I-Team Consumer: Second opinion savings

Jason Knowles Image
Friday, September 5, 2014
I-Team Consumer: Second opinion savings
A condo owner on the city's North Side said questioning her building's management company was the right move- and saved money.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A condo owner on the city's North Side said questioning her building's management company was the right move- and saved money.

If you live in a condominium building, you may wonder where all of your association dues go. Sometimes that money is used for upkeep or repairs, which many times need approval by the board. However, one condo resident tells the I-Team her persistence and questioning about a proposed job paid off.

"It was really frustrating," Hope Bertram said. She was questioning a plumbing estimate in her North Side condo. It would have cost about $5,000 for the work, which would have included tearing up her floors for the job, and another $1,000 to repaint. The money would have come from either a special assessment or the building's reserve fund.

When a condo manager of Wesley Realty informed her of the work, she pushed back, Bertram said.

"I, of course, have a lot of questions. They are going to rip my floor up. And, when it came right down to it he said, 'If you delay this you may have sewer water coming into your unit.' And I, of course, didn't want that. So he was kind of was pushy and trying to force me into not getting a second opinion that I wanted to get, and to just get going ahead with the work," Bertram said.

In the first estimate, plumbers said the broken sewer line, which goes to an outside catch basin, needed to be repaired with a "new clay pipe." But another company found in the second estimate that the "line has been abandoned." The second plumber said the pipe is not in use and work is not needed.

"And now actually this really isn't considered a catch basin now because it doesn't trap any debris," Joe Piccioli, of Power Plumbers, said.

Piccioli showed the I-Team the area in question and explained why he believes the first estimate was unnecessary. He said no waste from Bertram's unit enters that catch basin.

" We went inside to the kitchen sink and we determined the line is tied into the main sewer, not to the sink line sewer. Therefore there is no reason to do any work to it," Piccioli said.

In an email, the property manager of Wesley Realty said " The Board discussed the sewer line issue at an open board meeting.... Hope mentioned she wanted a second opinion as well since her unit was going to be greatly impacted. At the meeting, the Board directed me to get a second opinion."

The manager also said he cancelled the work order and then filed a BBB complaint against the first company, Vanderbosh Plumbing.

Vanderbosh said it is responding to the complaint and showed the I-Team video they took of the cracked sewage pipe. They say their estimate was also addressing potential concerns in other apartments, and that even though the sewage line doesn't need to be replaced, they say it's not properly capped.

In a statement, Vanderbosh wrote, "We stand by the proposed work... We also stand by the fact that an open sewer (pipe) below a garden unit and a building is also a building code violation a well as a defect with the garden unit itself."

The city says it would have to look to know if that's true.

Piccioli, who gave the second opinion, says an uncapped pipe in a rehabbed unit like that one is common. Experts say in a situation like this, homeowners should get a third opinion.

Vanderbosh, which gave that first estimate, also tells the I-Team it never put any pressure on the condo association to get any work done right away. It, too, says consumers should shop around.