A recent decision by the District Court of Appeal for Florida’s Third District has provided that a property holder’s assertion that even though her insurance claim of hurricane damage to a condominium she owned and rented out was made three years after the hurricane that caused it (Hurricane Wilma, 2005), her claim was valid and appropriately timed. Although a previous court had decided the case, Laquer v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, in favor of the defendant, the higher court reversed the decision.
There were a number of reasons for the decision in Laquer’s favor. While the requirement that a claim be filed “promptly,” typically within a period of 60 days, there were a number of mitigating facts in this case. These included that:
- Laquer’s condo had been inspected by the condo manager shortly after the hurricane and found to be undamaged, even though there was severe damage found in the adjacent condo;
- An environmental contractor who repaired the damage to Laquer’s unit attested to the fact that she had no way of becoming aware of the damage until shortly before filing her claim; and
• A housekeeper who maintained the condo for the tenant, as well as an exterminator and an agent of the condo association, both of whom visited the property regularly and were depended upon to alert tenants to any perceptible problems, reported no evidence of water (or other) damage.
Taking into account these extenuating circumstances, the court pointed out that “prompt” was not specifically defined in the property owner’s insurance policy, and might be interpreted to mean “as soon as practicable,” rather than instantaneously. Because the damage to Laquer’s unit was not apparent until several years after the hurricane, it was ruled that the insurance company was indeed responsible for repairs necessitated by water and resulting mold damage since the plaintiff had filed her claim as soon as possible under the particular circumstances of her case.
Do you have concerns or questions regarding insurance claims for property damage? If so, the informed, experienced property insurance law attorneys at Pekar Law, serving clients in the Tampa, Florida area, are available at (813) 71-.8762.