Can they redecorate at our expense?

robinbird_2007March 17, 2007

At our fault, we flooded the apt downstairs. We are paying to have the servpro guys come dry it all out, paying for ceiling replacement. Now they want carpeting replaced in three rooms (two bedrooms and a hall) at cost of $1600. I feel they are upgrading the carpet quality and taking advantage. Am I wrong? I want to be fair, repair damage, but not redectorate. I feel they should replace with similiat carpeting quality. At this point I am thinking of just teling them to take it to small claims court and let the judge decide on it all, then I'll pay whatever the judge says. Their current carpet is old and ratty.

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Also more info: They have given me etimate, one each , ceiling =$400, Carpet = $1600 and expected I pay this money to THEM directly, on basis of the estimates. They say they have a moldy bookcase they are throwing out and they are going to charge me for a gallon of paint, (of course now they will hire painters of course.) I feel they are taking advantage, the money shuld go for actual repairs and go to the repairing companies NOT them personally? How do I know the carpets are going to be $1600, not $800? Anyway, they are ALWAYS complaining of noise, I hate it here and WILL be looking for another, bottom floor apt as soon as my lease is up in half a year. My ONLY criteria will be bottom floor, and my kids high school district. Most people here OWN their condos; I am renting... and that seems to make a big diff here. In another apt complex, I never knew who rented, who owned. We had a bootom apt, never got not even ONE noise complaint and never gave one either. I loved that place and would move back expect for my kids wanting to stay and finish at their highschool. Sigh.

Also, the flood was because I've been distracted, by grieving the loss of my husband. Has only been 4 months, he was only 39 and I am only now, slightly out of that fog. I lost our 4 bed house cause couldn't pay the note alone, and stuffed 4bedroom house stuff in a two bedroom apt. life really sucks right now, and I hate my yuppie neighbors. But yes, the water damage was my fault, but do they have to take advantage, and how can I pay what's fair other than just going to court on the issues?

thanks all, you all seem like a great group.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 10:52PM
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You are right to assume that the apartment that you damaged is probably insured by the condo owner or rental building owner. I can't see anyone owning a building or condo home without it. It is too late to advise you to have gotten renters insurance and you will have learned something from this. (ALL OF YOU READING THIS TAKE NOTE.)

Yes, they may be trying to pull a fast one on you by having you pay them directly when they are going to submit the bills to their insurance company also.

You seem to be wanting to take responsibility and "do the right thing". Is there an arbitration board for renters and owners in your area? This is a no cost service and will not produce a court judgement record against you and affect your credit rating, like being taken to small claims court will. Call your city hall to see if you can go this route. Otherwise contact your tenants group in your area and they will advise you how to proceed.

Do you have a church or community religious center that you go to (or something similar), where there is someone who can be along side you as an advocate, when you discuss the matter with the owner of the damaged apartment. Sometimes having "someone there" with you, can make an unscrupleous person back down and treat you fairly. Do you have a relative who you can count on? I don't know your age, but communities often have 'Senior Centers' with helpful advocates who are volunteers. In other words, don't go this alone. You sound vulnerable at this point in your life, and having an ally will help you overcome these setbacks.

Ask the owners to have their insurance company contact you directly so you can pay for the repairs and have a written record that you made amends in full. I can't understand why their insurance company has not contacted you by now?

You want an itemized listing of what the damages are and what you owe, and and a *paid in full* letter with a *release from further claims*. You do not want them coming after you everytime they think they discovered more "hidden damage" from the incident, that they can bill you for over and over, for years and years.

BTW, I do not think that their charges are unreasonable. Have you priced carpet lately? Besides it does not matter if you think that their carpet was "ratty" and "old". You damaged it, and you have to replace it.

You may want to contact a grief councellor who can help you deal with your new life situtation.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 11:48PM
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robin, my deepest condolences in your loss. You've had a very rough time of it lately, haven't you?

Please forgive the length, am trying to cover this from all angles.

