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Can I file an insurance claim against my co-op years after a leak destroyed our bathroom?

Water damage is a pox on a New York City apartment.

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Question:

In 2012, a leak from the apartment above ours damaged the apartment below ours, and the co-op basically destroyed our bathroom trying to find the source of the leak. We decided to renovate the bathroom and never thought to file an insurance claim and, yes, it's now 2017. Is it too late to file a claim? Is there a statute of limitations around issues like this? Any guidance would be appreciated.

Answer:

Chances are you're too late, according to our experts, but it's worth a try.

"If you have photos of the damage, the company may accept the claim, although typically there is some requirement to report claims within some period of time," says Michael Rothschild of the property management firm AJ Clarke.  "It would be very difficult to make a claim against the co-op due to the amount of time that has passed as well as having  to prove that they were negligent in their actions."

"Insurance companies want to be put on notice promptly so that they can view and estimate damages," says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage, a Brick Underground sponsor. "They also want to investigate the cause of loss for possible recovery against the responsible party."

The problem when a claim is presented so late, Schneider says, is that the company is "unable to make a determination of the extent of the original damages because repairs have been done. The situation is the same if the responsible party can no longer be located or, say, the defective valve responsible for the damage has been replaced and thrown out."

But it's still worth filing the claims, Schneider says.

"It may be possible to reconstruct the chain of events, especially if you have photos of the damage and detailed invoices for the repair," he says.

A claim, he adds, should also be presented to your building's insurer and your upstairs neighbor's.


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