I own a condo, where I recently discovered a significant crack of unknown origin. This is my first condo, and I have never filed an insurance claim such as this before. Who is responsible for the damage, me, the condo association, or the insurance company?
We have handled a lot of multi-unit sinkhole claims, and they require a consideration of the role to be played by all of the parties you mentioned. The primary issue for consideration relates to what you, the owner, actually own in a condo. For many condo owners, you simply own a percentage of the total property, and have a right of use to the unit to which you live. In those situations, the association who governs your entire property (not the property management company, but the condo association) will maintain insurance for the physical structure, except the internal fixtures, which are usually the ownership and responsibility of the individual unit owner.
The most important issue for all condo associations, who often look for areas to cut costs, is that property insurance should not be the place to look for reduced benefits. Instead, you should assure that your condo association maintains the proper coverage, which will include coverage for sinkhole damage. Several years ago, around 2002, many large insurance companies got out of the multi-unit business, and left condo owners and their associations with few choices. Since then, the market has loosened a bit, but may still be a challenge. You should present your claim for the damage you found to your association in writing. Make sure your letter is neutral and is not adversarial. Most associations truly want to do right by their unit owners, and would prefer to work with you. Indicate the nature of the damage, when you found it, and request that they investigate it. You should suggest, softly, that they consider filing a claim with their insurance company. Ultimately it is in their best interests to do so, as the condo association must act to protect your interests. Conversely, condo associations work best when everyone works together and when cooler heads prevail.
In most cases, the insurance company will treat the claims for condos as they do residences. The real dispute arises when they must investigate multiple buildings, where there is confirmed sinkhole activity in some, and not others. And in some cases, there may be damage to some, where not all of the insurance is going to cover the loss and the battle breaks about assessments. As these claims are technical, we know from our experience they take a lot of special, deliberate attention, either when we represent the association against the insurance company, or when we represent a unit owner.
If you have a situation requiring legal representation for a sinkhole damage claim, contact Corless Barfield Trial Group Florida personal injury law firm at 877-517-5595.