WHo Pays for Damage in a HOA

     In common walls, damage can happen under a variety of reasons. There can be roof leaks, water supply pipe leaks, toilet/bathtub overflows, and washer house ruptures Who is actually responsible for these damages, the owner or or HOA?

     First determine the cause of the damage, then find out if either party was negligent in their maintenance. Next look over the governing documents to determine the guidance there may be for maintenance and repairs. Pay special attention to the definitions of words like: unit, common element, limited common element, maintenance of responsibilities of owners and the homeowner association, insurance responsibilities of the owners and the homeowner  association and enforcement of procedures. The difference often lies within each HOA.

     Normally homeowners are usually responsible for everything that lies underneath the roof, but the HOA is responsible for maintaining the common elements and limited elements. However, limited common elements are usually allocated to the exclusive use of a unit owner, and they may be responsible for repairs. One important principle to remember is that the obligation to maintaining a particular component doesn't really mean there is an obligation to repair it.

     Say the water heater in unit A fails and damages another unit B. From most governing documents unit A bears the expense for repairing the water heater and unit  A. There is no obligation for the damage to cover Unit B. If it was known that unit A was leaking slowly, and they let it leak long enough to damage unit B, the owner would be negligent. On the other hand if unit A erupted spontaneously and damaged unit B, there would be no negligence.

     Bearing negligence each unit owner bears the repairs to his own unit. The same thing applies if there is a leaky roof which is maintained by the HOA. It is in your best interest to tell the HOA that there is a leaky roof, otherwise they won't know it needs to be fixed.

     If the HOA does know about the leak, does nothing to stop it and damage occurs, then the HOA should pay for the repairs. Any HOA that doesn't carefully monitor the type and frequency of claims made will find itself without insurance and pay enormous premiums. 

     This is why it is important for the board to establish clear rules and regulations on maintenance and insurance to safeguard the HOA and its insurance provider. This policy should include all major building components and assign responsibility to the owner or the HOA. Unit insurance agents should be providing  information so everyone knows what everyone is responsible for. This is all about spreading risk around and saving the HOA insurance policy for the big claims as much as possible.

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