Resolving Property Damage Disputes Renovation Without the Hassles

Renovating in existing, occupied buildings such as co-ops and condominiums is a challenge. There is no extra space to work in, and one little mistake can damage a number of apartments. Not only is all the space already spoken for, it's fully occupied with people who are greatly inconvenienced and annoyed by any noise or heavy work being done in or around their space - yet the work has to be done. The odds of renovation work causing some damage are great - especially in older buildings - but problems aren't inevitable.

Taking the Necessary Steps

There are steps that shareholders may take on their own before any work is done. For example, if a shareholder is going to undertake renovation work, he or she might send a polite note to their surrounding neighbors letting them know that work is going to be done, giving approximate dates and apologizing in advance for any inconvenience.

Some might say, "Why let them know? I'm just asking for trouble," but this is not the case at all. You are setting a friendly tone so that if a problem occurs, the neighbors will be more likely to want to work something out with you rather than to go to war. They are more likely to understand that it wasn't your fault.

By contrast, when people are kept in the dark, their imaginations take over and they assume the worst. A shareholder with a studio apartment was doing a small renovation in the kitchen. The neighbor, who really did not know the extent of the renovation, said, "They gutted the apartment and every day I saw carts taking away construction debris." This may cause them to "report" every little thing to the Board of Directors or the Department of Buildings, and to generally make the process very difficult.

From a management perspective, the board and its managing agent can reach out to neighbors and try to photograph and document the status of their apartments so that if they allege that any damage has occurred, it will be easier to determine if it was caused by the work or was a pre-existing condition. This can make financial settlements easier.

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