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A sink in my condominium overflowed without me realizing it, and water went into my neighbor's condo, below me. There's damage to her drywall, and I agreed to pay to have it replaced. I received estimates from contractors to replace the drywall, and one was scheduled to do the work. I emailed a release of liability statement to my neighbor, letting her know I would need for her to sign it after the repairs have been successfully completed, that would release me from any other liability. She said she could not sign it, that she needed to cancel the appointment with the contractor, and had an insurance adjuster make an assessment. She said that her insurance adjuster advised her, that according to our bylaws, I need to pay her deductible, which is $500. The bylaws states:

Waiver. Each unit owner hereby waives and releases any and all claims which he may have against any other unit owner, the Association, its officers, members of the Board, the Declarant, the manager, and managing agent of the Building, if any, and their respective employees and agents, for damage to the Common Elements, the Units, or to any personal property located in the Units or Common Elements, caused by fire or casualty, to the extent that such damage is covered by fire or other form of casualty insurance.

Should I still get a release of liability statement from her insurance company, before I pay the $500?

  • what does your insurance company advise? what does the condo association advise? – mhoran_psprep Jul 4 '18 at 15:01
  • 1. I don't have condo insurance for my own unit. 2. It's between my neighbor and I, not the rest of the condo owners. There is damage in her unit only. – Grafica Jul 4 '18 at 15:17
  • ' It's between my neighbor and I, not the rest of the condo owners.' When you bought your condo you signed an agreement to abide by the association's governing documents. Those documents have the force of a contract. If those documents spell out how to deal with damage between units, you need to follow those guidelines (they may not). Typically drywall is a common element, not the property of the owner, so you should probably be talking to both the owner and the HOA about the repairs. – Charles E. Grant Jul 4 '18 at 16:53
  • I posted the portion of the bylaws that applies (above). The drywall is in her unit, so it's not a common element. By the way, after I posted the question, I found out she was lying about the claim. It's closed. Nevertheless, I am still willing to pay the $500, but need her to sign a release of liability statement, too. – Grafica Jul 4 '18 at 17:42
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    ' The drywall is in her unit, so it's not a common element' That's not necessarily true. In many condo associations the owner only owns the space 'from the paint outward'. It will depend on the details of the declaration document. – Charles E. Grant Jul 4 '18 at 18:07
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You should get a signed release at the time you give her the money. That memorializes your agreement with her, making future misunderstandings much less likely and much easier to deal with.

  • Yeah. And it assumes she is an idiot. – TomTom Jul 6 '18 at 3:00
  • @TomTom -- on the contrary: if he gives her $500 and doesn't get a release, he's an idiot. No release, no money. – Pete Becker Jul 6 '18 at 10:34
  • Except she has a RIGHT to the money. You break my stuff, you pay. If you don't want to pay, court tells you to pay (and yeah, you just added lawyer costs). SImple like that. – TomTom Jul 6 '18 at 10:46
  • @TomTom -- yes, she has a right to the money. And you have a right to assurance that things have come to an end. A court judgment is an end to the affair: no lingering remnants. So is a release. No release, no money. – Pete Becker Jul 6 '18 at 10:52
  • @TomTom If you go to a court and say "Defendant owes me $500, and was willing to pay it to me if I signed a release, but instead of signing the release, I decided to sue them", the court is going to tell you to pay THEIR legal fees, because that's a completely frivolous lawsuit. You can't sue someone for money that they have already agreed to pay. – Acccumulation Mar 8 at 22:50
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Only a moron would sign it.

There is a chance you caused long term damage that can not be assessed at this time. Why would any sane person release you from liability just because you fixed the obvious suface damage?

Also, you are not in a negotiation position. You caused the damage. She has a legal right to be made hole. Either pay up, or her insurance/her lawyer will make sure you do pay up. In which case you can add lawyer costs and court costs to that.

She does not NEED to sign anything.

Generally, I would tell you to go to hell and deal with it through my insurance, which would then send you a nice letter about paying up. And it would not be YOUR estimates, it would be MY estimates and the assessment of MY insurance about how high the damage is.

Obviously her lying makes this claim quite interesting - my insurance would tell her to get lost then, most likely. But that is another angle.

Btw., my advice also applies to you in a reverse scenario. You whould neve sign a liability waiver without being exactly totally absolutely sure there is no additional liability. Heck, likely not even then.

Now for your update - should you get a release before paying her insurance 500USD. Yeah. TRY IT. Here is the point: you pay her deductible - but the insurance will come after you for the rest. Because while SHE only has 500 USD damage (her deductible), the insurance has now a loss. And the way insurance works is by statistics - they eat everything "random", but all damage that is caused by SOMEONE - they may try to take that SOMEONE to pay them their loss. Part of the calculation. And as offfending party, no, no way the insurance iwll just waive that because you paid her deductible.

  • Originally, I had estimates from contractors, and she agreed to have one of them replace the drywall, but she cancelled, because she said she couldn't sign the release of liability. In 2002, my shower pipe was leaking from behind the wall, which I was unaware of. Water was going into her bathroom below me, but she didn't know where it was coming from, because she was working out of town a lot and wasn't home when I took showers, but she finally figured it was from my unit. (Continued on next comment) – Grafica Jul 7 '18 at 17:15
  • I had the pipe repaired. Years after that, she had the tile in her shower area replaced. She never mentioned it to me, but now she complains it was because it was because of my shower pipe, and that the joints between her tiles were flexible. It's her fault for not mentioning the tiles before she had them replaced. I don't want her to find something having to do with that or something else and blame it on this sink overflow situation. – Grafica Jul 7 '18 at 17:16
  • I would prefer to deal with lawyers and go to court, so that it can be settled once and for all. – Grafica Jul 7 '18 at 17:33
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First off, the provision in your condo association has to do with fire and liability losses - not water damage which is the peril at hand so it's not really relevant. Second off, what's going to happen is the insurance company will pay for the damages to your neighbor and then try to subrogate against you (and your insurer if you have one). Don't give your neighbor any money - you would give it to the insurance company when they pursue subrogation.

In addition, under your neighbor's insurance policy they have no right to sign a release of liability (i.e. their insurance company may still come after you for the cost of the damage and that piece of paper will be no defense) - you will have to negotiate the claim directly.

Finally, this is all assuming your neighbor's policy does infact include flood coverage which is not likely.

  • When I called her insurance company, they said that the claim was closed. I haven't paid her yet. I told her I needed a repair bill so I can pay the $500, but she said, "You don't get an invoice!!" and slammed her door in my face. No invoice, no money. – Grafica Mar 12 at 14:20

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