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CCOC Decision Summary

#15-08, Cheryl Prentice v. Sierra Landing Condominium (February 6, 2009) (Panel: McCabe, Alkon, Kali)

The condominium unit owner complained that the condominium had failed to halt the repeated flooding of her below-grade unit and asked for damages and repairs.The condominium claimed that it had undertaken and completed major repairs at a cost of over $1 million and therefore had properly responded; it also claimed that its Bylaws contained a complete disclaimer of all damages caused by water.

The hearing panel found that the owner's complaints of flooding dated back to 1992, and that she experienced flooding from under the slab and from the ground-floor window wells at least through 2006.In 2007 the condominium performed extensive repairs.In spite of these repairs, on at least 3 occasions in 2008 the living room window well overflowed into the unit, damaging carpets and flooring and causing an infestation of mold.As of the date of the hearing, the mold persisted.The cost of replacing flooring and carpeting was $9577.The unit owner brought her problems to the attention of the board in 2007.In addition, the condo had been sued by the unit owner's neighbor in 2006 for the same problem and settled with that person.The window wells were common elements under the rules.The condominium could not explain why the living room window well still overflowed and therefore it has not corrected that problem.

The hearing panel found that the condominium had breached its fiduciary duty to maintain the common elements because it was on notice of the problems, had an opportunity to fix them, and failed to fix them properly."If this duty is breached and as a proximate cause of that breach a unit owner suffers property damage, the Condominium should be held responsible," said the panel.

The panel then held that the disclaimer of liability for water damage did not apply to water damage caused by the condominium's own negligence.It said the clause conflicted with the duties imposed by the Maryland Condominium Act and by the condominium's own governing documents to maintain the common areas.Furthermore, it conflicted with the condominium's documents that required the condominium to have insurance to cover its own liability, and with a rule that stated that if any unit was damaged by a leak from the common elements the condominium would fix the damages.

The panel ordered the condominium to pay the unit owner $9577 in damages under Section 10B-13(e) of the CountyCode, and within 30 days both determine the cause of the continued flooding and remove the mold infestation from the unit.



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