Category Archives: Damage

Rattling in Ceiling Likely to be Association Responsibility

L.S. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo has these metal strips above my ceiling sheetrock. When the tenant above me walks around, the squeaking noise is so bad – it is unbearable. The condo association is not taking responsibility for this – it is in many of the units at the complex. Being that it is above my ceiling – wouldn’t that be considered structural? I am being told that I have to remove my ceilings – HELP

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry for your noisy ceiling problems. Seeing as the condo association did not actually build your unit (a developer did that a long time ago in all likelihood) your squeaking was very likely a pre-existing condition to your unit before you purchased. That doesn’t make it right or better but it may explain your association’s attitude towards your noise complaint. The way I see it, you have a few options here. First off, I am not an attorney and you should very likely speak to one to see if you have a case for a structural defect that would put the association on the hook for the remediation. Since you know of several other unit owners having the same problem, you might be able to join forces and sue the association and force them to take action. They may have a lawsuit against the developer or they may have insurance that would help them pay for it. Or, they may have to issue a Special Assessment to pay for the repairs if they are found liable. Keep in mind that you and your fellow unit owners will be the ones paying for these repairs in that situation but the expense will be equally shared by all unit owners, even those unaffected by the problem. Have you looked into the cost of removing your ceilings? Will your insurance help mitigate the cost? While I am in agreement with you that this is an association problem, if it is a cheap fix, you might want to tackle it yourself just to get some peace and quiet. This isn’t ideal but may prove more practical than the cost and time of a lawsuit. Finally, your other solution would be to simply sell and move. Again, not ideal, but it gets rid of your problem. However you finally solve this this noisy problem, I wish you all the best. Good luck!

Neighbor Damages Unit, Refuses to Pay for Repairs

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A few months ago, a neighbor (a tenant – owner rents it out) attempted to make a change to the plumbing in his kitchen. It was done incorrectly, causing water to flow incessantly for several days into my garage which is below their kitchen. Water flowed all across the length of my ceiling (into the area where the air conditioning ducts are housed), and down the sides of the walls causing the sheet rock and insulation to be very soaked with water. I hired a painting and home improvement company who has done work for me and several others in this complex to get rid of all the water-soaked materials, and then to replace the materials once the area had time to dry out. It took them a several hours for several days to complete the work. It was done nicely, and I am satisfied with the work.

The problem is that the owner of the unit believes my contractor’s final price was too high – $750. I believe it was a fair and reasonable price. He is someone I trust, and he does good work. The owner paid half of that bill. I believe he should be the rest. He (by allowing his tenant to perform unlicensed plumbing work) endangered not only my unit, but those nearby. If I had not been home and noticed the leaking in my garage (the tenants were away for the week), the damage may have been disastrous.

Do you have any ideas on how to get this unit owner to pay the rest of the bill? I am considering Small Claims Court if he doesn’t pay within the next few weeks.

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., I am sorry for your problems. Typically, when a unit owner damages another owner’s unit, their insurance or even the association’s insurance is used to handle the repair of the damaged area. Since you took it upon yourself to handle the damage repair, you may be on the hook to collect from the other unit owner (or their insurance). Personally, I like your “take charge” common sense approach to getting the repair handled in timely fashion. However, now you may need to take your neighbor to Small Claims court to get your money back. Honestly, it sounds to me like you got an exceptional price for the work but your “shoot first, ask questions later” approach is receiving pushback from your neighbor. You might want to run the information past an attorney to see if you have a legal leg to stand on. Also, since the neighbor has already drawn a line in the sand at $375, you may need to ask yourself how much aggravation you are willing to suffer to recover the extra $375. You might just want to write this one off and pay attention to what happens the next time and hope that there isn’t a next time. All the best!

