Contractors rarely intend to damage your property, but mistakes and accidents happen. Damages can range from something minor, like a scratch in your hardwood floors while moving equipment, to something major, like a contractor cutting a water line and flooding your home. If you have hired a responsible and capable contractor, they will proactively work with you to remedy any defects and damage caused to your home. However, sometimes contractors deny responsibility for the damage (e.g., claiming it was pre-existing) or attempt to shift blame to others. In those instances, what do you do?
Steps to Take for Preventing Contractor Damage
The first step in avoiding potential recovery problems on a construction project is hiring a contractor that is properly licensed, bonded, and insured. This information can be verified by visiting the WA State Department of Labor & Industries. You can also use this link to see whether others have made claims against the contractor’s bond. Numerous claims against a contractor’s bond can be a sign that the contractor’s projects tend to end in dispute or litigation. Being a registered contractor is a bare minimum requirement to perform construction work in Washington, so you should also ask the contractor for a few, recent references and talk to those people.
Then, make sure you use a written contract that clearly and thoroughly lays out the parties’ respective rights and obligations (and importantly, does not waive or substantially limit your rights to recover for a contractor’s poor workmanship or damages caused). Remember, “[a]n ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We highly recommend having any contract reviewed by a lawyer familiar with construction contracts before you sign it.
Tips for if Your Property is Damaged by a Contractor
Even if you’ve done your homework regarding the contractor you’ve hired, property damage can still happen.
Smaller damage may be fixed or compensated for by the contractor. The greater the damage, however, the more likely it is that involving the contractor’s liability insurance will be necessary. We advise you to immediately seek legal counsel in these circumstances, to preserve your rights and minimize the likelihood of making a misstep that could jeopardize your claim.
Unfortunately, recovering on a large property damage claim is rarely straightforward and can require a tailored strategy to trigger insurance coverage and maximize your recovery. It is important to keep in mind that your homeowner’s insurance is unlikely to cover damage caused by a contractor, so it is the contractor’s (and perhaps one or more subcontractors’) insurance that is the likely source of recovery – in addition, perhaps, to the contractor itself.
If you discover water damage or other damage to your home sometime after your contractor has finished its work, we urge you, again, to immediately seek an attorney experienced with construction defects and homeowner’s insurance claims. Delay in taking action could jeopardize your rights.
Seattle Construction Defect Attorney
The Levy | von Beck | Comstock team provides comprehensive areas of practice exclusively in Washington State. From construction defects, real estate disputes, or hoa disputes, our team provides attentive, high-quality service to our clients. If a contractor has damaged your property and you’d like to discuss your options for recovery, please feel free to contact us.