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Ask an Expert: Should I get my insurance involved over a leak from my dishwasher?

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Q. Our dishwasher leaked into our neighbor's apartment and damaged her living room ceiling.  Our place is fine.  Do we need to involve our insurance company or just hers and offer to pay her deductible? Or are we better off paying the super to fix up her ceiling?

A. This would be easier to answer if your dishwasher had caused a fire instead of a flood, say our experts.

"There really is no way of knowing how extensive water damage is," says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage. "Water can travel surprisingly long distances.  You might be surprised to find that it has entered an apartment several floors below or to the side and destroyed artwork or a floor. If the owner is on vacation, you might not find out for several weeks."

If you fail to notify your insurance company now, you could be on the hook personally should other problems come to light down the road, potentially including mold.

Moreover, points out co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, "even if your neighbor's insurance pays for the damage, less the deductible, her insurance company has the legal right to seek reimbursement from the person with the leaking dishwasher under the theory of subrogation."

That means your insurance company will be notified anyway "when  your neighbor's insurer tries to recover the insurance payment in full--not just the deductible--from you and your insurer, assuming you are at fault," says Schneider.


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