Plumbing Contractor Soaks Condo Unit Owner with Surprise Bill

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently had a slow leak from a pipe in my ceiling. I own a lower unit and asked the condo association to send someone out to determine the source of the leak. It was determined that the leak came from the pipe coming off my hot water heater. I opted to have the repairs done by a private contractor. I later received an invoice from the contractor who investigated the leak for $1700 listing mold remediation as the cause for up charge. I am currently disputing the charges as I did not request remediation and I was not notified of the increased charge prior to the work being completed. I received a letter from the condo association demanding that I pay within 10 days as the master policy says that I am responsible for repairs of non-common areas up to $5k. My state’s home improvement commission suggested I file civil suit. Am I wrong in disputing the charge? Should I just pay the $1700?

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., I am sorry for your situation. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer legal advice here but I will offer you some friendly advice. If my state’s home improvement commission suggested that I file a civil suit, I would seek out the advice of a locally qualified attorney to investigate the practicality of such a suit. $1700 is a significant chuck of change and a lawsuit might make sense. On the flipside, if the money isn’t so precious to you, simply paying the balance due will make this problem go away. My other advice is that should you find yourself in a situation where you need to hire a contractor for any other work, get a full estimate in advance. You should never get a $1700 surprise at the end of the job. You hired this contractor (which assumes a contract was in place). If unauthorized work was performed, a lawsuit might just get you out of the extra money. However, protecting your home against mold is a great idea and proper procedure. You may have agreed to have the work done without explicitly getting a price. As they say, burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. Enjoy your mold-free dry home!

Falling Tree Damages Condo Visitor’s Car

C.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was visiting a friend in the Condo and a tree (huge part of it) fell on my car, cause many damages. Can I have the right to sue the Condo for pay the deductible of my insurance? The general manager didn’t go there to see the damage and, on the phone, he just said that the homeowner’s association does not have insurance so he’s not going to pay for it. The deductible is $500 and my car is 2016.

Mister Condo replies:

C.B., I am sorry that your car got damaged. The right to sue another individual or business is yours if you choose to pursue it. However, the cost of suing this condo association for the $500 deductible on your insurance policy will most likely outweigh the potential of collecting the $500 from the association. This is part of the risk of having deductibles on our insurance. Clearly, this was not your fault but your insurance policy is only going to pay for the amount of damage that exceeds your deductible. The rest is on you. You can speak with an attorney if you would want to see if there is any other avenue open to you but my advice would be to simply pay your deductible. Otherwise, you are likely throwing good money after bad. All the best!

Condo Insurance Won’t Cover Plumber’s Damage to Unit

M.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our plumber installed a dishwasher improperly and water leaked under the floor, destroying the laminate and ceiling tiles in lower room. Asbestos was found in vinyl under laminate and must be removed. The plumber is taking responsibility. Our insurer insists that this damage, restricted to inside our walls, and not caused by condo-owned components (such as a roof leak would be) is the condo association responsibility by law and we can’t go to plumber’s insurance (nor to our own). Our condo association denies this and has refused to file a claim. The only law I can find does not seem to say this, but only seems to make a condo association responsible for horizontal surfaces between stacked units. This is a 2010 law. Can condo insurance be held responsible for my dishwasher leak?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., I am sorry you find yourself in this situation. When insurers deny claims it is the homeowner who gets hurt. Asbestos abatement only adds to the problem. I can see where the association is denying your request as the damage is restricted to the interior of your unit. Until the plumber damaged the flooring, there was no liability. I am not quite sure why the plumber’s insurance would deny a claim of damage caused by his workmanship (isn’t that what his insurance is for?) but it still puts the cost of making the repair on you. Depending on how much the repair will cost, I would advise you one of two ways. If it is expensive (say more than $500), it may be worth speaking with an attorney to see if you can sue the plumber or the association. If the dollar amount is less than that (or if you were thinking of replacing the laminate floor) I would advise you to simply pay for the repair/upgrade and be done with it. I think it stinks that the insurance isn’t paying for this damage but unless the dollar amount is significant, I don’t think it is worth the time to try to sue for damages. All the best!

