Should I pay if an apartment complex is trying to make me pay for jumping in an elevator which then caused it to get stuck?

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Should I pay if an apartment complex is trying to make me pay for jumping in an elevator which then caused it to get stuck?

A technician came in and reset it. Can this apartment complex really force me to pay? It’s not a police fine at all but they say if I don’t pay within 2 weeks that they will go to the police with the documentation and press for criminal property damages. However the elevator was totally fine; there was no actual damage. All that was done was resetting the elevator and they are charging me $1200. Are they bluffing in hopes that I pay? Or can they really go to the police and force me to pay? Will the police come after me? Or what would the police do?

Asked on June 15, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If you damage another's property, either deliberately or negligently (unreasonably carelessly), then you can be held liable for the cost to repair it. So the issue is whether you were "at fault," such as by doing something deliberately wrong, reckless, or careless, in causing the elevator to get stuck--if you were, then potentially yes, they can sue you for the cost to reset the elevator, the same way if you had thrown a ball through a window, they could sue you for the cost to repair.

2) If the actual cost of the technician and service call, etc. was $1,200, that is what they can hold you liable for.

3) If you deliberately damaged their property--e.g. deliberately jumped on the  elevator in way likely to either damage it or cause it to get stuck--then that might be crime as well, and they could potentially press charges. Deliberate damage to another's property is a criminal act, and "damage" includes rendering it inoperable, even if  you didn't actually "break" anything.


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