The Damage Is Done: What to Do When Builders Damage Your House During Renovations
Things are going smoothly with your home reno. You had great referrals for your contractors which has proven successful, the job is on schedule and the work looks amazing. Then, it happens. You come home to hear that there has been an accident. Thankfully, there were no injuries and everyone is okay, but the same can’t be said for your house.
When the contractors were lifting a new beam, it slipped and fell from the top floor where the renovation is underway, and now there’s a gaping hole in the new floor and the ceiling of the next floor just below. What now?
This is just one of many scenarios that can unfold whether you are making minor changes or major changes to your home. Builders can do some amazing things, but the fact is, accidents happen, so you need to be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Typically, the work starts long before an accident occurs.
Start with Your Home Owners Insurance Policy
Many insurance companies cover the cost when a builder damages a home, but there are some cases where it is not bound to do so. For example, if you move out of the home while the renovations are underway, coverage may be in question. The same may also apply if the damage occurred in an addition being built on to the home.
The safest move you can make is to reach out to your insurance company before the renovations begin so your agent can explain what is and is not covered. In many cases, your insurance company will recommend builder's risk insurance or home remodelling insurance.
If you don't have either of those, you still have options, one if which is to look at the coverages in your current home owner’s policy. The other option is to pursue the contractor’s insurance company to cover the cost of the damages.
The Contractor’s Insurance Policy
Along with getting referrals, you were also hopefully savvy enough in your research to make sure your contractor has proper insurance coverage.
All contractors should have general contractor liability insurance. If you don’t already have a copy of the insurance information on hand, ask your contractor and give that information to your insurance company. This will be used to cover the cost of the property damage. The same applies to sub-contractors. If they don’t have insurance, you could be on the hook for any damage they caused to your property.
It isn’t common, but in some cases, both insurance companies will deny coverage and refuse to pay for the damages. This is a worst-case scenario for any homeowner because you not only have the cost of your renovations but now you have the unexpected cost of damages that come out of your pocket. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to take more drastic measures.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Property Damage During House Renovations?
Legal experts agree that suing your contractor is not ideal. The time, costs and delays to your home reno project are all major factors, so if you can solve the dispute out court, everyone involved will fare better. You have few options before calling in the reinforcements of a legal team.
Reach out to your contractor’s county or state licensing agency. They may be able to step in and handle the dispute with a call in your favour. Also, consider mediation or arbitration. Both most likely come with a shared cost between you and your contractor. Small claims court is an option as well if your claim it within the small claims guidelines. All those options are viable and will be much less in cost than your last resort.
If you’ve exhausted all avenues to no avail, you may need to hire an attorney. You’ll need a lawyer who has vast experience in contractor litigation.
The Road Ahead
The idea of the home reno project was to improve your home. Never did you imagine the damage that would incur, and know that you are not alone when it comes to the woes of home improvement projects. If you have it to do all over again, make sure you check in with your own insurance company. The right coverages – and the right contractor can mean the difference between a home reno gone way off kilter, or one that goes perfectly according to plan – even in the case of an unexpected accident.
About the author
Luke Oleenik serves as the Managing Director of XL Building, a trusted building company specializing in second storey additions and custom home construction across Melbourne. Prevent your dream home from turning into a nightmare with his free ultimate building guide.