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Whose bill is it anyway?

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Knowing who has the responsibility to pay for various expenses can be tricky in a cooperative or condominium building.  Typically, the basic rule is: if you own it, you maintain financial responsibility for it.  Everything within the walls of a unit is the responsibility of the owner of the unit or the shares referable to that unit. 

However, the question of financial responsibility for repairs becomes more complicated when issues arise within the walls themselves.  For example, let’s say that there was a pipe leak within a wall that caused damage in your unit.  The cost of repairing the leaking pipe and the resulting damage may be covered by the condo or co-op, but that depends on a few variables. 

As with any question of responsibility, whether legal or financial, check your building’s governing documents, which should have been provided to you when you purchased your new apartment or in the case of a co-op, the shares referable to your apartment.  It may be necessary to consult with an attorney, as language in these documents can be antiquated and full of legalese. 

            Also, the location of the leak and the type of pipe may determine the responsible party.  If the leak occurs at the termination point for your apartment, you will most likely be responsible for repairing the damage.  Conversely, let’s say that a pipe that services multiple units ruptures in a wall.  In that scenario, the co-op/condo would, in most cases, be responsible for repairing the pipe and walls; unfortunately, the building is not usually responsible for replacing your damaged belongings.  The presence of a tenant complicates the issue further.  While a unit owner or shareholder can file a claim for damaged personal property with their homeowner’s insurance policy, unless your tenants maintain their own rental insurance, they may be forced to bear the costs of those damages themselves, or enter the world of litigation.

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