California Condo Unit Owner’s Air Conditioner Damaged

C.S. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo air conditioner was recently damaged by a vendor but the vendor won’t step up for responsibility of damage. The association has paid for repairs to date but the unit is damaged beyond repair. The association has refused to pay full value only prorated value for 1/3rd the cost of a new unit. The unit should be paid for in full. If a vendor damaged anything within the community, they would be responsible for full value, not 1/3rd especially when they have already admitted fault by paying for repairs on other units in the past months.

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., I am sorry for your troubles. When a vendor comes onto the association property, they are there to do work for the association, not damage unit owner’s property. In this case, the association has already taken some responsibility by paying 1/3 the cost of a new unit. I am assuming they are claiming that your unit was 2/3 through its useful life and so they are only paying for the 1/3 they deem to have been left in the unit. I am not an attorney nor am I knowledgeable about California law so I can only give you my friendly opinion and friendly advice. You should seek out locally qualified legal counsel for a legal opinion. My cursory understanding of California property law recovery is that you are only entitled to a damage award equal to the value of the damaged property in the condition it was in when the damage occurred. In other words, if you have an air conditioning unit with an average useful life of 15 years that was 10 years-old when it was damaged, you would only be entitled to collect on the damage for the 5 years of useful life that was left for the unit. The simple math would indicate that 1/3 is just about right under that scenario. However, if the unit was brand new, you may be entitled to more. You may also have a case against the vendor but, again, only if you are interested in pursuing a legal remedy. Once again, I would suggest that you speak with an attorney and determine if it is financially feasible to pursue a lawsuit versus simply accepting your 1/3 payment and replacing the air conditioning unit with a new one. Hopefully, future vendors will be more careful when performing work near your air conditioner. Good luck!

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