My neighbor's shower stall was clogged, and as a result water flowed into my apartment, damaging my bathroom ceiling and wall, as well as my living room ceiling and wall. My neighbor's insurance declined the claim on the grounds that he was not negligent. My insurance has a deductible. Who is responsible for paying it, and can I take my neighbor to small claims court over this?
Your insurance provider may be able to help you recover your deductible, our experts say.
"If your neighbor's insurer is declining this as a liability claim you should file under your own policy," says Jeffrey Schneider, president of Gotham Brokerage (a Brick sponsor). "Assuming the damages are not minimal, your insurer would look to recover your deductible, or part of it, through subrogation."
Subrogation is a term that means your insurance provider tries to get back money from a third party—or their insurer–who caused damage to your property.
However, your insurer will only do this if they believe that your neighbor was negligent in some way. Unfortunately, Schneider points out, in older New York City buildings with old plumbing systems, it can be quite difficult to prove that your neighbor was at fault for the clogged shower and flooding.
If your provider doesn't come through, you could sue your neighbor in small claims court, but you'll run into the same challenge there: "Your neighbor will be defended by his or her insurer, and you will have to show that negligence was involved," Schneider says.
Another issue to be mindful of, however the water damage is remediated, is the possibility of pests.
"You need to be sure the walls are properly dried out possibly by using a commercial dehumidifier before sheetrock and painting, lest you end up with fungus or plaster beetles in large numbers and silverfish," says pest control expert Gil Bloom, president of Standard Pest Management. "We deal with at least one of these a month."
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