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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Unhappy Neighbor's Bike Was Stolen from Our Building's Garage and Now He Wants to Sue Us

    My question involves personal property located in the State of: California

    Our building has a front gate phone system where you call a person's apartment number and it rings to the apartment owner's phone so the owner can dial a number to buzz a person in.

    Our building is zoned for work and living so we run our company out of the building.

    One day we decided to route the front door number to a new number that automatically dials a tone to buzz whoever in automatically. We have a handful of employees and we found it difficult to always buzz them in automatically. Admittedly, this probably wasn't the smartest thing to do but because of missed calls, being in the shower, etc... our employees sometimes were waiting out front for a long time.

    About a year after this set up, the president of the HOA of the building knocked on our door and wanted to ask us about our apartment number being tied to a thief being buzzed in who stole a bike from the garage. The front door system logs the apartment numbers dialed and they have cameras set up. He wanted to know our involvement. We immediately told him about how we set up the phone system and that we would do anything we can to help find who did this. We reviewed the tapes with the HOA president and couldn't identify who it was (the guy covered his face).

    About two weeks after this incident, the HOA called us and encouraged us to talk to the neighbor whose bike was stolen. We were worried since he lives a few doors down and we were afraid of retaliation on his part (stealing or damaging our property).

    Another week goes by and the HOA president called encouraging us again to talk to our neighbor.

    My husband finally agreed and met with the neighbor for coffee. The neighbor was apparently very aggressive and threatened us with a lawsuit. He wouldn't budge on any negotiations and wanted the full amount for the bike (a few thousand dollars). My husband suggested our neighbor use his home insurance to cover the stolen property and the neighbor said he already made a claim and he would be dropped from his plan if he made another claim. My husband, bless his heart, is a very nice guy and he ended up agreeing with the neighbor to pay for the bike in installments.

    When I heard this, I was not very happy. First of all, I feel like paying for the bikes is an admission of guilt and he could turn around and sue us anyway. I also feel like, while our phone buzzing shortcut was negligible, that we did not intend for this to happen and shouldn't be liable for the theft of the bicycle. Additionally, storing bikes in the garage is a new policy set up by our HOA when every month there are thefts in the garage. It wasn't the best idea to set up bike racks for tenants when there has been a history of stolen property there (My car was broken into last year).

    I understand that I do have to accept some responsibility for the events that transpired, but I am upset that it was handled this way. I feel like now, based on our neighbor's reasoning, that I should be able to sue the neighbor who didn't watch the garage door close and allowed a thief come in and steal property from my car from last year. They do have cameras and I can track the license plate number through there. (This is just an example).

    Is there anything I can do, even though my husband made a verbal agreement to pay installments?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Default Re: Neighbor's Bike Was Stolen from Our Building's Garage and Now He Wants to Sue Us

    The answer is not a "legal", but a managment one, or in your case, a marital one.

    I ran a business with a manager making decisions for me, and I own rentals, and for a while, my wife was the property manager. In both of these cases, there's been decisions they both made which I disagreed with, but since they were authorized to make them, I went along with it.

    If your husband made the decision on the amount and how it is going to be made, if it was me, I would go along with it. Having made many business decisions through the years, there are many that results in a bit of "injustice", but then you just move on.

    In my rental business for instance, I often do things that appear to put me at a disadvantage, but in the end, usually I come out ahead because of the goodwill it generated. As an example, I had a tenant who moved into my apartment, and had an electric bill which he believed was too high, and after investigating, I found that it was the result of prior estimated readings, and finally when he came in, an actual reading was made, and his bill was around $80.00 instead of about $50.00 where it should be. I told him it's impossible to figure out what it should really be, and I asked him to TELL ME what he thought would be fair.

    My tenant hemmed and hawed, so I finally suggested to him that since he's such a nice guy, and for all this inconvenience, why don't I just pay the WHOLE electric bill for him, and "it'll be on the house". He was shocked, as any normal person expects a run around. My wife was appalled when she heard it, and said she would've volunteered to pay half, if that, but to pay the whole thing is off the wall. But from that day on, he was my best tenant, went out of his way to do things, including replacing a hall switch that broke.

    Finally he moved. It normally takes a month for me to find another tenant, I had to paint etc., and that usually set me back least $1,000. He talked his brother in law to take over the apartment "as is", so I had no vacancy, no painting and repairs to do, and because of the good will I had, I had another excellent tenant for another number of years.

    I spoke about this "electric bill incident" with my wife through the years, and while it's true I might have paid $30 to $40 more than I should have, but in the tenant's eyes, I was just a "good guy", and I have to say I've been rewarded many times over.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default Re: Neighbor's Bike Was Stolen from Our Building's Garage and Now He Wants to Sue Us

    Thank you for your response.

    That is how my husband feels; take a higher road, pay, get it done with, and move on with our lives.

    Since I've been able to sleep on it, I feel much better about the situation. Unfortunately, out of principle, there is still something inside of me gnawing for justice. I figure another night's sleep might subdue this feeling.

    I did not mention in my earlier post about the involvement with the HOA. We offered to pay for the damages in full and believed the HOA would assist in mediating the exchange to maintain anonymity and avoid disturbance within our building. After all, we do have to see this person regularly and was it really necessary to have met face-to-face if we offered to cover his damages, provided he showed us a police report and receipts for items stolen? And especially since we had no idea who the thief was. We were willing to write a check and move on.

    I just feel it was handled in such a wrong way that it isn't about the money at all, it's about setting a precedent. For every burglary, car theft, nuisance, HOA violation... Does this mean the HOA will reveal any identity that they might suspect is involved so tenants can sue each other and live in arbitration hell?

    Is it OK to be a completely aggressive neighbor to your neighbor who did not intend to vandalize or steal your property, rather than attempting a peaceful mediation where things could be resolved in the best interest of everyone? I believe if my husband wasn't so blindsided by the aggressive neighbor, we could have simply called our property insurance company to handle this for us -- making it much easier for everyone involved. However, having an agreement, where it is now in paper, voids this option. I will never understand the insistance by the HOA and the neighbor to make this deeply personal and predatory.

    Thanks again for your reply. I'm glad your good deed was rewarded. Unfortunately, I feel worn from attempting to do the right thing from the very beginning, only to be rewarded with disgusting conduct by people I would think would elevate their awareness to the importance of peace between neighbors. But, such is life, and people won't always be reasonable.

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