Q&A: Water Leak Woes

Water Leak Woes

Q I purchased a two-bedroom co-op in northern New Jersey almost two years ago. Before I moved in I had new flooring installed for thousands of dollars. Two weeks ago my cleaning person told me there was black water on the floor behind my large sectional sofa where I do not normally go. When I looked, I saw that an area perhaps six feet by nine feet of my new flooring was warped.

The super & assistant super came up & advised that the leakage was caused by a defective coil in the heating/air conditioning unit behind my sofa. They turned off the heat in the unit. I was told that the building is responsible for the heating coil & it will be replaced this week or next week. They also informed me that the building is not responsible for my new floor, but would have been for the original parquet floor. I cannot find anything pertaining to the building's responsibility in the bylaws. Because the floor has interlocking slats & goes through 3 interconnecting rooms, I think the entire floor has to be replaced. I have a $500 deductible on my insurance & presumably my premium would go up with such a claim.

I would appreciate your help in advising me how to proceed & who to contact.Thank you so much for your time & interest.

—Waterlogged in West Orange

A “Based on the situation, it is accurate that the building will not cover additions or alterations done to the unit,” according to Justin Kraus, a new business underwriter at Mackoul & Associates, Inc., an insurance brokerage with offices in New York City, Long Island and Old Bridge, New Jersey. “The building is generally only responsible for original specs, which would have been the original parquet flooring.Though the building may be responsible for the defective coil, it is generally not what caused the damage, but what is damaged. In this case, because the floor was an upgrade, the responsibility of repairing it if damaged would be the owner's.

“The reader did mention above that she was concerned about having the claim on her record. I would recommend having the flooring contractor come back and see what it will cost for the repairs before notifying her insurance company. This may be something she can cover out of pocket, since her policy would have a deductible and it may work out better in the long run than having a surcharge on her policy for a claim, or even worse being non-renewed.

“Ultimately it may come down to filing a claim, and that may not be the worst case scenario. This is the reason why she has the insurance, to cover claims to what is her responsibility within the unit. If this is her first claim and she has a clean loss history, it may not be an issue. There could be more damage than the eye can see and it would be best to have it done right the first time.”

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