Underfunded Condo Association Leaves Common Area Repair to New Owner

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One year ago, an owner financed the sale of condo. Now the new owner says there is a serious drainage problem outside back sliding doors. He asked the HOA to fix the problem but there is no money available to do so. The HOA gave the new owner permission to do the job. Then the new owner got city inspectors involved who do concur that there is a major problem. Could the property potentially be condemned? New owner is telling us to either renegotiate our deal, thereby sharing cost of the job, or he will renege on the deal, putting all of the expense back on us. What can be done?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., HOAs with insufficient funds often make bad decisions. In this case, a really bad decision is coming back to haunt the association. Exterior drainage problems are the problem of the association and should have been repaired by the association, not the unit owner. Further, the correct way to raise money for such a repair is to raise common fees, levy a special assessment, and build a Reserve Fund for future repairs and improvements. The phrase “no money available” indicates to me that there is also no Reserve Study in place and that the common fees have probably been way too low for way too long. The immediate problem facing the association is the possibility of a city inspector condemning the property. While that is an extreme measure, it is possible of the unit is in such disrepair as to cause the inspector to make such a call. Typically, even if a citation is given, the association has enough time to make the repair and avoid condemnation (unless human life is at stake, i.e. a collapsing roof or broken foundation). Assuming the repairs can be made by the association, get an estimate on the job, levy a special assessment or take an HOA loan (if eligible) and handle the repair. Then, sit down and take a good look at the budget for the association. Chances are common fees should be raised this year and for several years to come until the association gets back on sound financial footing. This may prove unpopular with unit owners but it is necessary for the association’s long-term fiscal health and to make sure the Board doesn’t need to make future bad decisions on needed repairs. All the best!

Who Pays for Storm-Damaged Gutters Installed by HOA Home’s Previous Owner?

J.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Gutters were installed by previous owner and we’re damaged by a common area tree from a storm. Who is responsible for replacement and costs?

Mister Condo replies:

J.D., since the gutters were installed by a previous owner it is likely the current owner (you) who is responsible. However, it is certainly worth a call or letter to the Board to report the damage and inquire of the HOA’s insurance will cover the damage, especially if it is particularly expensive. If there is a deductible or the repair doesn’t meet the insurance threshold, you will likely be told it is your expense. Finally, check your by-laws. If there is wording that indicates such damage is association responsibility, you may wish to highlight the language and send it along to the Board along with your request for the repair to be paid for by them. If they refuse and you strongly feel you are right, you might wish to speak to an attorney to get a clarification on the rules. If the Board has refused to pay and the dollar amount is not significant enough to seek further remedy, I would suggest you simply make the reapir yourself and continue to enjoy your gutters. Good luck!

HOA Repairs Handled in Untimely Fashion

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I made a request to repair flashing and downspout to our townhome exterior? How long should it take for the repair to be completed? Unit owners are now responsible for exterior insurance coverage.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., responsiveness to unit owner requests for repairs is a function of several items at HOAs and condominium associations. If the association is professionally managed, there is usually a process of issuing a work order and then the order being fulfilled, either by the management company or the contractor hired to do the work. In self-managed associations, the process is similar although there may not be as robust a response if the work coordination is handled by volunteer Board members who may need time to bid out the work, hire a contractor, and actually get the work done. In both situations, there needs to be ample money available to pay for the work and there may be some bureaucracy that slows the process. For instance, if the repair cost exceeds a threshold for spending that the management company does not have, say $2500 or more, the repair may need to be approved by the Board at the next Board meeting. Depending on how frequently the Board meets, this could be a significant delay. The job may have to be sent for bid, another process that could delay the repair by months. Finally, if the association is cash-strapped and doesn’t have enough money to pay for the repair, the project could be delayed for quite some time. Your job doesn’t sound too complicated or expensive so my guess is you just need to keep on top of the folks who handle the repair. The squeaky wheel usually gets the grease but be polite when you inquire about the delay. My guess is that the repair should be handled within a few months of the request. If not, write to the Board and ask for an explanation of the delay. Keep on top of them until your repair is made. All the best!

