Who pays when upstairs kitchen floods?

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Who picks up the bill when a two flats are flooded by a defective dishwasher and neither party is insured?

The question was raised by Flatchatter “Powers That Be”, a strata committee member in a block where a tenant’s dishwasher malfunctioned, flooding the unit and damaging the flat below.

The damage downstairs will cost about $4000 to rectify but the owner of the dish washer unit is denying all responsibility.

“The owner of the dishwasher acknowledges the cause of the damage to the unit below is from their flooding dishwasher,” says Powers. “But their response is ‘ it is not our problem, let them claim on their own insurance.’

“How do we make them live up to their responsibility to make good the damage they caused? It now looks like the Owners Corp will be left to pay for the work to be done.”

OK, hold it right there.  Unless a by-law has been breached, or owners corp property was damaged or it was owners corp equipment that failed, the strata committee has no skin in this dispute.

The downstairs owner had no home and contents insurance (really?) and the upstairs owner had no landlord insurance (really dumb!), otherwise this would probably have been covered.

However, it is not covered by strata insurance, which has very little to do with individual units.

The upstairs owner is liable, whether or not they are insured. It may be that their tenant was at fault, or it was a faulty or badly installed dishwasher. Either way, they are responsible for damage caused by the failure of their domestic equipment.

This certainly has very little to do with the Owners Corp.  It didn’t cause the problem and the building hasn’t suffered because of it so the committee should be very wary before getting involved.

The downstairs owner should talk to a lawyer about possible action, including getting an estimate for the repairs and sending it to the landlord with the threat of legal action to recover the amount, plus legal costs, at a small claims court.

The strata committee should limit their involvement to giving a statement about the events. They certainly shouldn’t be paying for the repairs or playing StrataKop in a dispute that has nothing to do with common property or by-laws.

You can read the whole saga HERE. There’s a handy guide to our small claims and other court systems HERE. And, as ever, the Strata Community Australia’s (NSW) version of the guide to who’s responsible for what in strata is a must (don’t forget to read the footnotes).

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