Q. Last week one of my window air conditioners fell out of my window six stories down into the air shaft below.

Thank God no one was hurt, but the a/c was destroyed and there was apparently about $1,000 worth of damage to some contractors equipment being temporarily stored down there. I have no idea how this happened and I can only assume my a/c was improperly installed by my super.

Who must pay for the damage?

A.  That depends, say our experts.

"Liability normally runs with the owner of the object that casued the damage," says real estate lawyer Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus.

But if your super improperly installed the unit, things get trickier.  

"This could be a law school exam question given all the variables," says Roberts. "Did the super install the unit pursuant to the rules and regulations of the building that only an approved installer could be used...or did the super simply do this as a side job or a favor? This would not directly affect the tenant's liability for the damage, but could give the tenant an offset claim against the super and/or building."

It's most likely that your super went beyond his employment responsibilities when he installed the unit, says asset manager Roberta Axelrod of Time Equities, so any probems are probably not covered by your building's insurance.

Fortunately, as long as you didn't intentionally hurl your air conditioner out of the window, your renter's insurance (or individual co-op/condo insurance policy) would most likely cover you if you are sued, says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider, president of Gotham Brokerage Co. Inc.


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