Not Happy With Contractor’s Work at Condo

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T.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can my unit owner board tell me not to talk to contractor’s or file a BBB complaint?

Mister Condo replies:

The Board may ask you to not speak with contractors while they are on site and they may ask you not to file any complaints with the Better Business Bureau regarding work done by a contractor on association projects. The reality is that these contractors are employed by the association and not you. You do not direct their work and you have not hired them to perform the work they are there to perform. Your speaking with contractors while they are on the job can be distracting to the workers and may cause a delay in work, costing the association more money. This is no different than you speaking with a state worker or local government employee about the work they perform. Yes, your taxes pay their salary, but you do not pay them nor do you have any authority over them. If you have an issue with the work being done by a contractor on behalf of the association, your line of inquiry is through the Board of Directors. You can write to them with your concerns and they can take action as they see fit. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another matter altogether. While the Board may not want you to post derogatory comments on the BBB website, you do have the freedom to do so. However, the contractor also has the freedom to pursue legal remedy against you if you slander them in any way. Again, keep in mind that you did not hire them to do the work they are doing. I would think you are simply inviting trouble by doing so. My advice is to make your concerns known to the Board of Directors and let the contractors do whatever work they were hired to do. Good luck!

3 thoughts on “Not Happy With Contractor’s Work at Condo

  1. The amount of communication between contractors and non-board member-owners most often hinges upon whether or not the work will have a real impact on the day to day lives of community owners (Board Members or otherwise) and onsite staff. As a specialty contractor providing solutions to systemic pipe failures, our renovations necessitate that we work closely with people in their homes for varying lengths of time. And while boards can ask owners not to, just as construction Project Managers can demand that tradespeople keep to themselves, the reality is…people (do) and should talk. Given that communication is a natural human tendency, what may be most important is to lead the conversation through pre-scheduled meetings both prior to and during the work.

    One of the most valuable venues for communication is a pre-renovation town-hall meeting which often includes an introduction to the construction team and, more often than not, a lengthy question and answer session. Granted, doing so can and will yield some interesting perspectives or opinions regarding a variety of off and on-topic issues. That said, creating a constructive forum for communication is a great way for the community to become educated about the overall construction process and an equally beneficial way for the construction team to become familiar with the sensitivities and personalities which represent the community as a whole. Crafting a well thought out traditional paper notification system is clearly a valuable asset to any well-managed occupied renovation, but being greeted on day one by a familiar face truly does go a long way.

    Fight the one and done approach. If the duration and scope justify doing so, follow up the pre-renovation town-hall meeting with subsequent meetings addressing the same set of issues and perhaps new ones which have come to light over the course of the project. Granted taking the time and making the effort to schedule periodic town-hall meetings is a significant investment of time. However, the first time an owner or multiple owners show up to sing your praises about how well you and your team performed in his or her home; you’ll know that the added investment was well worth the effort. That said, don’t expect a standing ovation at each meeting. The reality is, on occasion you can expect to be a target of criticism as well and it is important to be prepared. Respond to criticism professionally and in a constructive manner which promotes an amicable solution that will earn the respect of both the Board of Directors and the entire community.

    Close with communication as well. Just because your final inspection has passed and your final punch-out is complete, doesn’t mean your job is over. Make one last effort to say goodbye and thank you in person when possible and at a minimum, in writing. Often times, we get in a rush to leave or move on to the next project. Operational efficiency is clearly important, but spending a few hours letting your client know that you are appreciative of their efforts is just as much of a key element to closing a project as any.

    Construction projects both large and small will spark challenging conversations, but avoiding them altogether quite often accelerates bad sentiment which often leads to added frustration and delays. Practice makes perfect, but once you’ve given the old communication wrench a turn or two, you may find that it is quite possibly the most valuable tool in your tool belt.

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