NYC & Real Estate, Condo Owner Edition
February 13, 2015 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Repairs gone bad are destroying my hallway, causing mold that may be getting into my unit and I can't get the board or management company to respond. What else can I do? When do I threaten and then undertake legal action?

I own a condo in a building in Brooklyn — top floor. In January, the board had our roof deck ripped out because it was leaking underneath and they wanted to repair the roof once and for all. Great. Except they ripped things out, it stormed, and now it rains inside, right outside my unit. This is not a small leak. About two weeks ago, parts of the ceiling came down and they had the construction guys come cover things a bit on the roof itself. (I think; I was out of town but my boyfriend has been here contacting them.) Since then, nothing has happened. Yesterday it snowed and leaking started up again. This morning there was more drywall on the floor and now I can see mold. Seeing as this is about 2" from my door, I assume the mold is also spreading to my unit.

I email and call every day and get no response. I include pictures. I ask for a plan, to know something is going to happen — and nothing. I am not sure what to do. I have thought about starting to put my maintenance in escrow as well as emailing the entire building (since it is their money that will pay for this negligence in the end).

I have not threatened legal action yet but it is merely a matter of time. I don't want to go to war with my building but I don't want mold even more. Help?
posted by dame to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Start by calling 311 and filing a complaint.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:23 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is 311 going to do anything if I am an owner here? The building is responsible, but it is an owner's board, not a standard landlord situation.
posted by dame at 7:26 AM on February 13, 2015

This is a job for code enforcement!

No reason NOT to let the other owners know. You're all in this together.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2015

Rather than call 311 I would suggest first contacting a real estate attorney in NYC who can advise you of what your rights and obligations are and how to proceed effectively. Calling 311 likely will not get you good results.
posted by dfriedman at 8:14 AM on February 13, 2015

The thing is that you will only be suing yourself if you go to war with your building.

One way to get resolution is to talk to your neighbours about also applying pressure. I'm sure the hallway is considered a common element and the roof repair as well. Nobody wants their assessments to go up to cover for poorly managed and poorly done repairs.

It is possible mold spores are getting into your apartment but it likely won't be a problem unless moisture is as well (though it can be an issue if you have mold allergies but since you didn't mention it I doubt you have any).

The real thing you want to worry about is the water's path. Sometimes it can track along beams and pipes and drip quite a distance away from the source leak like inside your apartment (depending on the construction style and building type).
posted by srboisvert at 8:25 AM on February 13, 2015

How big is your building? Are we talking about 5 units, or 25, or hundreds? Are you the only top-floor apartment or are there others on your floor? I feel like if it's small, you might want to just start going door-to-door and talking to people.
posted by mskyle at 9:07 AM on February 13, 2015

Has your condo hired a managing agent to deal with the day-to-day operations? Have you talked to them? If not, start there. The managing agent is responsible for these things and fixing issues with contractors.

Ask some simple questions about the status of the repairs and plans to fix them. Take pictures of the hall and your apartment. Put this all into an email and/or letter and send to the managing agent so you can start a trail of correspondence.

If you don't get satisfactory answers from the managing agent, then you can escalate.

311 is a good place to call, not to register a complaint but to get directed to proper agencies where you can file a complaint.

You might also consider contacting the office of your city council person and borough president.
They should each have staffers there to handle constituents and sometimes getting an elected official involved can grease some wheels and cut through red tape.

And the Attorney General's office has a whole site devoted to dealing with problems with condo boards.
posted by brookeb at 9:13 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. The managing agent is who I've been emailing with pics; cc'ing the board. There are 32 units, 8 on this floor. Guess I'll spend some time this weekend door-knocking.
posted by dame at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2015

And just to be clear: I've been emailing for two weeks now with only one response early on. If there was a response or plan I'd feel better, even if it wasn't ideal.
posted by dame at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2015

There may also be the possibility of suing your contractor for doing the job in a way that is causing major damage. Any chance that you can request the job contract from the condo board? At a minimum, the contractor should have tarped the roof in order to prevent this from occurring while they were mid-construction. I really hope that they hired a licensed/bonded/well-insured professional contractor to do this work so that you have recourse.

Your own homeowner's insurance company will also be interested as they need to be aware of any possible mold issues that are occurring. Not reporting water damage/mold can adversely effect your policy.
posted by quince at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2015

You should get a copy of your condos by-laws and rules to see what they say about handling repairs and complaints regarding maintenance and repairs.

When does your condo board meet next? I would try to get this issue on the agenda and attend the meeting?

Are you friendly with any of the board members? See if you can talk with them directly. Ask them to come to your floor and your apartment and see first hand what is going on.
posted by brookeb at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2015

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