QUESTION: During the recent rain storms, a roof leak damaged the ceiling and carpet in my townhouse. The roof is maintained by the homeowners association. The association's insurance company refuses to reimburse individual owners for interior damage resulting from roof leaks.
I do not have insurance coverage on my individual unit that would pay for interior damage. It was my understanding that the association has financial responsibility for damage that results from a deficiency in the common property. Therefore, I expect the association to pay for the damage to my unit. Can the association decline payment?
ANSWER: The answer probably lies within your association's declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). There may be an exculpatory, or non-liability, clause that lets the association off the hook even if negligence is a factor in the deficiency in the common roof.
The association's insurance would not be responsible for paying for your claim if this type of exculpatory clause appears in the legal documents.
The insurance company could also deny your claim if the association has had a history of roof leaks in the past. Insurance companies soon get wise to associations that defer their roof maintenance and then expect the insurance coverage to pay for interior damage. A past history of roof leaks can result in eventual cancellation of the association's policy.
In my opinion, it is wise to obtain insurance coverage for the interior of your unit and its contents. This will only assist you in case of future losses. When obtaining this coverage, you should also consider loss-assessment coverage, which will reimburse you in the event that your association must levy a special assessment due to an insurance loss. This type of coverage is very helpful if your association is affected by an earthquake or flooding for example.
Consult an attorney who specializes in community association law. After reviewing your association's legal documents and insurance policy, he or she will be able to advise you about your rights and the association's obligations.
What's FEMA Deadline for Relocation Funding?
Q: Our association has major damage from last year's earthquake but we have not been able to get our units repaired yet. After many delays, the board of directors finally selected a contractor, but he won't be able to start the repairs until next month. During the reconstruction, many of us will have to vacate our units. We were originally told that FEMA rental-assistance funds would pay for our temporary relocation.
Recently we have heard rumors that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds for relocation will not be available after the 18-month anniversary of the quake, which is July 18, 1995. No one at FEMA will confirm this information. If the reconstruction extends beyond July 18, will FEMA cut off our rental funds in the middle of the project?
Can you help us to obtain clarification from FEMA?
A: FEMA recently announced that rental assistance, for condominium unit owners who have previously qualified for FEMA assistance, will continue until the second anniversary of the Northridge quake, which is January, 1996.
Len DeCarlo, public information officer for FEMA, sent me the following memo in response to your question.
"Condo owners may have received disaster housing assistance when their homes became unlivable as a direct result of a declared disaster, such as the Northridge quake. They must have lived there permanently at the time of the disaster and had no insurance to pay for a place to live.
"Depending on individual circumstances, an eligible homeowner with major damage received an initial check for up to three month's rent. This rental assistance enabled them to rent another place to live during repairs to their home.
"Those homeowners may request additional rental assistance [up to the FEMA deadline] until permanent living arrangements have been made.
"Additional rental assistance is not automatic. Homeowners who have used up their rental assistance may call the toll-free Information Helpline at (800) 525-0321 or visit an earthquake service center to request additional assistance. This procedure is spelled out in the eligibility letter the family received with the initial check.
"Condo owners should note that rental assistance is available only during earthquake repairs to the damaged home. It is not authorized for owners forced to move out during mitigation or upgrading of the home or common areas.
"Instead of rental assistance, homeowners with minor damage may have received a limited amount of money to fix their home so they could stay in it while making repairs."
Every association that has been unable to get repairs completed should seriously pursue completion as soon as possible. Consider hiring an independent construction manager who can coordinate the work and move the project along efficiently.
Board Made Sewers Owners' Responsibility