Back in September, on the first Sunday of the NFL regular season, I was going through my usual routine of frantically trying to keep up with eight afternoon football games going on at the same time and making GIFs of players making dumb faces when a dripping sound made me glance up to see water trickling from my ceiling onto my carpet. Lovely, I thought, touching off a rapid fire series of images of death in my mind.
NFL Sundays are extremely busy for me, even to the point that bathroom breaks are hard to come by, but the prospect of water damage is probably not something to slough off. So I leaped to my feet, quickly threw a few tubs on the floor to collect the water then sprinted upstairs to alert my neighbor that I had water coming through my ceiling.
My upstairs neighbors, who I had yet to interact with to this point despite living in my condo for seven years (modern society!), were thankfully at home and immediately knew the source. They had been having trouble with a pipe under their sink but didn’t know it was bad enough that it could be leaking water through the floor. To their credit, they quickly shut their water off until a plumber could come out to fix the pipe.
Ultimately, the damage could have been much worse had I not been home when it happened. I felt fortunate for that, however there was still a couple 4′-5′ unsightly cracks in my ceiling. And with water damage, you can never be sure what the extent of it is just by looking at the drywall.
My ceiling was finally fixed yesterday, February 12. Roughly five months after the damage occurred. Why did it take so long to remedy? Because everything about owning a home is stupid and you should never do it. Also, my neighbor’s insurance company is the worst.
The day after the leak, I set out on my protracted quest to get my ceiling fixed. I informed my insurance that the damage occurred. I informed the condo association of the incident in case my neighbors would try to be difficult (they would). Of course, the policy of our condo association dictates that any leak that doesn’t originate from a “common element” (basically one of the pipes in the walls) is not their responsibility. So, even though the association admitted my neighbor was at fault, they wouldn’t intervene because, as far as they were concerned, this was between my neighbor and I.
Later that week, I had a restoration company inspect the damage and give me an estimate for repairs. While the agent warned me that they couldn’t know the full extent of the damage until they cut into the ceiling, she could tell me that the cost of patching it then repainting the ceiling in what amounts to my den/kitchen/front room would come to more than $2,700. Oh.
So I went back to my neighbor with the estimate. She remarked that it seemed high (oh, suddenly you’re a fucking expert on home repair costs?) then said she would get in touch with her insurance company. A few days later, she sent me an email saying I should get in touch with her representative at Homesite Insurance, which is a company that no one I’ve talked with – not the restoration company, not my insurance company, not the condo association – had ever heard of.
A few days of calling her representative twice a day finally got me a call back. The rep informed me she was still reviewing my condo association’s bylaws and I should send her a copy of the estimate. I promptly did that. Upon receipt, she said she would get back to me the next day. Except the next day turned into the next week. I called Homesite to inquire what was going on, got a voicemail and, three days later, got a call back from the representative, who was now telling me that my condo association should take care of the cost of repairs, not Homesite.
Now, the association master policy is very clear (or at least as clear as legalese gets) on this matter. It’s not their responsibility. The association even had to get a lawyer to explain this Homesite. Not to force them to pay anything, mind you, but just explain to their representative how wrong she was.
Then the same process repeated. Homesite rep said she had to review more facts and would get back to me the next day. She didn’t and only after repeated calls from me did she get back to me the next week. At this point, she explained that Homesite wouldn’t cover my neighbor under her policy because SHE WASN’T NEGLIGENT ENOUGH IN THIS CASE. Basically, for my neighbor’s insurance to pay out, I would have to prove that my neighbor knew about the leak, knew how extensive the damage was and flatly refused to do anything about it. The Homesite rep did mention they might cover the deductible if MY insurance paid for the bulk of the costs.
Just to twist the knife, Homesite then sent me a letter in the mail that contained this fun paragraph:
Our obligation is to pay those claims in which our insured becomes legally responsible to pay. After an evaluation of the facts we can only conclude that our insured is not legally responsible for this occurrence. This is a water leak from a pipe located under the sink in our insured’s unit. Our insured denies any prior knowledge of a problem with a leaking pipe. This occurrence would be categorized as an unforeseen unintended event for which our insured would not be held legally responsible.
This, of course, was a fucking lie. My neighbors did knew the source of the leak and had mentioned previous issues with the pipe when I first reported the leak to them. That said, I would have no way to prove it in court if they decided to deny it later.
By this point, it was almost two months after the leak occurred and I was ready to rip faces off. Now I had to go back to my insurance, State Farm (GRILL CLASS!), and ask them for coverage. One of their adjusters came to my place, surveyed the damage and, upon taking a look at the estimate, said State Farm might cover a little more than half. I was livid. I’d spent months dealing with this shit just to be told I’d have to pay $1,200 out of pocket to fix a leak that was someone else’s fault.
Thankfully, a week later, my insurance rep called me out of the blue to inform me that, after reviewing the case, State Farm had agreed to pay the bulk of the costs, save a $500 deductible. It was the first welcome news I got in this whole ordeal. Amid telling me how their clients couldn’t be held legally responsible for their own leak, my neighbor’s insurance rep had mentioned covering my deductible. Hell, it was the least they could do.
I went back to my neighbor, told her my insurance would be covering the majority of the cost and she should get back in touch with her Homesite rep about covering my deductible. She replied that I should call Homesite and that I had “her permission” to do so. OH HO HO, WHAT A MAGNANIMOUS GESTURE! I CAN SPEND ANOTHER WEEK TRYING TO VAIN TO GET YOUR REP TO CALL ME BACK! I asked her to please do it and she said she would.
Again, days and weeks passed with no word. I emailed my neighbor in mid January to ask if she had heard anything from her agent and she replied, “She said she will email you.” Now, I get how extremely hard it can be to shoot off an email in the span of, say, 14-20 days, but this was beyond ridiculous. If her agent wouldn’t get back to me, I told my neighbor, she should pay me the $500 herself. Not surprisingly, the threat of actually having to pay her own money propelled my neighbor into action, but not without first sending me this message:
I spoke to my insurance company today and they told me I don’t have a legal responsibility to pay you anything out of pocket. She told me today that she will email you and contact you in regards to resolving this. Again going forward please do not contact me again in this matter. Please deal with my insurance company directly.
“Do not contact me again in this matter.” This matter, it’s worth reiterating, being WHEN MY HOME WAS DAMAGED BY YOUR SHIT. It’s not as though I had been harassing her. I had contacted my neighbor fewer than 10 times in the span of four months. I feel safe in saying that’s not an excessive amount in a case that involves property damage. There’s not much I can wish on her place that won’t also affect mine, so instead I’ll say it would be nice if she got hit by a truck.
Eventually, I got the last $500 and my ceiling got fixed. So I suppose there was a happy ending and I shouldn’t complain. But complain I will and so too will you if you ever get caught in the nexus of insidious fucktasters who happen to populate home insurance companies.