Could use a bit more info, because this sounds like they are getting extreme. Two bedrooms and a hallway worth of carpet. A 'moldy' bookcase and their ceiling. So it leaked through the ceiling, hit the floor, rose up high enough to soak into their bookcase from there. Were they knee deep in water? (And yes, carpet has gotten quite costly, as has all flooring, petroleum increases and all that.)

Next: ownership. You say the "apartment" below you, but also mention many condo owners. So to clarify, are they tenants renting as well? If so, it's the owner of their unit you need to be dealing with, not the renters/tenants. Tenants could just take the money and leave the owner to deal with the old ratty carpet at some point.

Giving the money to them directly would leave you in a good spot to be taken advantage of. Unfortunately, if an insurance claim were filed, since it's a small claim by standards, the insurance company would do just that: come in, estimate damages, and issue a check. These people could then use it to repair damages, or install carpet themselves (save labor) and use what's left to buy a TV. Insurance company wouldn't care, once check was issued, signed and cashed it would be considered a closed case. The problem you have is that without benefit of an insurance adjuster, you are more in the dark about what is a fair assessment for damages.

If you opt to handle this yourself, you should approach it as an insurance company would. Any insurance company will pay 'reasonable and necessary' expenses, but no more than that. If an insurance company were involved, and say bedroom #1 was damaged, but not bedroom #2 or the hallway, then insurance would only pay for the damaged bedroom #1 carpeting. (If occupants want all carpeting to match, they will have to foot the bill for non-damaged rooms themselves.) Taking that a step further, how much insurance would pay would depend on the coverage carried under the policy. If they had "replacement cost" on their policy, then they would be compensated an amount, at today's prices, to go out and replace the floor with similar floor covering. (In other words they would not be given money to go out and get new Brazilian Cherry hardwood, they would only be issued a check to cover wall to wall rug + installation.) Adjuster would inspect damages, go to his office, calculate cost of carpeting + installation, send them a check, and tenants could do with it as they pleased (buy a big screen TV or replace the carpet, insurance wouldn't care, but as far as they are concerned, the claim is closed). However, if the policy coverage was for "actual cash value", the insurance company would only pay for what the carpet is worth now, less depreciation. So if it originally cost $1000 and is 15 years old, insurance would deduct for the 15 year life span of the carpet and these people would end up with an amount equal to what the carpet is worth today, with age deducted. They'd get a paltry settlement (probably a couple hundred $ if lucky). Another example why it's not only a must to carry renters insurance, but to pay the bit of extra premium for Replacement Cost coverage rather than Actual Cash Value coverage.

So, if they have insurance, they should file a claim (it will not be held against them because insurance will ultimately collect from you and get reimbursed). If you can manage to get their insurance company involved, an adjuster would come in, assess damages, issue a check to them, and then insurance company could make reimbursement arrangements with you.

With all the hard knocks you've suffered lately, I would hate to see you end up with a Judgment against you from court. (That will show up on your credit record.) It will make it much more difficult for you to secure a rental in the future, and could well adversely impact any mortgage application. So although a judge would no doubt set these people straight if they are indeed out of line, you'd have the judgment on your record. So if you can, it's to your benefit to stay out of court. But don't freak out terribly if it ultimately does go to court. For your future protection, keep all documents, copies of receipts for anything you pay, anything to show this was not a malicious act of vandalism on your part, but rather an accident. That part is in your favor.

I have more to say, but before you get completely overloaded here, post back with the info about ownership, OK? Because if they don't own the unit, you can bypass these people altogether. But there are a couple things I wanted to cover about approaching the owner. If they do own the unit, maybe we can come up with a way that you can reimburse what is due and nothing more.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 9:54AM
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robinbird_2007, you have insurance right? This is the time to call the insurance company and let them argue with the downstairs neighbor about replacement value.

My bookcases are cheap particle board but they house books from the 1800's worth thousands. If the bookcases gets wet, the books get wet, and that is just wrong and $$$$. I would raise heck with an upstairs neighbor who said oops, my fault.

I am very sorry you lost your husband. Been there, done that and the only thing worse is when our son died. What I learned is life has to go on, so you deal with it and don't get into the oh poor me state of mind.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 10:19PM
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