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Real estate Q&A: Who pays for damage caused by leak in condo building? [Sun Sentinel :: BC-REAL-REALESTATE-QA:FL]

Q: After heavy rainfall, there was a leak in the walls of our condo building that damaged our home and several others. It seems that the leak just happened and was not any particular unit's fault. Our home was severely damaged. Who pays for this mess?

_Jaime

A: To sort this out, the cause of the leak will need to be determined. If the leak was caused by an insurable event such as a fire, burst pipe or hurricane, your association will be responsible for fixing the common areas up to the border of your drywall. You would be responsible for everything inside your home.

Most associations have the appropriate insurance to cover the cost of their repairs, but this insurance will not cover your property, flooring, fixtures, appliances or basically anything inside your unit - even if you were just an innocent bystander.

If the damage is caused by anything other than an insurable event, you will need to look to your condominium documents to determine who is responsible for the repairs. If the leak is determined to be your fault - either due to your or your guests' intentional acts or just your failure to properly maintain the unit - you may be held responsible for the complete repair. The same applies if the damage is caused by renovations done inside your unit, or if the problem happened because you failed to follow your community's rules.

The lesson here: Maintain proper insurance and follow your community's rules and you will be covered if something unfortunate happens.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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