What are my rights if I own a condo and the neighbor’s washer caused water damage to my ceiling?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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What are my rights if I own a condo and the neighbor’s washer caused water damage to my ceiling?

The renters upstairs had malfunction of their washing machine and the water rained down through my bathroom ceiling. I’m confused as I have filed with my insurance company who said how the water got out of the machine will determine whose homeowners policy covers it. The owners are in India but the tenants are very helpful. A plummer is coming out today to check the cause. Meantime I have a ruined ceiling. I just want

to further understand whos insurance is liable.

Asked on August 11, 2019 under Insurance Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

To oversimplify: it's about fault. Your insurance covers when someone else is not at fault; but if someone is at fault, they or their insurance should pay and could be sued if they do not.
1) The washing machine was properly maintained, had no signs of anything being wrong with it, was used properly, but simply gushed water one day (which happens: we had a water heater, without any warning signs, suddenly explosively leak once). The tenants or the unit owner were not a fault, so you'd have to look to your own insurance.
2) The machine was old and had previously minor leaks or was visibly corroded: in that case, it was an obvious leak risk and should have been repaired or replaced.  The failure to do so would mean the unit owner was at fault and so they or their insurance should pay.
3) The machine leaked because the tenants misused it: e.g. they overloaded it, or did not properly seal the door, or put things in it you shouldn't, which gummed or blocked up the waste water pipe. Their misuse or carelessness means they were at fault, and so the owner (and their insurance) should be liable since the owner is responsible for his tenants.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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