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Dear Jay,
I would like to ask you about the accident that just happened at the condo unit I own in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. I live in another state and rent that condo. My current tenants turned on the washer on Sunday and went out for lunch. The hose got out of the drain pipe, fell down behind the washer and flooded my carpeted unit along with two other units on 2nd and 1st floors, by the time the tenants were called and returned to the unit and turned the water off.

I got a call from my tenants when they returned home, and they put me at the same time on the phone with the company that specializes in water exertion and drying. Both pressed me to hire this company immediately to prevent more loss to everybody in terms of water damage. So I agreed, and the company came to the unit and exerted the water.

My tenants gave my phone number to the owners of the units below as per their request. So I can anticipate them contacting me in regards to reimbursing them for the water damage.

I don't have the HO6 insurance (I learned about it just yesterday). Years ago I tried to find insurance, I am not sure if that was but it cost several thousands a year, and I could not afford it. Therefore, all the repairs will be paid out of my pocket.

My question is: can I say that my tenants were negligent in (1) not checking that the hose was down in the drain pipe before they turned the washer on, as the hose is going into the drain right above the washer on the wall and is very well observed, and (2) leaving the washer unattended?

Also, I wonder if Lowe's can be at fault in this case, because they just installed this particular washer in April of 2014. However, I am not sure if they were supposed to fixate the hose at the top drain besides attaching it properly at the bottom of the washer. The hose did not get off at the bottom of the washer, but slipped out of the drain pipe in the wall above the washer.

Any insight on all this will be greatly appreciated. I am going down to PBG next week and want to know where I stand law wise.

Best,
Kim

Answer
Kim,

I apologize for the slow response. I have been out of town with very little access to email or the Internet.

A couple things come to mind off the top. First, you did the right thing by contacting a water remediation company. Protecting property from further damage is important and getting the water dried up is critical to keeping mold from growing. Second, being involved is important in making sure you protect your position in this.

The damage to property like drywall in your unit and other units is the responsibility of the association, including the deductible under the association's policy. Damage to any personal property or items like paint, wallpaper, carpet, cabinets, etc, is the reponsibility of each unit owner.

As far as negligence is concerned, that's always up to the courts to decide. If the drain hose was supposed to be affixed to the wall and Lowes did not do it, there could be some liability on their part. It's doubtful that the tenant could be held liable. I don't know about you, but I don't check the drain hose on my washer every time I use it. I'm not being sarcastic, it's just the reality of life.

Florida law requires each party, including the association, to handle their individual claims in circumstances like this. Other than having to pay for repairs to property that is yours to repair under FL Statute, you should not have any other repairs to pay for.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.  

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Jay K. Williams, AAI, AIP, CIC, CRM

Expertise

I can answer questions relating to the following coverages: personal auto; homeowners; commercial auto; commercial liability; commercial property; business income and all other property and casualty coverages.

Experience

I have been in the insurance industry in Florida since 1979. I am currently the president of a Florida domestic insurance company subsidiary. I've taught continuing education classes in Florida and across the country. I am quite familiar with all coverages including Florida Condominium master policies and unit owner policies. I also specialize in agent professional liability. I have been a professional educator since 2001.

Organizations
I am a member of the Florida Associaion of Insurance Agents, the state affiliate of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

Education/Credentials
I currently carry the following professional designations: Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI) Associate in Insurance Production (AIP) Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) Certified Risk Manager (CRM)

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