or normal wear and tear is not a covered hazard under the association’s insurance. Thus, one of the first questions a Board member should answer when presented with a damage claim, regardless of fault, is whether the damage was caused by an insurable event. If not, the Board needs to have its legal counsel review the condominium documents and determine which party is responsible for repairing the damage. Assuming that the cause of the damage is covered by the association’s insurance, the association pays for the repairs and the insurance deductible is a common expense. However, if the cause of the damage can be attributed to the owner’s or another person’s negligence, the association may seek to recover the cost of the repair from the guilty party. Further, the association is not obligated to pay for reconstruction or repairs of casualty losses are not timely reported by the owner. Your Board should explore these complex issues further with its legal counsel.