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Termites will affect entire community: They have to go

Q: The owners of the unit directly underneath me discovered visible damage in their bathroom wall that was determined to be from termites. This was confirmed, in writing, by a pest control company who did a thorough search after surveying the damage.

Their findings were faxed over to our homeowners association management company.

Whose responsibility would it be to pay for the termite treatment? Apparently the management company didn’t know so they have contacted its legal counsel to get an answer.

Isn’t it the business of the management company to know whether or not the owner is responsible? What does legal counsel have to do with any of this?

A: One of the most troubling sections in an association’s covenants pertain to maintenance issues is who is responsible — the association, the individual homeowner or the individual homeowners who share common walls. In reviewing the covenants, the management company was not able to determine who needs to address the problem, consequently they sent the information to legal counsel for clarification.

In writing covenants for an association, some covenants are more easily developed then other sections. It is quite difficult to write covenants pertaining to maintenance that can cover the many viables. You find covenants that state in general terms such as “the homeowner shall keep his unit clean… to properly maintained and repair.”

Your covenants probably do not even specifically mention anything pertaining to infestation of bugs/insects.

If you had told the management company that you had roaches in your home, you would probably be told that you need to contact an exterminating company but the issue of termite infestation is different as termites are not known to travel from community to community.

Termites live in subterranean colonies from 3 to 12 feet beneath the ground. Termite food is anything that is cellulose: dead trees, roots, fallen limbs, woodpile, mulch, form boards, buried wood scraps, all lumber and drywall paper. They need food, water and shelter and most homes have an abundance of these elements inside and out. Termites do well in moist environments, such as leaky pipes, and faucets and drain water are areas that need to be properly maintained.

The permanent solution is to eliminate the entire colony (a well established one can have a million termites) and not just individual termites. Total colony elimination can be achieved with the Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It can take one to three months to eliminate a colony. There are other programs available in the elimination of termites and a licensed exterminating company would be required.

There are two factors to be considered — one is the elimination and two a determination as to why they are in the property walls. Are there leaks that no one was aware of in the inner walls? Both of these factors can be costly and potentially affect other homeowners who are sharing the common walls.

Q: We live in Michigan and have property in Las Vegas. The water heater above our unit exploded and the water flowed down into our unit. The neighbor called us the day after it happened. My husband flew to Las Vegas and I notified our insurance there. The carpet was pulled up, the padding was ripped out, and fans were used to dry out the carpeting.

We had to give the adjuster the $500 deductible before work could be started. What we don’t understand is why the insurance company is unwilling to contact the owner of the hot water heater. He did not sustain damage and we aren’t even really sure if that is what happened. Everyone involved implies that we are just going to have to pay $500 along with other expenses including airfare.

We were told to file an incident with the condominum’s association. I feel since we live out of state, we are often met with disdain when anything comes up with the homeowners association.

I would like you to advice me as to what you think we should do to get our $500 back and how should we approach the situation with the condo association.

A: If you live in a condominium community, the association’s insurance policy would be the primary policy in dealing with insurance incidents if the damage is over the insurance company’s deductible, which is usually $ 5,000 or more.

You will have to find that out what the deductible is for your association. If the damage is under the deductible, the association’s insurance company would not even respond to the event.

An insurance policy is based upon coverage and not on fault. Water came into your unit and caused damaged. The association’s insurance policy would cover the damage less deductible and less any upgrades that you may have in your unit.

It would not cover your personal property. For that you would need to have a secondary insurance coverage, often known as HO6.

As to the $500, your association may have additional regulations that would require the unit owner whose water heater exploded to pay for the $500. If this is the case, the association should be billing the upstairs neighbor.

If the association does not require the upstairs neighbor to pay for the deductible, you would need to contact the upstairs neighbor and send a demand letter to be reimbursed.

If the owner did not respond and make arrangements to reimburse you, the only other way for you to be reimbursed the $500 would be to file a claim with small claims court.

Barbara Holland, CPM, and Supervisory CAM, is president of H&L Realty and Management Co. To ask her a question, e-mail support@hlrealty.com.

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