What to do if a pipe that has been deemed our responsibility, burst and caused damage to our downstairs neighbor’s unit?

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What to do if a pipe that has been deemed our responsibility, burst and caused damage to our downstairs neighbor’s unit?

Our condo owner’s insurance first denied our claim to repair the neighbor’s unit because we weren’t negligent and therefore not responsible for the damage. They then denied it because they said we weren’t legally liable, only contractually liable. How can this be the case?

Asked on May 29, 2013 under Real Estate Law, Kentucky

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

For a specific answer, you need to consult with an attorney who can review the facts of the situation and all relevant documents (your insurance policy; any HOA, etc. agreements; correspondence with the insurer; etc.) with you in detail.

Generally, you would only be liable for damage in a case like this if either 1) you were negligent (e.g. had ignored signs that a pipe was leaking, damaged, in danger of breaking, etc. and failed to repair/replace it) or 2) there was some contract--such as HOA or similar agreement--in which it was stated that you accepted liability for any damaged done by your pipes (people can contract to accept liability even what it's not your fault). The insurance is itself a contract, and the insurer must then provide coverage to you if the situation is one in which the terms of the policy obligate it to do so. That is why you need an attorney to review the specific language of all the relevant documents with you, to determine liability and coverage.


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