Q. During renovations of our Gramercy Park co-op, some dust filtered into our neighbor’s apartment. Our contractors went in there, moved her stove, and patched an open hole in her wall. After this was done, she claimed that one of her burners had stopped working. I don’t know if her stove was working before my contractors visited her apartment, but I offered to pay for the stove repair as a good neighbor. She now claims that her stove is broken beyond repair and wants a new stove and any alterations to her kitchen as a result. She has provided no evidence of the damage to her stove. What is my responsibility?
A. You may be responsible for damaging your neighbor’s stove, but it would depend on what you said to your contractors. If you told the contractors to go fix the problem next door, then the contractors would have been acting as your agent and you would be liable for damage that happened as a result of the work he did. But if the contractors went over to clear the dust and patch the wall independently, without your input and nothing in your work agreement with him authorized him to do that, then he was acting outside of your control and the damage is his responsibility, said Eric D. Sherman, a real estate lawyer in the Manhattan offices of the law firm Pryor Cashman.