Today’s story will be of particular interest to three groups of readers:
(1) Anyone who owns a condominium managed by an HOA, an association of owners.
(2) HOA managers.
(3) Businesses that contract with HOAs and cause property damage to condo owners.
Let’s start with this question: who is responsible if a contractor hired by the association damages property inside the condo?
It was the question of “StÃ©phanie”.
âOur HOA contracts with ‘Get Outa Here, Bugs’ for pest control. During a treatment, without authorization, the technician took out my GE electric cooker to vaporize. He dropped it and the outside glass of the oven door shattered. Although it is 22 years old, it looks and operates as if it is brand new, but replacement parts are not available.
âThe pest control company wanted to remove the door and install tempered glass, but GE says this poses a fire hazard. They recommend replacing the oven and not attempting a repair as there is no way to ensure safety for high temperatures.
“I told Get Outa Here what GE said, asking them to replace it with a new comparable built-in oven, but they said:”Get out of here’ and declined, offering $ 300, claiming it had depreciated.
âThey broke it; they should replace it. I don’t need a fire hazard and want to be fair, but the only solution I can see is to get them to install a new oven. My HOA management basically told me to jump in the lake. What is fair? “
Google “HOA contractor damaged my property”
If one night you can’t sleep, just search Google “HOA contractor damaged my property”. You will find HOA management post after post trying to shirk the responsibility of hiring incompetent people who end up destroying the property of the condo owners.
I sought the advice of one of the nation’s foremost experts on the legal obligations of HOA leadership, attorney and author John Linford, of Bakersfield, Calif.
âIn my opinion, the pest control company and most likely the HOA are certainly responsible for the damage to Stephanie’s oven. Built-in ovens require special care in removal and installation. Unless the HOA has written proof of determining that the pest control technician has been trained in the removal of these ovens, that raises the inference of their negligence in hiring Get Outa Here.
“Unlike a car, a fully functional oven does not depreciate, and we owe it a new oven, end of story.”
An approach to resolution
I ran these facts through a friend of this column, lawyer Evan W. Walker of San Diego. His legal practice focuses on personal injury and property damage. He agrees with Linford, pointing out:
âAlthough the law in this area differs somewhat from state to state, unless the owner of the apartment has signed some sort of liability waiver, Stephanie owes a new oven. I am amazed at the lack of common sense often shown in cases of this nature, especially in arguing that the oven had depreciated. It’s not a car, so such a position is totally wrong, âWalker firmly argues.
It occurred to me that if the HOA and Get Outa Here refuse to indemnify her or turn the matter over to their insurers and she goes to Small Claims Court and wins, their rates of insurance could be increased because court records are monitored by the insurance industry.
Walker replied, “Yes, they might see an increase in their premiums because their carriers would be aware that they are at increased risk of loss.”
And, finally, I asked Walker, “If Get Outa Here were your customers, what would you advise them?” “
âPay for what you broke!
Chat with StÃ©phanie and get out here
I set up a conference call with my reader and “Alex”, owner of Get Outa Here.
Although friendly and sorry, he insisted on comparing the oven to a 22-year-old automobile. âIt’s not going to fly,â I replied, telling him what I had learned while phoning pest control companies across America. âTo one of them, each owner said, ‘If we break it, we’re either going to fix it or buy it a new oven. This is what is right.
Either tight-fisted or just plain stubborn, Alex didn’t seem to appreciate the power of a truthful, negative review of his business online. “Alex, your employee started this nightmare, so why not be a good guy and fix it?” ” I asked.
âSo what do you recommend? “
âYou have two choices: you both find a compromise, or you end up in court, for all the $ 1,600 required to buy a new oven. I’ll hang up and let you solve the problem.
And they did, under $ 1,600, but a good compromise is where everyone goes a little disappointed.
What it all means for condo owners and HOAs
The lesson for consumers is to know your rights and assert them, according to Walker. âIf a business walks into your house and damages your property, they should pay for it. Period.”
The lesson for HOAs is to take better care of your residents and owners. âIf you hire a business that walks into an owner’s house and damages property, take action and pay for that damaged property and apologize for the inconvenience,â Walker said. âEveryone must take responsibility for their actions. “
Lawyer, author of “You and the Law”
After attending Loyola University Law School, H. Dennis Beaver joined the Kern County Attorney’s Office in California, where he created a section on consumer fraud. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law”. Through his column, he offers free help to readers who need concrete advice. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I love that I can use my education and experience to help, just to help. When a reader contacts me, it’s a gift.”