Dear PoPville – Dealing with a pop-up next door?

Photo by PoPville flickr user KingoftheHill.

Dear PoPville,

What should my condo association be concerned/on alert about if they are renovating the row-home next door into a condo? Should we be sure that the develop signs some sort of indemnification agreement that says they are responsible for any damage to our condo building resulting from their construction? What about having their insurance name our association as additionally insured?

16 Comment

  • I’m a property manager, and have some experience in situations similar. There is nothing your association can do, beyond reporting any damage to your insurer. Your insurer would then go after the insurance of the new development for any sort of damage claims.

  • Why, exactly, would the developer sign an indemnification agreement or name your association as an insured? This situation is what tort law is for.

  • sounds like a question that would come for an anal retentive individual.

    • OP here – funny been called a lot of things in my life but anal retentive is not one of them. Fair enough though – I’m probably being too careful. I know one of the things our policy doesn’t cover is any damage from ground settlement, which can occur when excavating which is what they’ll need to do next door. Just trying to make sure we protect ourselves from such a situation.

      • You policy might not cover it but that doesn’t prevent your association from hiring a lawyer and going to court over it.

  • There is no avenue or method with which to have their developer or his insurance indemniify you, your association etc.

    If anything happens, they cause damage to your place then as always, your condo association master policy will be responsible for covering it, and then your insurnace company will pursue them for repayment.

    There is nothing to do other than simply pay attention and document any issues that arise.

  • I highly recommend that you ask your ANC commissioner to send you the permits which they can get electronically. We’ve been though this and found requent violations in how the work was being done. Of course developing a relationship with the crew/developer is a good thing too, so they know you are protecting your interests.

  • And if you’re really concerned, you should be talking to your attorney and insurance broker, not the random anonymous musing of blog readers.

  • If the excavation involves underpinning, you’ll have the opportunity to negotiate indemnification, as the condo association will need to consent to structural work done to the party wall.

    As others have advised, check the permits. If they start to dig, call DCRA.

    • Forgot to add that indemnification probably won’t do as much for you as your insurance company will. In the case of indemnification by itself, you’d be stuck hiring the lawyer to enforce the contract. If you go through your insurance company, they’ll usually pay to fix the damage and then go after the neighbor. Much easier for you. The only downside is that the condo association will have a claim on its record. In the case of major damage, it’s probably worth it though.

      Think about it this way: indemnification is best when you’re doing something, allowing someone access to your property, or hiring someone to do work and want someone else held responsible. That’s not what’s happening here.

  • Also, you should document the interior and exterior spaces for damage so that if you have to sue them (or if your insurance company does) they have a record of the condition of the building before the renovation/excavation.

    • 16H got it right more than anyone. Photograph your conditions now: all interior wall surfaces, exterior roof and flashings, anything that might get damaged by workers, vibrations, or the ooops penetration into your party wall.

      The person doing the building has to not damage your property, as per DC Construction code (DCMR 12A, 3307.2 Notification required) which says: “The person causing construction, excavation, remodeling or demolition work to be made that will affect adjoining property, including a lot, building or structure, shall at all times, and at his or her own expense, preserve and protect the adjoining lot, building or structure from damage or injury, provided,…”

      Then a whole bunch of stuff about certified letters 30 days in advance, right to enter property, and so forth.

      You should read that more than any other comments here. Link:

      And, go see the plans for yourself. Go to the File Room at the DCRA Permit Center. Request the plans. You’ll get to see the permit application, it’s entire folder of attachments, documents, letters, and DCRA reviewer comments. You’ll also see the blueprints. You want to see those drawings because you’re the person who cares most that they stick to the plans.

      And no one, no one, sticks to the plans.

    • Yes, what 16H said. This happened to me — attached rowhomes that shared a roofline, and a developer popped the top next door. It changed the roofline, water started flowing differently, and the popped top lacked appropriate flashing. The result: I suddenly had a leak in my roof. Luckily, at least the developer fixed the roof on his end, but I had no proof of damages to get my ceilings fixed and live with the water spots to this day.

      (And for what it’s worth, the same guy dug out the basement and changed the structure of the shared wall, which was done equally poorly and probably even today is causing problems that will manifest themselves in ways I don’t want to think about over the coming years.)

      Before-and-after pics will be huge in any litigation that may be necessary. I’d take video to establish that you believed this was a problem, and insure date/time stamps. It’s not unassailable evidence in court, but if you have to litigate, you’ll be glad you have it.

  • You should be concerned that the work is done properly and not in a way that harms your property. The only way to address this concern in advance is to make sure the builders have the proper permits. If they are in place, all you can do is monitor the work to make sure it is within the scope of the permits and monitor your property for signs of damage from the construction next door. If something is going on outside of the permits, call DCRA. If you see any damage, promptly notify the builder, your insurance company, and DCRA.
    There is no upfront indemnification available. That’s what the builder’s (and your) insurance is for.

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