Post Hurricane Michael where I have been on station since landfall I am getting bombarded with questions from condo owners in regards to what they are responsible for when it comes to repairing damage from a powerful storm like Hurricane Michael. Often it comes up in an inopportune time when emotions are high and everyone is on edge. Complicate this by some unit owners not having HO 6 or unit owner coverage or less than grand decisions made somewhere along the line. You have the picture, here are the answers as I have found them to be.
So who is responsible for the cost of repairs when there is damage within a condominium? Is it the unit owner, the board member, and what role does the property manager have?
The Florida Condominium Act lists the rights and obligations of developers and associations, as well as general provisions under Florida Statutes.
The Act sets guidelines for insurance requirements so that there is a responsible entity in place that can cover the cost of insurable events like Michael. There can be lots of limitations in policies that while covered can affect the net expense to the unit owner through assessment. In most of my experiences over 2 and half decades restoring buildings and resolving large loss condo losses in the appraisal process, there is an assessment coming to the unit owner. Just because of the nature of the shared expenses of deductible, the inevitable while you are at it, additions to insurance scopes and the sometimes not insured against code of law and ordinance amount to a bill coming due.
Spoiler – Interior Finishes (paint, wall paper) typically are the unit owners and drywall is building. All of the windows, doors, exterior siding or stucco are building.
Damage Caused by an Insurable Event
In regards to the Act’s insurance mandate, it states in Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(f) that:
Every property insurance policy issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2009, for the purpose of protecting the condominium must provide primary coverage for:
(1) all portions of the condominium property as originally installed or replaced of like kind and quality, in accordance with the original plans and specifications;
(2) all alterations or additions made to the condominium property or association property; and
(3) the coverage must exclude all personal property within the unit or limited common elements, and floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit. Such property and any insurance thereupon is the responsibility of the unit owner.
For reconstruction work, Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(g)2 states that:
Unit owners are responsible for the cost of reconstruction of any portions of the condominium property for which the unit owner is required to carry property insurance.
Unit owners are also responsible, under Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(j) for:
Any portion of the condominium property that must be insured by the association against property loss . . . which is damaged by an insurable event shall be reconstructed, repaired, or replaced as necessary by the association as a common expense.
According to the statute, condominium associations are required to obtain and carry insurance for the entire property with the exception of the property that is the responsibility of the insured unit owner. No matter what the association bylaws state, the association must repair and/or replace anything that is damage in an insurable event as required by the statute. The same is true that the unit owner must repair and/or replace anything that is damaged in a like event. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations, Division of Condominiums also stands by the Act over the associations documents in case of a dispute on an insurable event.
Damage Caused by a Non-Insurable Event In the case of a non-insurable event, Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(j) states that:
In the absence of an insurable event, the association or the unit owners shall be responsible for the reconstruction, repair, or replacement as determined by the maintenance provisions of the declaration or bylaws.
This means that the determination of the responsible party for the cost of repairs and replacement will be found in the association bylaws. However, there are certain events beyond normal wear and tear for which the Act has provisions.
Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(j)1 states that:
A unit owner is responsible for the costs of repair or replacement of any portion of the condominium property if such damage is caused by intentional conduct, negligence or the failure to comply with the terms of the declaration or rules of the association by a unit owner or the owner’s guests and tenants.
If there is property loss or damage, Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(n) also states that:
The association is not obligated to pay for any repair or reconstruction expenses due to property loss or damage to any improvements installed by a current or former owner of the unit if the improvement benefits only the unit, whether or not such improvement is located within the unit.
When is the Association Responsible for Damages?
- In insurable events, the association is responsible for everything except all personal property within the unit or limited common elements.
- In non-insurable events, the association is responsible for the reconstruction, repair, or replacement of damaged items according to the provisions on maintenance in the bylaws of the condominium association.
When is the Unit Owner Responsible for Damages?
- In insurable events, the unit owner is responsible for property and fixtures located within the boundaries of the unit that serve only the unit. This includes floor, wall, ceiling covers as well as fixtures, appliances, water filters and heaters, cabinets and countertops, and components associated with window treatments.
- In non-insurable events, the unit owner is responsible for the reconstruction, repair, or replacement of damaged items according to the provisions on maintenance in the bylaws of the condominium.
- In the case of intentional acts of damage or neglect as well as anything that violates the rules of the condominium, the unit owner is responsible for the cost of the damages.
When in doubt, or when you believe that you are held responsible for damages that you did not cause, it is recommended that you consult the legal advice of an attorney with experience in condominium and property law.
Please find a great article by the Florida Board of Professional Engineers that discusses the South Florida building collapse which outlines the importance and the reasoning behind the idea of 40 Year Recertifications: https://fbpe.org/a-look-at-building-recertification-in-south-florida/