The Florida Condominium Act: How to Determine Responsibility for a Loss
The Florida Condominium Act authorizes the creation of condominiums. The purpose of the act is to establish procedures for the creation and operation of condominiums. Every condominium created and existing in Florida is subject to the provisions of the Condominium Act. One of the requirements under the act is that associations must maintain adequate insurance coverage for all association-owned condominiums.
It requires the association’s board of directors to purchase adequate property insurance to protect the association, the association property, the common elements, and the condominium property as a whole. On the other hand, developer-owned condominium associations are only required to use their best efforts in attempting to obtain insurance but are not mandated to do so. After a loss, there is sometimes disagreement and confusion as to what items are covered under the association’s policy and which items are covered under a unit owner’s policy.
Tip: The general rule of thumb is that when dealing with property maintenance or repair, look to the declaration of condominium to determine responsibility. When dealing with damage caused by an insurable event, look to Fla. Stat. §718.111(11) to determine responsibility.
What is a Declaration of Condominium?
The basic instrument used to create a condominium is known as the “declaration of condominium.” Each declaration must be recorded in the public records of the county in which the condominium property is located pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 718.104(2). A declaration of condominium usually states the plan for the development of the condominium, how it is to be operated, and the rights and responsibilities of the association and the unit owners in the event of a loss. Most declarations typically address the level of reconstruction or repair required after a loss. Some declarations provide that the association must reconstruct and repair the condominium property in accord with the original plans and specifications for the condominium. Some declarations provide that if the original plans and specifications are not available, the board has discretion in this regard. Other declarations provide that the property must be repaired or reconstructed to its pre-loss condition.
How to Determine Responsibility for Repairs After a Loss
When determining who is responsible for the repair and replacement of damaged property, the first question to ask is what caused the damage in the first place? There is an important distinction between damage caused by an insurable event (such as a hurricane, fire, or flood) or damage caused by a non-insurable event (wear and tear, intentional acts, or negligence) under Florida law. Because condominiums are created by statute, courts generally look to the pertinent statutory provision as well as the declaration of condominium (discussed below) to determine who is legally responsible in any given situation.
When damage results from an insurable event, then the requirements of the Act, concerning responsibility to repair and/or replace will govern. Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(f) states that the association is responsible to insure the buildings in the community including all windows and sliding glass doors, common areas, and anything for which the unit owner is not responsible under the law. However, the association is not responsible for 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. To sum things up, as a unit owner, you are responsible for items that are located within the boundaries of your unit and serve only your unit.
Water Intrusion and/or Damage to Sliding Glass Doors After a Hurricane
After a hurricane, your condominium association’s insurer may claim that they are not responsible for repairing or replacing sliding glass doors or windows. Your association may point to the declaration documents and argue that the maintenance and repair of these items is your responsibility. Whether or not maintenance or repair of sliding glass doors and windows in individual units are specifically referenced in the declaration documents, the rule in Florida is that if the loss is caused by a hurricane or other insurable event, the association is responsible for any repairs.
If you are a condominium homeowner who has recently experienced water intrusion and/or water damage to your condominium unit and are looking for clarification on your rights and responsibilities, please contact us. Our firm will aggressively represent you to ensure you get the money you are owed without any further delay by the insurance company. Our team of attorneys has decades of experience providing affordable representation to Individual and Corporate policyholders facing a wide range of denied, delayed, or underpaid insurance claim issues.