(TNS)—Q: Our homeowners association takes care of the landscaping for the entire neighborhood. Their vendor has damaged our deck twice. The first time they grudgingly fixed it, and now we are waiting over three months for the damage to be repaired. Now they are claiming it is not their responsibility. Do they have to fix our deck? — Margaret
A: The landscaper is responsible for the damage it caused. Since your association hired the contractor, they will also be responsible.
The first step is to do what you already did: tell your association about the damage.
Your association should have its vendor fix the problem. If the landscaper does not step up, your association should have the damage repaired and collect the cost from their vendor.
If the problem continues to be ignored after repeated requests, you can make the repair and ask your association to reimburse you.
As with all disputes, take pictures and keep detailed notes. If this eventually goes to arbitration or court, it will come down to which side’s story the judge believes. This is where your thorough documentation will be crucial.
Even if the dispute with your association grows, keep paying your maintenance dues. You cannot offset the dues with the repair costs.
There are right and wrong ways to resolve issues and doing it the wrong way may feel good in the short term but will quickly lead to problems larger than a damaged deck.
This issue highlights the need for your board of directors to vet their vendors. Just like when an individual hires a contract for renovations, your association should check for appropriate licenses and insurance and do a background check to make sure that prior customers did not have problems.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.
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