When a Contractor Does Harm
Paying for a Contractor’s Damage
A subcontractor who was working on the renovation of my apartment scratched an elevator door. The condominium building is demanding $600 for the repair. The subcontractor admitted responsibility for the scratch, but thinks that the charge should be only $300. The building manager, however, told the subcontractor not to pay the building anything, saying the building would deduct $600 from my damage deposit. What are my options to resolve this, given that I have already paid the subcontractor in full? Can the building legally withhold my deposit if it’s the building’s fault that the subcontractor isn’t paying? And if I do pay some or all of the charge, am I entitled to recover that amount from the subcontractor?
Union Square, Manhattan
Your condo has a relationship with you, not with the contractors or subcontractors that you hire. So if any damage is done under your watch, the building will turn to you for compensation. Most buildings require residents to sign an agreement before any work is done in the building.
“These agreements makes crystal clear that the condominium owner and not the contractor is liable for any damage to building property, which includes elevators,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer.
Most buildings also require contractors to take out an insurance policy that names the condominium and the unit owner as additional insured. Look to your contract with the contractor to see how to file a claim under that insurance policy. You will likely need to show proof of damages, like date-stamped photographs. You could also file a claim against the contractor of up to $5,000 in small claims court. For that, you would not need a lawyer.