Water Damage Due to Contractor Error

Answered by Brett ~ April 22, 2011 ~ 6 Comments » | Respond to this question

My contractor was adding a second story to my home. After taking off the roof, the contractor improperly secured the tarp on the house before a major rainstorm and the result was that my entire house was waterlogged (all dry wall was soaked) and my custom made 3/4" solid oak with mahogany inlay floors were destroyed. The contractor wants to take care of this rather than involve his insurance but by my estimates the cost to repair could be 30%-50% of what we contracted for the remodel. The contractor is already making judgment calls about which walls to completely tear out the drywall and which to save...but when I recently tested some of the walls the contractor recommended we leave in place they had moisture levels of 100%. Though I wanted to let the contractor take care of it, I am thinking that we need to have his insurance company pay us for the damages and then I can pay him a proper amount to fix the damage rather than leave the contractor in a position where he needs to cut corners to be whole on this project. What is your opinion? Should we get insurance involved?

Marlow ~ San Diego, California

Brett Kulina

Marlow, your unfortunate incident is prime evidence of the need for detailed work agreements between homeowners and their contractors. It also shows the importance of hiring only those contractors who have adequate liability insurance, which needs to be able to cover the entire cost of any unforeseen accident or negligent act caused by the contractor or their employees. Without a doubt, you should talk to your contractor's insurance company, as well as your own home owner's insurance provider.

If both insurance companies inspect the water damage to your house, then you have a better chance of soliciting a true assessment of the damage to your home and the potential costs to complete all of the necessary repairs. Unfortunately, your contractor has an obvious conflict of interest on this matter, because not only did he cause the damage to your home, but he also wants to pay for the repairs out of his own pocket. In this situation, it would be unlikely that your contractor could deliver a truly impartial prognosis of the damage to your house, and even if he was able to, would you trust his opinion?

Another benefit of having both insurance companies inspect your home and file a claim is that it can help you avoid any financial responsibility for future problems with your home caused by this contractor's mistakes. If the water damage to your house is excessive, then it would not be uncommon for mold or other problems to come to light later on, possibly after the contractor has left the area or cannot be found. Likewise, if water did get under your hardwood flooring, there could be damage to your home's sub-flooring, which you would not be able to see right away (but could certainly cause problems later on).

If you are uncomfortable dealing with your contractor, or if he refuses to involve his insurance company, then simply turn the matter over to your insurance provider. Insurance adjusters deal with these sorts of issues all the time, and they know how to accurately estimate damage, schedule repairs and assign financial responsibility. If your contractor has any sense at all, he will realize that involving both insurance companies in this matter is the best way to make things right and protect all the parties involved.

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