Water Damage From the Upstairs Condo? 6 Steps to Recovery

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 2, 2023

It can happen while you’re at work or after you’ve gone to bed. You might be cooking in the kitchen when you notice something very wrong.

Water damage from the upstairs condo can take several days to show up, or it can drip down the walls in just a matter of minutes.

Are you wondering, “How do I deal with water damage from the condo above me?” 

Knowing what to do minimizes the impact and makes it easier to sort out liability issues.

We handle condominium water damage each day all across Chicago, Illinois and the suburbs, so we can help.

Read on to find out exactly what you need to do to tackle this mess. 

Condo Water Damage From Another Unit: 6 Steps to Recovery

ceiling water damage from condo unit

You have to start cleanup and find a way to stop water from leaking into your unit. You need to talk with your insurance company and navigate the claims process.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

These six steps for handling water damage from the upstairs condominium can make a big difference.

1. Knock on the Neighbor’s Door

The upstairs neighbor might not know there’s a problem, so reach out.

Explain the extent of water damage in your condominium and the need to make repairs as quickly as possible.

2. Contact Building Maintenance

If the neighbor can’t stop the leak, alert building maintenance right away. Make sure they understand the potential damage and how it can affect other units.

3. Take Care of Cleanup

Even minor damage needs to be addressed quickly to discourage mold and mildew growth. Take care of DIY water damage cleanup as soon as possible.

4. Call Your Insurance Agent

Don’t assume the owners of the upstairs condo or your HOA will reimburse you for water damages. Call your insurance agent, and start the claims process.

5. Review the HOA’s Master Policy

Contact your HOA, and request two copies of their master insurance policy. Forward one to your insurance agent so that he or she can determine its coverage and any HOA liability.

6. Bring in a Restoration Contractor

Extensive water damage needs to be handled by certified restoration technicians.

servicemaster water damage repair pro

If your ceilings, walls, floors or belongings are badly damaged, ask your insurance agent to recommend a Quality Restoration Vendor.

How Do You Deal With Water Leaking Through a Condo Ceiling?

Water leaking through your condo ceiling can quickly result in a dangerous situation. Immediately contact the upstairs neighbor. He or she may not be aware of the problem. You also want to alert building maintenance.
ceiling water damage condo chicago il
Their crews need to address water damage that impacts materials considered the HOA’s responsibility. For example, wood framing and insulation between floors must be taken care of to prevent rot and mold. Often, this type of work is outsourced to a water damage restoration contractor.

These are just a few of the dangers of a leaking condo ceiling.

  • Water damage weakens ceiling structural supports.
  • Water-logged tiles become heavy and fall from the ceiling.
  • Pools of water on floors create electrocution hazards.
  • Water dripping through a ceiling light fixture can start a fire.

In most cases, the unit owner above you is responsible for water leaks that originate in his or her condo. Notify your insurance company, and keep them updated during the repair and cleanup process.

Water Leaking From the Upstairs Condo: 5 Common Causes

Residential water damage from the upstairs unit can be accidental, or it can be the result of negligence. Understanding why it happens can also help you understand how long you might have to wait for repairs to fix the problem. These are the most common causes of water leaks from upstairs condos.

• Faulty washing machine or dishwasher hoses (or an overflowing dishwasher)

• Leaks around bathtubs and showers

• Clogged toilets or backed-up sewer lines

• Leaky pipes behind walls or under sinks

• Shoddy maintenance on building plumbing

toilet leaking in house

Your insurance company will want to establish exactly what happened so that they can assess liability and settle your claim.

When you speak to your agent, make sure you share contact information for your HOA, your building’s maintenance manager and the upstairs neighbors.

Who is Liable for Water Damage in a Condo?

You’re not responsible for the water damage in your condo, but how much liability falls on the neighbor upstairs?

It depends on the cause of the leak as well as any provable negligence.

In most cases, accidental water damage from the unit above yours is covered by your homeowners insurance on your condo and belongings.

If it’s possible to prove the damage was preventable, your insurance company may pursue further action with the neighbor’s insurance carrier. If the problem occurred because of substandard building maintenance, your insurer may assign liability to the HOA.

Your best course of action is to let your insurance company handle anything beyond adjusting and settling your claim.

You rarely need to take legal action, and the process of pursuing a court case for damages can be very expensive.

Does Condo Insurance Cover All Water Damage?

Your homeowners insurance covers most types of water damage. For example, you should be covered for burst pipes, rain and ice dam leaks through the roof or flooding due to a broken appliance.

Very few homeowners insurance policies cover natural flooding events. You can purchase flood insurance for your condo through FEMA. Ask your agent about the National Flood Insurance Program and how it might suit your needs.

HOA’s Responsibility for Water Damage

Your HOA carries its own insurance covering water damages that originate from the building’s common elements. Their policy also covers limited common elements. These are examples of common elements.

  • Hallways and corridors
  • HOA supply storage areas
  • Garbage rooms and docks
  • Parking lots and garages
  • Building roofs and exterior walls

Limited common elements can include unit fireplaces, windows, decks and balconies. The HOA’s responsibility for water damage usually stops at the interior walls of a condo.

Ask the HOA for a copy of their master insurance policy as well as the association’s bylaws and declarations. Review the information with your agent. He or she can work through variations in provisions relevant to your situation. This allows you to identify and fill in any gaps between HOA coverage and your homeowners policy.

Condo Water Damage in Illinois: What You Need to Know

In addition to reviewing the HOA’s insurance coverage, make sure you understand your rights as a condo owner. The Illinois Condominium Property Act spells out specifics that apply to HOAs and condo owners.

For example, Section 9.1(a) outlines owner responsibility for water damage to another condo or common area when the water source originates within the unit. If a leak in the unit upstairs affects your condo, that individual is expected to cover the damages through homeowners insurance.

The ICPA also defines the HOA’s responsibility for maintaining building conditions and common elements. In general, if water damage doesn’t originate inside a unit, it’s likely caused by a problem that must be addressed by the HOA.

In such cases, the HOA can be held responsible, especially if the damage resulted from negligence or shoddy maintenance.

Dealing with Condo Water Damage in Chicago, IL or Suburbs? We Can Help!

It’s never easy to deal with residential water damage. It seems even harder when you have to address liability issues.

Keep the lines of communication open between on-site management, your HOA and the neighbor upstairs. Stay in close touch with your insurance agent too.

Complete water damage cleanup and remediation are key to a quick recovery.

You can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba here in Chicago, IL 24/7. Our teams provide everything from initial assessment to assistance with the claims process.

We’re proud of our reputation as Chicago’s leading home water damage restoration service, and we’re always ready to put our expertise to work for you.

Call us now for help with condo water damage in Chicago or the suburbs: 773-647-1985

Is my HOA responsible for water damage?

It depends on the source of the water damage. If it resulted from shoddy building maintenance or neglected repairs, the HOA may be liable. This would also hold true for leaks from the upstairs condo that affect your unit.

Do I need sewer backup coverage for my condo?

Take a look at your current coverage to be sure. This type of protection isn’t usually a part of basic condo insurance. You may want to add specific sewage backup coverage to your policy.

Can my condo neighbor sue me for water damages?

If you don’t address obvious plumbing problems and repairs in your unit, you might be held responsible. If the damages were caused by leaks or flooding from the unit above you, you shouldn’t be held liable. Always consult an attorney first.