Say you’re in bed and you hear what sounds like the shower going, but it's late, and you're tired, so you pay it no mind. You wake up at 4 a.m. to get a glass of water, and find half the rooms in your apartment flooded— you forgot to turn the shower off! You throw blankets and towels on the floor to soak up the water, then you call your building’s maintenance staff.
With the aid of a dehumidifying machine, they’re able to get most of the moisture out of the flooded areas. But the wooden floor tiles themselves are heavily damaged—and a fair amount of water seeped into your downstairs neighbor's unit, damaging the ceilings, walls, and some artwork. Who’s responsible for restoring the flooring? And what about the water that poured into the apartment below?
Finding out what systems and features in a shareholder’s co-op or condo unit are the owner’s responsibility and which are the building’s or association’s responsibility can be a very complicated subject. Many principles are universal but other details can vary from building to building, depending on the rules of that particular community.
According to the experts, within the individual unit, shareholders and unit owners are basically responsible for whatever’s within the four walls, and from floor to ceiling. Or, in another way of putting it, they're responsible for whatever they can see. Unfortunately, this would likely include those wooden floor tiles, unless your building administration decides to be generous.
One exception, however, is the electrical wiring inside the walls, says Carl Borenstein, president of Veritas Property Management in Manhattan, which manages about 80 buildings. “The building is only responsible for the electrical wiring up to the circuit breaker box,” he says. “Even though you don’t see the wiring after that point, it’s the responsibility of the shareholder” or the unit owner.