Condo Neighbor’s Leaking Air Conditioning Causes Moldy Nightmare!

B.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Mr. Condo! I hope you can help me. I’m an owner of a condo in an apartment style building. Last week, I discovered a leak from above into my AC closet which shares a wall with my linen closet. My AC is non-operable (since 2012) so I know it isn’t mine. I checked my linen closet and found the back wall covered in mold. I contacted the property management company right away. They said they would contact the above tenant/owner to stop the leak so I can begin repairs. I’ve since sent several emails and called twice. For the past 5 days I have not received any response. I even went so far as to call the tenant myself. No response there either. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., I am sorry for your problems. Leaks caused by neighbors are bad enough but mold problems are quite serious. You did the right thing by contacting the Property Manager. You should also document the mold intrusion with lots of photos in case they are needed down the road. The association is responsible for getting involved and making the repairs. Unfortunately, it sounds like the manager is off to a slow and ineffective start. You need to be persistent and write to the Board along with your documentation showing what is going on and demanding they make the repairs. The other unit owner’s lack of cooperation may be a problem for you but the Board can take legal action against them to make them comply. You should not need to contact them at all, email, in person, or otherwise. If they are responsive to you, you can certainly speak with them to ask them to be more helpful but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Board needs some time to get this situation remedied and you may wish to be patient for a few months while they get this straightened out. However, you may also wish to speak to an attorney if things are moving too slow for you. Mold can be deadly and you need to have it removed quickly. You may even need to vacate your unit if it is found to be toxic. In that case, you would turn to your own homeowner’s insurance to see if you have coverage that would pay for your temporary relocation while the mold is abated. Ultimately, you want the neighbor’s A/C unit repaired so it stops leaking. You want your unit dry and you want the mold removed. Once all that is done, you’ll be back in business. Be persistent and apply the right amount of pressure to make sure you aren’t forgotten. Your problem is there problem and it needs to be taken seriously by all involved. Good luck!

Condo Board Leaves Leaky Roof in Place for 8 Years!

K.P. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the fourth floor of a 4-unit condo. The roof is damaged to the point that when it rains it pours inside my apartment. It has been more than eight years and the condo association will not fix the roof. I stopped paying condo fees and informed the condo association that I was going to save the money to pay for the roof. I have not paid the condo fees for four years. The condo does not call for regular meetings. Two of the other owners had some funds on the condo and they spent it on things that they needed to fix without a voting from the condo association. Now they have a lien on my condo. I have damages in my apartment. Is it legal to not pay for the condo fees and save it for the roof repairs as the condo association has not fixed the roof after eight years of discussion? Can I request that the condo association pay for the damages in my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

K.P., I am sorry for your problems. If you read my column with any regularity, you will see that I never advise any condo owner to withhold common fees for any reason. As you are seeing first-hand, the Board will sue you for those fees and they will win. If you can’t make good on your arrears, you could have your unit foreclosed upon by the association. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you. Assuming you don’t lose your home in this debacle, let’s discuss what you can do to get your unit repaired. First off, hire an attorney. After 8 years, let’s face it, it is long past time to sue the association for dereliction of duty in maintaining the roof. There will undoubtedly be a Special Assessment to make the repair but a lawsuit and judgment against the association will force the issue. Keep in mind that this will cost you as well as the other unit owners a financial hardship but you really have no choice. Hopefully, the threat of the lawsuit will be enough to motivate the association to make the repair to the roof. If not, a lengthy and expensive legal battle will likely ensue. This is a “lose/lose” situation for you and the other unit owners but their ridiculous mismanagement of the roof has lead you all here. Once the repairs are made, I would strongly consider selling and getting out of this potential money pit. If they let the roof go for 8 years, I can only imagine what other nightmares await. There are better places to live. Good luck!