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Emergency work - super's billing rate imposed by co-op's bldg. mgmt co.Dec 05, 2017

For those living in a co-op apartment, is your building management company transparent to all shareholders about what your superintendent or handyman's hourly billing rate will be if the the management company chooses to have them complete an emergency repair job in your apartment?

I am having a great deal of difficulty obtaining a proper itemized invoice for time-sensitive work that was completed in my apartment by my super and my managing agent continues to brush me off like I am asking for something out of the ordinary by requesting more detail on the super's invoice, i.e. super's hourly work rate, cost of materials used.

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Billing Rates - Steven424 Dec 06, 2017

A few quick questions...

Have you made a formal request to your board for the information you want? The MA works for the board and not the shareholders. Some have a policy of only responding through the board for these kinds of requests since it may be the board that set the rates and not the MA.

Did the work have to be completed *immediately*, like a busted pipe, or was there any time for you to bring in your own contractor before the super made the repairs? What exactly happened?

Can you provide a round figure for how much your were charged?

Thanks! --- Steve

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)
More detail on situation - Kate Dec 06, 2017

Thanks, Steve for your response. I have not brought this attention to my Board yet as they only meet once a month, but that is definitely something I need to do next.

Yes, the work had to happen immediately as unfortunately, a steam pipe needed to be repaired and required shutting the heat off for the entire building while the pipe was patched up. I take full ownership for the emergency repair as a friend the day prior was rehanging a shelf as the prior shelf toggle had come loose in the wall. (My building was built as public housing in mid 60's so I'm sure many things were "done on the cheap.") Although, I know my experienced friend would have known if he was drilling into a pipe (and obviously felt resistance from a carbon steel pipe), there must have been some damage, likely a nick done to the pipe. (I have to wonder why the pipe didn't have proper banding/protection as well as why it was so unusually close to the wall.)

In the end, my shelf was never re-hung as my friend was never able to re-secure the shelf - noting that the studs on my wall were not the standard 16" on the center.

Very early the next morning, I woke to find steam steadily coming out of the hole (where the shelf was never re-hung) in my wall. Due to the demands of my full-time job, 45 minutes away from home, I was not able stay home that morning when the work was completed,, but I was under the impression from my super who I spoke to that morning before I went to work was that my wall would have to be opened up and a licensed plumber was being called to do any needed repairs to the pipe. It is important to note that I didn't intend any consecutive patch up work - redoing the drywall etc. to also happen - as that wasn't the actual emergency repair that needed to take place while I was not at home.

When I was able to get home several hours later, I found my wall all sealed up with no visual record of what exact damage was done to the pipe nor what was done to fix the pipe. I immediately contacted my super (who mind you has my cell phone and at no point updated me on what was being done in my apartment - other than, "we are going in and should be done by such and such time"). When my super comes to my home, he informs me that he did all the work, took no pictures and plans to bill the managing company $850 for the work completed.

This $850 charge then appears on my next maintenance bill as a separate item simply labeled "Repair and Main." There is no accompanying documentation or invoice included with my regular maintenance bill to help me understand how this amount was calculated. When I reach out to my managing agent requesting a proper invoice for the $850 charge, i.e. the super's hourly rate for emergency repairs, the cost of any materials used, etc., the agent immediately gets defensive. His e-mail communications to me are unprofessional and unnecessarily defensive in tone. Eventually after e-mailing the agent a 2nd time, he sends me the super's invoice that is extremely vague in detail and includes no itemization of the cost as I specifically asked. To this date, the managing agent still will not provide me with a break down of the $850 charge. My request has since been escalated to his superiors at the company and I am now awaiting their response.

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Super's rate for emergency work - Marty Dec 07, 2017

Kate,

I would bring this to a Board member's attention before their next meeting and ask them to get a breakdown from the MA. Why wait?

If a shareholder came to me and asked me to get a breakdown of the bill, I would take care of it right away and not wait for our next Board meeting.

Good luck.

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Super's rate for emergency work - peoples choice #1 Dec 07, 2017

Kate,
Your super said he was going to call a plumber, why didn't he? Plumbers are on call 24/7.
Your super did the work is he a license plumber? $850 is a lot for a small nail hole. If you check on how to fix a small hole, they sell tape that can be used to patch up the small hole. This would have cost a few dollars.
Marty is correct talk to your board members. Best of Luck

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A few observations - Steven424 Dec 08, 2017

I agree with Marty about bringing something like this to the board's attention. Any reasonable board would be happy to comply with your request. The board has a greater obligation to you as a shareholder than to the MA.

I also agree with PC#1 about the work possibly not being done by a licensed plumber. This makes getting a detailed receipt more imperative. It should clearly state that the work was done at the MA's request by so-and-so who is the building's super. This is in case the problem reappears, you can't be held responsible for hiring someone who did shoddy work.

As for as the $850 cost, I'm not so sure this is out of line. Steam pipes are different than normal water pipes. Steam is very hot, under pressure, and can be corrosive. A leak cannot be simply plugged with a bit of epoxy and duct tape because eventually the steam pressure and heat will blow it out.

It's possible that the section of pipe with the penetration (a drill can make a sizeable hole) needed to be cut out and a new section of pipe installed to replace it. Depending on the clearances around the steam pipe at the leak point, this could have longer than you would expect, including shutting off the steam to the apartment line and turning it back on.

This is all conjecture, but I hope it helps put the work done into context. You deserve an itemized bill so you have a record of what you were charged for and who did the work, but I would not be surprised if you find that the $850 may not be that outrageous.

If you have renters insurance check what the deductible is. You may be able to file a claim and recover some of what you paid.

Good luck!

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Transparency - MK Dec 07, 2017

$850 sounds rather high for the work performed. My own personal experience with supers who do repairs and in my co-op renovations has been an eye opener. I am 100% against this practice for many reasons:
1) the job is not one of their duties so as they are working on these side jobs and earning extra cash they are not doing the job the co-op hired them to do.
2) are they really qualified, or just handy? Just handy does not cut it and is akin to "crafty". Our former super loved by all (except for myself) was very crafty. Now that he is no longer here many problems have surfaced. In one instance a hot water pipe broke and caused extensive damage to the apartment below. It was discovered that he used some type of hosing material that should not have been used. He also was in the habit of depositing soda cans and other garbage inside the walls prior to closing them. My electrician had to open my wall to run a line for my new dishwasher. Upon opening it we discovered a container that had once held a beverage (big gulp?) was blocking passage of the line. I was left with the extra job of closing up the hole in a newly updated kitchen, and a feeling of disgust.
3) where is the warranty? If a licensed and bonded plumber had done the work you would have a warranty and an itemized bill.

I could elaborate further on reason why the super should not be preforming this work but will end hear.

In regard to an itemized bill... what is he hiding? What's the problem? You are not asking for anything unreasonable, but his refusal to provide this information is unreasonable! It's as if they have you over a barrel and this feeling of empowerment over shareholders can only lead to disastrous results. They become more brazen in their willingness to stick it to shareholders, with the exemption of board members who could easily put the brakes on this double dipping scam.
Co-ops that do not freely provide information (if you have to pull teeth) are not working in the best interest of the co-op.

850 is outrageous... get quotes from professionals just so you can verify this.

Best of luck getting them to be more transparent

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