Condo-Hired Contractor Damages Interior of Unit


M.S. from Chicago writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My Chicago condominium management company sent this email yesterday after 90 days of requests for repair:

“The owner of “ABC” Plumbing spoke with his plumber regarding your report that he scratched your toilet while rodding. According to his plumber, he did not scratch your toilet.  Because we do not have a before and after picture of the toilet, Mr. “X” has to take the word of his employee.  However, without admitting fault, he is willing to compensate you $150.00 for the damage.”

I would love to say this was the only time the management company “had” to access my unit then found later that the contractor they chose had damaged something but it’s not. In 2013, a different plumbing company somehow broke a mixing valve in one of the showers; now it only has hot water and the estimates for the repair include removing part of the wall for the replacement. What rights do I have as a unit owner when I let their contractor in my unit and things get broke? The 2014 incident has details that were taken care of to my satisfaction; it’s just this last thing. Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

M.S., I am sorry that your condo unit has been damaged by an association-hired contractor. I am pleased that the second plumbing company compensated you for the damage that they “don’t admit” to causing. Without video evidence or personal eyewitness accounting of who did what, it does become quite difficult to prove what damage was caused to the interior of your unit by an outside contractor. I am familiar with mixing valves that are buried in walls and the potential damage and expense that the resulting repair can cost. As you know, I am not an attorney. If you feel you have a significant enough expense that you are unwilling to bear and you feel as though you need legal representation to bring suit against the association and the contractor who caused the damage, I suggest you consult with an attorney to see if you would likely prevail. Otherwise, I would go ahead and hire a contractor to make the repair which will likely involve creating an access entry point in the wall behind the shower (hopefully, in a closet) and replacing or repairing the mixing valve. While they are there, may I suggest that they install an access panel in the area of the wall that they remove? This will give you and future owners of your unit a quick way to inspect the mixing valve for any leaks which could lead to mold. You certainly don’t want that.

Your association documents most likely spell out the association’s right to access your unit for repairs. I am not sure what items they are working on that are association owned but it sounds like they perform some fairly comprehensive maintenance for unit owners, which is a good thing. Of course, always have a good homeowner’s insurance policy in place because, as you’ve seen first-hand, accidents do happen. By the way, be sure to check your homeowner’s insurance coverage, you may have a clause that will cover the damage from the previous plumber. That could help pay for the repair that I strongly encourage you to get taken care of in short order. All the best!

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