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!

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