Ruptured water lines between floors of units, are common occurrences in Florida condominiums. Such occurrences can be caused by hurricanes, fires, and floods, just to name a few. When a water supply line ruptures between floors, it can cause water damage not only to the condominium structure itself, but also to the personal property of a unit owner. Therefore, the question becomes, who is responsible for what damage and loss?
- Repair of the water line and loss to the condominium structure.
The issue of who is liable for the plumbing cost to repair the ruptured water line is dependent on whether one is to look to the provisions of the Condominium Association’s Declarations or to Florida’s Condominium Act found at 718.111 Fla Stat. Florida’s Condominium Act prevails in this matter when the cause of loss originates from a casualty/insurable event. Therefore, liability for a ruptured water line falls in the hands of the Condominium Association so long as the cause is from an insurable event.
In dealing with property maintenance, repair or replacement, the Association Declaration governs as to responsibility. However, when dealing with damage caused by a casualty/insurable event, Florida’s Statute 718.111(11) prevails on the issue of responsibility and liability and the provisions of the Association Declaration are to be ignored. Florida’s Condominium Act, 718.111(11), provides in relevant part:
“(f) Every property insurance policy issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2009, for the purpose of protecting the condominium must provide primary coverage for:
1. All portions of the condominium property as originally installed or replacement of like kind and quality, in accordance with the original plans and specifications.
2. All alterations or additions made to the condominium property or association property pursuant to s. 718.113(2).
3. The coverage must exclude all personal property within the unit or limited common elements, and floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit. Such property and any insurance thereupon is the responsibility of the unit owner.
. . .
(J) Any portion of the condominium property that must be insured by the association against property loss pursuant to paragraph (f) which is damaged by an insurable event shall be reconstructed, repaired, or replaced as necessary by the association as a common expense. In the absence of an insurable event, the association or the unit owners shall be responsible for the reconstruction, repair, or replacement as determined by the maintenance provisions of the declaration or bylaws. All property insurance deductibles and other damages in excess of property insurance coverage under the property insurance policies maintained by the association are a common expense of the condominium, …
Pursuant to 718.111(11) (f), for the Association to have primary coverage for the ruptured water line, it must be shown that the water line was originally installed in accordance with the original plans of the condominium. Additionally, it must be shown that the ruptured water line was not within the boundaries of the unit. These elements can easily be met with a showing that the ruptured water line was installed pursuant to the original plans of the condominium and the lines were located between floor levels and not solely within the confines of a condominium unit.
Based on 718.111(11), a ruptured water line, caused by an insurable event (hurricane, fire, or floods to name a few) is to be covered by the Association. This would include all plumbing cost to expose the line, repair the line and repair any part of the structure removed to repair the line. However, should the line rupture be caused by the intentional conduct, negligence or failure of the unit owner to comply with the terms of the Declarations, repair may be the responsibility of the unit owner.
- Loss to a unit owner’s property.
718.111(11) also addresses the issue of loss to a unit owner’s property. The statute provides that in the case of an insurable event, a unit owner would be liable for the loss of his/her own personal property. This would include personal possessions, floor, wall and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components located within the boundaries of the unit.
Pursuant to 718.11(11), in the case of an insurable event causing a ruptured water line, the Association, regardless of the language of the condominium Declarations, would have responsibility for the repair of the water line and the expense to expose the line for repair and cover the line after repair. A unit owner would be responsible for the loss to the owner’s personal property along with items damaged within the condominium as stated above. Therefore, it is important for unit owners to obtain their own policy of insurance to cover the items specifically addressed as being a unit owner’s responsibility.