What to do if I own a ground floor condo and the water heater in the unit directly above me broke causing $3,000 worth of damage to my unit?

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What to do if I own a ground floor condo and the water heater in the unit directly above me broke causing $3,000 worth of damage to my unit?

Their insurer will not pay me as there is no negligence, even though their heater had no pan or escape drainpipe to the exterior of the building. The HOA and my insurance will not pay either.

Asked on March 27, 2014 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

As to your insurance: if you believe that you have the appropriate coverage and your insurer will not pay, you could sue to force them to pay: you would sue for breach of contract (since an insurance policy is a contract) and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (the obligation, implied to all contracts by the law, that the parties deal with each other in good faith). Based on the amount at stake, you may wish to consider acting as your own attorney ("pro se") in small claims court. Bear in mind that you must have applicable coverage: the insurance policy is, as stated, a contract, and while the insurer must pay when the terms of that contract say they must, they do not have to pay a single cent if the terms of the policy (and/or any exceptions or exclusions) do not require it.

You also may sue the other unit owner (you would sue him/her, not his/her insurer), if you disagree and believe the unit owner was negligent or careless--you do not have to take the unit owner or his/her insurer's statement there was no negligence at face value--they are not a court, and their opinion has no legal effect. If you could prove negligence, you could win. Similarly, if you think the HOA was at fault by not providing some maintenance, etc. they were supposed to, you could sue them.


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