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If I had to move out of my co-op due to leaks, will management cover my hotel bills?

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Question:

My co-op was flooded due to a broken pipe above me. It took management over four weeks to replace the floor, making it uninhabitable for a while, so I had to stay in hotels. Should I be able to recover these expenses?

Answer:

If you have apartment insurance, that should cover your relocation costs, but otherwise, you're likely to only be reimbursed for maintenance fees during the time you were displaced, say our experts.

"This is an expense that would typically be picked up by your own apartment insurance, regardless of the upstairs neighbor's negligence," says Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage (FYI, a Brick sponsor).

If you have home insurance, contact your insurance company to let them know about the problem. "The standard [procedure] would be to immediately report the incident and resultant damage to your insurance broker, who will contact the managing agent of the building," says Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management. 

From there, your insurance representative will ask for a copy of the building's proprietary lease to determine damage policies, as well as a Notice of Loss/Damage Assessment Report they will have filed with their own insurance agent about the leak.

From there, your insurance company and the co-op's insurance company will figure out who's responsible for what, says Usztoke. Typically, it's your insurance policy (not the building's) that would be covering the cost of your temporary relocation, but it depends on the terms of your building's proprietary lease.

The proprietary leases in most co-op buildings stipulate that a shareholder will be entitled to an abatement of maintenance charges for whatever the period that the apartment isn't habitable, says attorney Jeffrey S. Reich of SSRGA. However, this abatement doesn't extend to covering any potential relocation costs. "This is just one of the reasons why shareholders should carry their own insurance coverage and should obtain coverage for relocation expenses in the event of a casualty."

As far as how much you can be reimbursed for, Schneider says that most policies will pay for you to roughly replicate your current lifestyle, within policy limits. "They will not expect you to move from a three-bedroom condo to a one-bedroom SRO," he notes. But the specific amount you can expect to be reimbursed will depend on the particulars of your policy. "Some policies will have a dollar cap, some have a time cap, and some have neither," says Schneider. "But the charges and duration still have to be reasonable."

And, one mportant consideration to keep in mind while your apartment is on the mend, even if it's not directly related to insurance: the importance of keeping the affected area dry, the better to prevent mold and the various insects that are attracted to it. "A professional dehumidifier should be used for several days and until there is no water collecting," advises Gil Bloom of Standard Pest Management.

 


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