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Legalease
Legalease, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 14619
Experience:  13 years experience in RE Law, including LL/Tenant, contractor disputes, comm'l prop. issues
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I own a condo in Honolulu, Hawaii that sustained extensive

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I own a condo in Honolulu, Hawaii that sustained extensive water damage via a drainage pipe that ran between the roof of the building and my ceiling. Water leakage had damaged the ceiling and stained the living room and bedroom ceilings. Repairs were made by a contractor hired by the property management company. The drainage pipe does not leak anymore; however, the Band-Aid repairs by the contractor resulted in uneven ceilings and stains that still remain on the ceilings. The contractor stated that unless the entire ceiling of the apt is redone, there will be inconsistencies and unevenness of the ceilings since the older material (popcorn) is no longer manufactured. The property manager says that the undamaged portion of the ceiling (kitchen, den & bathroom) will have to be redone at the expense of the owner. I feel that since the damage was not the owner's fault, the repairs to make the entire ceiling look presentable and consistent again should be at the expense of the association. Am I within my rights to feel this way? Would I need a lawyer to defend my rights? Or should I accept their proposal and pay to have the ceiling consistent and even?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Legalease replied 1 year ago.

Hello there

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Can you clarify for me -- does the ceiling in the unit run together as one continuous ceiling or are there separate rooms in the unit where you are requesting ceiling replacement in addition to replacing the ceiling in the damaged area?

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MARY

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The entire ceiling is made up of square panels, but the den and the kitchen are open and all connected to the living room. The living room goes into an "L" shape. It could be closed off with a curtain or a room divider and that is why it is called a den. Only the bathroom and the bedroom are separate rooms with doors.

Expert:  Legalease replied 1 year ago.

Hello again Jean -

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I truly apologize for the delay in responding to you on this -- typically I am notified within a few minutes when a customer responds to my information request -- this one did not come through for several hours and at that point I was offline.

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Turning back to your question, there is nothing in the statutes that states what a person is or is not entitled to in such a situation. The HOA is given the right under state statutes to organize and then govern themselves and any covenants, rules, regulations, bylaws, etc that they implement are within their powers and perfectly legal so long as any one rule, etc does not work to discriminate against any homeowner or group of homeowners due to their race, gender, age (over 40), disability, religion or sexual orientation. While I doubt that any of the rules, bylaws, etc of the HOA address what an owner is entitled to in a situation where there are damages caused from something outside of the owner's unit that extend into the unit, I do suggest that you review those documents just to make certain that this subject is not addressed. Regarding insurance law in this area, the extent of how far the insurance company must go is typically written into the policy which generally states that you are entitled to replacement -- and that can be vague (you should also ask to see the policy language just to make sure). When the policy provides for replacement value, the law expects that the insurance company must be reasonable in dealing with the damaged party and that the damages will be replaced in a reasonable period of time. If there is no language at all in any of the HOA documents that is applicable, you also have the right to expect that the HOA will be reasonable in handling your claim.

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That being said, "reasonable" in such situations means that you have the right to expect that the HOA/insurer put the ceilings back into the condition they were in before the damages and if that cannot be done then they must bring the look of the ceilings as close to reasonably normal and aesthetically pleasing to the eye as it was prior to the damages. You do not have to accept patchwork in the ceilings that makes it obvious that the ceilings have been repaired (and badly at that) -- you have every right to expect that they will replace the entire ceiling if necessary to make it all look even and uniform. The only thing that they do not have to do is replace every ceiling in the unit if they are already separated off from the damaged area into separate rooms. In other words, you cannot ask them to replace all of the ceilings in the entire unit just to make them match if some of the rooms are separated by doors or partitions. However, you do not have to put up partitions yourself in order to separate out the areas so that the ceiling areas match and look appropriate, either. I have done a lot of insurance work (and my husband is a contractor who also has done a lot of insurance work) and you have the right to have a uniform well blended ceiling in every room or group of rooms where the rooms blend together -- you do not have to put up with obvious looking patch jobs or shoddy work -- and because the ceiling type is no longer available, you have every right to expect that the entire ceiling in the damaged room or group of rooms be completely replaced. The only two rooms that they do not have to replace are the bedroom and bathroom if there is no ceiling damage and those rooms are separated by doors.

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If they refuse to be reasonable and replace the entire ceiling in the other areas, then your next course of action is to threaten a lawsuit against the HOA for failing to be reasonable in returning your unit to a condition that it was in prior to the damages. My suggestion here is to determine how much the insurance company is willing to pay and how much above that amount would have to be paid by the HOA (in addition to the current contractor, another estimate or two would be helpful, even if the HOA is forcing you to use their contractor -- that way you can determine if the current contractor is correct regarding the unavailability of the old ceiling and if his prices are in line with what others are charging in your area to do the same work (you may be surprised at the price differences between contractors)). Depending upon the amount of the price difference, you should put a letter in writing to the HOA with copies of the estimates and again ask them to pay for the additional amount to return the ceilings to a condition that they were in prior to the damages (uniform, pleasing to the eye and simply normal looking) or you will take them into small claims court or pursue the matter in a lawsuit (you can sue in small claims court in Hawaii for up to $5,000 -- you do not need an attorney and the clerk's office at the county civil court can give you forms and instructions and here is a link to the Hawaii courts website regarding small claims court - http://www.courts.state.hi.us/docs/self_help_docs/small_claims_brochure.pdf there are also links to get to the forms you need - http://www.courts.state.hi.us/self-help/courts/forms/court_forms.html ). If the amount is over $5,000 then you will have to consult with a local attorney to bring a lawsuit against the HOA in regular civil court -- you can find an attorney locally by contacting the Hawaii bar association lawyer referral service and requesting the names of a few attorneys in your area who specialize in HOA law and insurance claims regarding HOA's.

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Finally I do suggest that you do not deduct any money from your HOA fees or anything like that -- because the issues you are having are separate from your obligation to pay the HOA fees, the HOA can still take action against you if you do not pay -- no matter what the reason. You do not want that hassle.

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Please let me know if you have further questions or need clarification on anything.

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MARY

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Legalease, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 14619
Experience: 13 years experience in RE Law, including LL/Tenant, contractor disputes, comm'l prop. issues
Legalease and 5 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Legalease replied 1 year ago.

Hello again Jean -

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I noticed that you are online and I am also on line right now so I am wondering if you have any additional questions that I can answer for you on this subject? If you have no further questions and you have not already done so, can you please press the 3rd, 4th or 5th smile face underneath this ANSWER box below so that I will be paid for my time. If you think of any other questions later, you can also come back in and ask those questions even after you have pressed a positive rating button -- I will gladly follow up with you on the additional questions so long as they are follow ups to the original question. THANK YOU VERY MUCH !!!

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MARY

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