M.A. from Cuyahoga County, Ohio writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have an in-depth situation regarding a condo HOA I am looking for advice on. Declaration and bylaws state that the HOA is responsible for foundation. They also state all work is to be done properly, promptly, in a good workmanlike manner, safely, neatly, and up to code. There’s also an area that states any damage to a unit owners property caused by the actions of the HOA shall be the responsibility of the HOA. In 2014, basement had minor flooding, I was put on the back burner, since there was more severe flooding & HOA was dealing with insurance companies & temporary housing. My basement did not leak anymore to my l knowledge until March of 2020 when my basement flooded again. I notified HOA asap as it was moderate this time. Repairs did not begin until late July/August 2020, with more severe flooding each rainfall. Entire basement and contents were trash. Repairs were to be done in a manner with no hydraulic excavators, only hydro-excavating due to all the utility lines. Turned out there was a conflict of interest between the contractor & the management company (they admitted it on camera, in a conversation I was part of also during this conversation the management company said they cannot drive over my sidewalk because it will damage it and they will have to replace it.) The hydroexcavating was taking too long and they ended up bringing in hydraulic equipment and driving it over my sidewalk and damaging it. They deny damaging it despite their words admitting it was undamaged. They also hit a gas main feeding one set of the townhome style condos My pregnant wife was inside as well as our 4-year-old son, and pets. The front door was the only way in and out since they barricaded our other means of egress. No one shouted to her or knocked, all workers evacuated, house stunk she ripped our child out of bed and ran out the front door. Fire marshal came, evacuated 1 square mile, wife could not start her car due to risk of igniting natural gas. She had to hide in opposite side of development. Gas company came with their heavy equipment as well, drove over my sidewalk too. I persistently asked for documents regarding the project once it was no longer under negotiations. Never received anything. During the project they ripped out my electrical disconnect to my a/c and also an adjacent neighbors. They hit water mains as well. (They supposedly did “fix” the water, and electric) I persistently asked how are all damages my own responsibility, management company said that’s just how it is, their attorney said file it under my homeowners’ insurance. My homeowners’ insurance said they will not cover it, foundation is a maintenance item, & it clearly states it’s the HOA’s responsibility. I asked to speak to their attorney they said I am not allowed to since I am not an attorney. I eventually drafted a long letter about all concerns (even more than what’s listed here), certified it to the HOA, their attorneys cherry picked what they wanted to address, misconstrued & manipulated everything I had said, and at the end they stated everything was done properly, promptly, in a good workmanlike manner, safely, neatly, and up to code, rather than them providing requested paperwork I am rightfully allowed to see, they said I could do work run a public records search and see that everything was done correctly.
My house is still not back to where it was, a wall has been opened to remove some of the water damaged drywall, that has indicated that ref water has been leaking inside for much longer than we had originally thought. We have tried to reach out to several legal representations, they want $15,000 just to get started, the other wants $3,500 to write a letter to the HOA. No guaranteed results (obviously), I’m 99% positive I’m interpreting the bylaws correctly, I cannot get any law firm to read them and answer any questions without outrageous retainers, HOA insurance company will not talk to me they say I have to go through the HOA, no one will give me the contractors insurance info. We are a husband, wife, with a 6-year-old, and a 1-year-old. We had planned to move the spring that all of this happened and we are now stuck due to all of the burdens associated with the aforementioned.
Any general (non-legal) suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for the long-winded message I tried to summarize it as best as possible. We’re not very wealthy, life of a teacher and wouldn’t have it any other way. Sadly, times are trying from every angle right now our child’s first year in school and someone set the building on fire, total loss. We stay positive and hope for the best and appreciate those around us, we can buy you lunch or coffee & breakfast for your time.
Mister Condo replies:
M.A., I am terribly sorry for your problems. Non-legal advice is all I can offer here as I am not an attorney. Right off the bat, I can tell you that despite the high costs of engaging an attorney, you have a legal battle on your hands here. Set aside the drama of almost losing your family to the gas leak caused by the contractor and focus on the financial and legal responsibility of the situation. The HOA has already dug in by hiring their attorney. Your homeowners’ insurance has already said they will not pay. Those are the only two places where this money is going to come from other than you. If you don’t want to pay and you are certain you will prevail, suing the association makes perfect sense. If you do prevail, you can typically collect your own legal expenses as part of the settlement. However, if you do not prevail, you would be out legal fees as well as still be held responsible for the cost of the repairs. I know every story has two sides. From what you have explained, you and your family were victims of terrible circumstances and a horrific and poorly executed repair job. You and your neighbors were fortunate that a gas explosion didn’t completely devastate your homes and lives. If it were me and I couldn’t afford to sue, I would probably look to see, even at a loss. With an HOA Board so uncaring about its residents that it would allow this type of shoddy repair work to go unchallenged and then hide behind attorneys so as to make it almost impossible for you to fight back, I would look for a better place to live. Good luck!
2 thoughts on “Shoddy Condo Repair with Disastrous Consequences”
Thanks for the publish & response. 2020 was our year to move, and everything has been turned upside down since then. We are currently trapped with such extensive and expensive repairs needed.
Debating on representing ourselves.
Spoke to Cleveland city hall today, they informed me that if I pursue the issue with work being done without permits & inspections, I as the homeowner will be cited & fined.
Seeing as there are at least 10 other homeowners that had the same work done by the HOA without permits, We are debating on pursuing the citations and fines on ourselves and every other owner that has had permit-less work done by the HOA.
Multiple people punished for actions not of their own should raise some concerns. .
I offered you a lunch or dinner, my offer stands, I can send you a virtual gift card.
Ughh. When something goes wrong, it can really go nutty. It doesn’t sound like you actually filed a claim on your homeowners for any damages still remaining. Even if it is denied, you do then have proof if the insurer says the damage it is a master policy obligation. You could also get professional estimates for any unremedied repairs, you could use small claims court if the dollar value is within the limits. Once you have estimates, and a denied claim, you have more leverage at small claims, where you could substantiate also the HOA had contractors without permits, as to it being their fault for the shoddy work. But it is possible your homeowner’s may cover residual damage, even if a claim consultation said it wouldn’t, you won’t know until you file. If your claim is denied, it may be the cheapest way to get out of there and most efficacious to pay for the repairs yourself and be able to move sooner. As you have found out, hiring a attorney for threatened litigation and/or filing a lawsuit will be costly, they do spend many hours poring over all those condo documents while the billable clock ticks, that is maddening before they feel they can answer a question, but it only gets more expensive, you could win and not get costs that ratchet up fast, so it is a gamble.