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If a neighbour damages my unit, who is responsible?

January 28th, 2018  |  Condo Insurance

In this article, we'll examine some common neighbourly gripes that concern damage to things inside and outside your property. Unfortunately, you can do everything by the book in your building or home by maintaining your property and still deal with damage caused by someone else.

Be proactive

If there has been damage done to your property, you need to be proactive and contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on repair. Don't assume your neighbour or their insurance company will take matters into their own hands.

Fences

Damage to exterior property such as a shared fence, driveway or garage is a common problem for homeowners. If your neighbour damages something on your end, it would be filed under a property damage claim which covers things like fences, detached garages and sheds on your property.

If a huge storm rages, and your neighbour's tree falls on your fence, file the claim with your own insurance company. In a perfect world, if/when your neighbour is found liable for negligence (perhaps they let their tree rot and it became weak) your insurance company would seek out financial damages from them, leading you to earn back your deductible. 

If the fence is on a "boundary" directly upon the property line, it means that both you and your neighbour share ownership of the fence and therefore equal responsibility for its maintenance and care. You need to know where your property line ends. If it's right on the fenceline, consider making a secondary fence that is fully on your side so you can avoid dispute and clearly prove who damaged what.

Document each problem you notice, take pictures and get a repair estimate. Has your neighbour's property caused any damage elsewhere? Look at your patio material, overhead wiring or any nearby plants and landscaping. Your insurance company will reimburse you depending whether you have actual cost value insurance or replacement cost insurance.

Water damage

Neighbours cause water damage when dwellings are very close together, share walls or pipes. Malfunctioning washing machines and dishwashers are usually the prime suspects here.

Travelling water damage is more likely to happen within townhomes or condominium units, so you need to check the master policies and individual policies associated with your building or property development to see what is covered and what is not. 

Condo fees and maintenance fees usually cover building structure, exterior and shared spaces, but it's unlikely your neighbour's damage will fall under one of these categories.

Again, your insurance company will determine who is responsible for the damage-- your neighbour, their plumber, or your condo association?

If they are found responsible, your insurance company will seek out damages from them as an attempt to make back the money they are spending on repair or replacement, but only if it's worth it to them. You will see less movement on a $2,000 claim than you would on a $200,000 claim.

Once they recover their costs, they may refund you for any repairs you made out of pocket or deductible.

Lawsuits

Depending on your location, you may be able to sue for the loss of your deductible. However, court cases take a lot of time and energy that may not be worth it in the end. If you have any rapport with your neighbour, you should show them receipts of all your costs in an effort to skip court and get them to do the right thing.

Plan ahead

There are so many examples of condo unit and townhome claims that demonstrate the need for each individual owner to have their own insurance coverage for problems that occur inside the unit, whether it's a case of natural event or appliance malfunction. For detached homeowners, you need to examine items that are close to your shared property line on an annual basis. 

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