The Real.Est List
Ask an Expert: We moved out of our co-op for 2 weeks after Sandy. Do we still have to pay maintenance?
Q. My co-op's basement was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and we had no heat or electricity for two weeks. My husband and I checked into a hotel with our 3-month-old and 2-year-old.
Shouldn't we get a credit on our maintenance bill for the two weeks we couldn't live in our apartment?
A. Probably not, say our experts.
"This is an often asked question not only because of Sandy," says co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, referring to the myriad reasons--from fire to burst pipes--that can trigger a temporary relocation.
"While technically an abatement can be claimed under the proprietary lease," says Roberts, "any maintenance that is waived as part of a warranty of habitability claim would have to be offset by an assessment or maintenance increase applied equally to shareholders."
If there were governmental benefits or insurance proceeds that covered the maintenance for the period of the damage, he says, "it may then be possible to waive the maintenance as the funds are made up from other sources."
The answer might also be different if you had to relocate for a reason that is the co-op's responsibility, such as a broken pipe under the building's control.
"However, in a case such as this where the problem is building-wide," says Roberts, you are "in essence seeking a refund from yourself."
Your own co-op insurance probably will not be of help either.
"Most insurers denied the loss of use coverage on these Sandy-related claims because the ultimate cause was deemed to be flood or threat of flood," says NYC apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider, president Gotham Brokerage Co. Inc.
"Even if coverage was provided under a policy," he says, "it only would pick up your additional living expenses like staying in a hotel, not the continuing expenses, such as co-op maintenance, that you are still obligated to pay."
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