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Don’t get strong-armed by contractors.
AUTHORC. Jaye Berger, principal, Law Offices C. Jaye Berger
PAGE #pp. 18-19
Know your rights and responsibilities before being bullied by contractors.
Construction was under way one lot over from a building I represented. It turned out that the lot between the construction site and the building was vacant and owned by someone in the building. There were issues about whether the developer would be able to store equipment on that vacant lot and also how construction would affect the building. Another scenario had a developer actually approaching the owners next door and saying, “We’re going to need access to your property.” This was done in a fairly aggressive manner so the board really had to be geared up and have a team in place to deal with it. This particular board did. The developer was not expecting to get a strong response. He probably figured he would be dealing with some nice old ladies, and that he’d get them to sign the agreement and then do what he wanted. He found out, however, that these ladies were pretty savvy, and we put together a team with a structural engineer, a surveyor, and an architect, and challenged his drawings.
You have to get an attorney involved. You need to communicate with the developer. It’s usually too big a situation to work out on your own. You need to make contact, and then negotiate. There might need to be an elaborate agreement covering different aspects of the access. Money is certainly an issue because you weren’t looking for this problem to occur next to your building, and you’re going to incur expenses.
The situation usually plays out with a signed written agreement. It could be a short one, it could be a long one. For example, one of my situations concerned the lot line, and the contractors needed a great deal of access. They even wanted to put equipment in the building’s basement. The contractor wound up paying a substantial amount of money for those privileges. In another instance, the developer wanted to be very, shall I say, cheap about it, and didn’t want to pay money but instead set up a fund of money from which we could request reimbursement for expenses.
Usually, it winds up working out because the developer is always facing the possibility of a stop-work order. It pays in a way for them to do it the nice way rather than the harsh way.
You have many situations in which a one- or two-family home is being replaced by a condominium of many stories. That raises issues about potential damage to an existing building from work being done next door, about access for contractors working on the property, and about whether a co-op or condo should be reimbursed for any trouble and expenses it encounters in these scenarios. You have to be proactive. The sooner you get in touch with the developer, the more likely it is you’re going to be able to achieve a satisfactory solution.