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How thorough documentation can help avoid condo repair disputes

Condominium owners associations (COAs) and association managers have important responsibilities. Chief among them is the duty to repair common elements. When, for example, the roof, exterior, swimming pool or foundation need repair, it falls to the COA to get the work done in a prompt, thorough and competent manner.

When repairs aren't performed well, COAs can end up mired in costly disputes. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of defects and deficiencies in repair work - and to strengthen your position should something go awry.

One of the biggest keys to avoiding disputes is simple: Document everything.

When hiring a contractor to perform the repairs, for example, request documentation of their insurance coverage and ensure that it's sufficient to cover possible mishaps. Before signing a contract, have a lawyer look it over to make sure there aren't any red flags.

Before work begins, take detailed photos to document the condition of the worksite and everything in its vicinity. This step is especially important if individual unit owners are affected or if the work might be charged back to them. For example, if balconies or patios need repair, individual unit owners might end up contesting the quality of the work. Before and after photos can set the record straight.

You can further protect the association (and ward off disputes) by preparing a written condition report before work begins. Have all parties sign off on it.

When the work is done, ask affected unit owners review it and sign off on their acceptance. If they raise any issues, address them at that time. Likewise, if you notice problems with the repair work, make a written record of your concerns and take photos.

By making thorough documentation a regular practice, COAs can go a long way toward avoiding costly disputes.

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