Georgia as many other states through the years have developed better insurance codes and laws to protect and benefit insureds. An example are the changes that have occurred regarding the Board of Directors discretion to purchase insurance policies with limited coverage.
When damages occur in condominiums a frequent dispute is how to determine if damages will be covered under the unit owner’s insurance policy or under the Board’s insurance policy for damages in common areas of the condominium. For example, in National Insurance Company v. Seguros Triple S,1 the Puerto Rico Appellate Court discussed this issue when water that escaped from a damaged bathroom of one of the unit apartments caused damage to the electric panel of the elevators of the condominium.
On March 14, 2018, Caribbean Adjusters International hosted the “Condominium Insurance Forum” at the Marriott Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The forum was divided in two groups of panelists formed by adjusters, brokers, producers and local attorneys with special guest speakers such as Puerto Rico’s Insurance Commissioner (via Skype) and our own William “Chip” Merlin. Important topics were discussed related to claim issues for condominiums on the island.
It is important for insureds to know that Puerto Rico’s Condominium Act provides reimbursements for repairs considered “urgent” and made at their expense. This will only apply for urgent repairs needed in common areas of the condominium.
After Hurricane Irma and Maria caused damage to many condominiums in Puerto Rico, it is the Board of Directors’ job to search for estimates and determine how the damage will be repair. Many will be limited by the amount of compensation approved by their insurers and will be forced to repair only the necessary parts of the common areas. It is important for any decision to be clear, in good faith and not exceed the authorization of the Board of Directors in the repair of damage caused by the hurricane.
Puerto Rico’s 2003 Condominium Act has established how to proceed in circumstances where the responsibility for maintenance and repairs is unclear. As I mentioned in my prior blog, the Board of Directors is responsible for the insurance and repairs of general common areas in condominiums such as stairs and lobby. All unit holders are responsible for their own insurance coverage, maintenance and repair of the unit’s interior.
It was winter of 1996 when my family and I moved from New Jersey to Puerto Rico. Since then, I have witnessed how Puerto Rico has struggled to establish better construction codes and plans for home improvement and insurance. These attempts have been challenged by politics, economic issues and natural disasters. Puerto Rico does not have statutes or ordinances requiring homeowners to have property insurance; it is only a requirement for property owners with mortgages. Puerto Rico’s Insurance Code defines insurance as “the contract whereby a person is obligated to compensate another or to pay or to provide a specific or determinable benefit to the occurrence of an uncertain event foreseen there, the term safe includes reinsurance.”1