Here in Massachusetts, heavy snow in winter is common. With it comes the risk of ice dams. While for regular homeowners dealing with removal and damage of ice dams is pretty cut and dry, and the same for those who lease property, those who own or manage a condo find themselves somewhere in-between. While some condo associations are only responsible for the exterior of their condominiums, unit owners are responsible for the interior. For situations like ice dams on condos, where the problem starts on the outside but causes interior damage, where does the liability lie?
How and Where Ice Dams Form
Ice dams form when snow and ice melts on a roof, usually due to poorly insulated attic space, and then flows to the cooler edges and gutters of a roof and refreezes. As this process repeats itself, a crust of ice forms that traps water between the wall of ice and the roof. This standing water leaks through the roof, and from there can cause damage to interior walls and ceilings.
Condo Association: Roofs as Common Areas
Almost universally, condo roofs are considered a shared area and are therefore managed by the condo association board for the condo. As such, the association is liable for the maintenance and repair of these roofs. When ice dams start to form on the roofs of a complex, it is their responsibility to have them removed. If damage does occur to the roof and structure of the condo due to an ice dam, it is the condo’s responsibility to repair them.
Ice Dam Removal: Avoiding Neglect
When reporting damages to the master policy carrier or dealing with questions of liability from condo owners, it’s important to act immediately to remove the ice dams and prevent additional damage (such as performing mold prevention). Use a licensed contractor or roofer and consult with them for the best method for your complex. Make sure to save correspondence, receipts, and document all efforts to get the ice dams removed to mitigate claims of negligence: important for your insurance claims as well as potential condo owner lawsuits.
Condo Owners: Water Damage and Your Policy
While the roof and the exterior of your structure are your condo association’s responsibility, the interior (all-in) is sometimes yours, including the water damage caused by ice dams. As such it’s important to contact the carrier of your unit owner’s policy – sometimes referred to as an HO6 policy – as soon as possible to report the damages. If you’re not happy with the way the insurance settlement turns out, you may want to hire a risk management or legal firm to review the claim and settlement.
Condominium policies, for both master and units, are a complex give-and-take with common areas, limited common areas, deductibles, condo reserves, and more. At H&K Insurance our condo experts can help you review your current policies, discover gaps in your liability coverage, and work with you during situations like ice dams that affect both individual unit owners as well as condo associations. Contact us today to get started.
Brendon Kilcoyne is a licensed insurance agent who has been with H&K since 2003, who specializes in providing risk management for condominium associations and apartment complexes. He has obtained the designation of Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and is an active member of CAI (Community Associations Institute). Along with access to his expertise, he can provide direction in determining what kind of program best suits your needs.