R.L. from Middlesex County, Massachusetts writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My condo association sent me an invoice of around $1000 to fix the elevator. They claimed that the elevator was jammed by a toy that my toddler son lost. None of my family was aware of anything like that. My boy lost the toy several months ago and we tried looking for it without any success. The toy (or a similar one) miraculously showed up in the lobby with a security camera and my boy gladly took it. I assumed that someone planted the toy there to find out who the toy belongs to using the security camera. My question is are we responsible to pay the bill? I somehow was very disturbed by their action against my toddler. What should I do? Thank you!
Mister Condo replies:
R.L., I can see why such an action would upset you. It sounds a little like entrapment but I doubt any crime has been committed. I am not certain if you are responsible to pay the bill for the elevator repair. No one actually witnessed your child jamming the elevator by placing a beloved toy in an elevator. Therefore, it would follow that they cannot directly attribute the damage to the elevator to your child. Still, a thousand-dollar repair to a common element that was working fine until someone damaged it has the Board creatively thinking about how to pay for the repair. I really don’t think they have a legal leg to stand on but you may need to seek the advice of an attorney if you are going to fight this bill. The association will argue that your actions led to the damage and therefore you are responsible. Your argument is that your actions did not lead to the damage and you are not responsible. Now comes the practicality of whether or not it is worth fighting a $1000 fee, especially if your attorney fees might equal the damage sought. That will be up to you and the association. I would start by denying that you caused the damage. The toy proves nothing other than your son lost and got back his toy. Neither you nor anyone else witnessed the toy damaging the elevator. If the association presses on, you will need to decide whether or not to sue or countersue. Of course, let’s keep a close eye on any future elevator/toy problems. I think it is fair to say that if they blamed you once and it happens again, they will certainly blame you again. All the best!