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Last updated: September 15, 2022 • Home Improvement

Contractor Has Damaged My Property: What Are My Rights?

When you embark upon a project inside your home, there is a constant feeling of excitement at the upcoming change. Whether it is a repair, renovation, or extension, you want high-quality work by someone you can trust. You don’t want to leave someone in your home and see that they have treated it with a lack of respect.

However, sometimes a contractor that initially seemed great can diminish when they begin the task. They may do subpar work that causes damage or have an accident during the project that puts you in an unfortunate situation. It can be a scary situation, but you don’t just have to live with it.

Your mind may be racing through options: will home insurance cover it? Will the contractor payout, or will I have to? We will explain all of your options to help you understand your rights, and find a way to fix your property damage. 

Does Home Insurance Cover Contractor Damage?

insurance adjuster inspecting

Unfortunately, no; home insurance does not cover property damage. Property damage is a type of accidental damage that most building and contents insurance companies do not cover. This is why it is essential that you vet every contractor before they commence work on your home. A reliable contractor should:

  • Have liability insurance to protect them in case of incidents, including accidental damage. With this, they can pay to fix the damages without paying out themselves. 
  • Be members of an official trade association. This means that they will likely adhere to a strict code of conduct and all the latest regulations. As well, they should behave with respect if they were to cause damage and do the right thing. 
  • Have a variety of good online reviews across multiple websites. Most people will document online whether they had issues with contractors themselves. If a contractor has a history of poor performance, you should avoid them at all costs because it will increase your risk of property damage.  

What Can I Do About The Damage? 

Since home insurance does not cover contractor damage, you may feel unsure of what to do next. It is a position that no one wants to be in, but fortunately, you do have options. You can get in touch with your contractor and attempt to come to a solution together. If this doesn’t work, you will have to go down the route of an insurance claim or even go to court. 

You shouldn’t have to deal with any property damage, and with the proper advocation, you can help yourself get the fix that you need. We are here to guide you through that process and help you get the resolution you deserve. 

Contact Your Contractor

young freelancer businessman

The first step is to ask your contractor about the damage before jumping to any conclusions. They may not be aware of it, or they may be able to dispute that it was their fault. Either way, there is always an explanation for damage, and it is essential to know the answer before you take action. 

If they are unaware of it, there is always the hope that they will do the right thing and come up with a solution to fix the damage. Some companies may prefer to pay out of their pocket rather than go through insurance as it could harm their premium in the future. There is nothing wrong with this so long as the damage is properly taken care of and mended. 

Other companies may prefer to go through insurance or refuse to fix the damage. In this instance, communicating directly with your contractor will not fix the situation. Instead, you should prepare to file an insurance claim. 

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Be Polite

If your contractor has damaged your property, you should not send angry emails right off the bat. If you have any issue with your contractor, being confrontational or rude could exacerbate the issue and make them less forthcoming when it comes to resolving the issue.

Instead, you should clearly state your grievance and provide evidence, and suggest how you would like to resolve the issue. It’s best to take a solutions-focused approach that will establish clear goals moving forward. Being rude or aggressive right away may send the wrong message and place a strain on your client-contractor relationship. So, be polite and respectful in your communications with your contractors.

Gather Evidence 

Before you can file a claim, you need evidence to prove that the contractor was at fault. For this, you need to take photographs of any damage. As well, you should compile the correspondence and dates of your relationship with the contractor from when you first contacted them to when the damage occurred. 

All of this will provide evidence your property was damaged and how it is the contractor’s fault. You should try to obtain as much accurate evidence as possible to support your claim more. 

File A Claim

hard pen on application form

Going on the assumption that your contractor has liability insurance, you can file a claim with their insurance company for reimbursement of any damage. If you have any evidence of your claim, you are more likely to succeed in your insurance claim. 

If there are any issues with your claim or the insurance company, you could consider suing the insurance company in a small claims court. You can sue for anything with a maximum limit between $3,000 and $15,000 depending on the state, and if the damage incurred exceeds this cost, you will have to waive your right to more money. There is always a way to tackle property damage without you incurring unnecessary fees. 

If The Contractor Refuses To Resolve The Issue

If your contractor is refusing to resolve the issue, then you should take the matter to small claims court. You don’t have to worry about the cost of taking the matter to small claims court, as there is no need to hire any legal representation. You can simply compile all of your evidence, including text messages and photo evidence, and present it in front of the judge. If the court rules in your favor, then the contractor will have to either fund the repairs themselves or make an insurance claim.

Withhold Payment

When it comes to contractor negotiations, you have all the power. If your contractor has damaged your property in any way, you can withhold payment until they resolve the issue. If your contractor wishes to receive payment for their work, then it’s in their best interest to fix the damage they caused or reimburse you for the damage. 

Since withholding payment is a powerful negotiating tactic with your contractors, you should never pay upfront. If you pay upfront, you won’t have any leverage if you are unhappy with the work they have performed.

How To Find A Trustworthy Contractor

hand between project contractor

If you wish to avoid future property damage, you’re going to need to hire contractors you can trust. Here, we will discuss how you can easily determine whether a contractor is trustworthy:

  • Asking friends and family – if your friends and family have hired contractors to work on their home, you should ask them to recommend the best contractors. Your friends and family will have first-hand experience of what the contractor’s work is like, and how the tradesman interacts with customers.
  • Reading customer reviews – it’s always essential to look at customer reviews when hiring a new contractor. However, since contractors have a high dispute rate with customers, you should look at customer reviews with a discerning eye. Are the reviews about the work that was performed? Or are they about the behavior of the contractors? Look for reviews that are relevant, and read as many reviews as you can to determine how often they have received a negative review. You should also look for comments and replies to these reviews – if the company has left a helpful message in response to the review, this would indicate that they take accountability for their errors and work hard to resolve the issue.
  • Establishing clear boundaries and goals – when you speak to your new contractor, you should clearly lay out your expectations for the work, and your expectations for your contractor-client relationship. Being direct and clear about what you expect from your contractor goes a long way towards getting the job done right.
  • Look at their previous work – if you want a contractor who will give you the dream home renovation you have in mind, then you should look at their previous work. If you find their work to be in poor taste, or simply shoddy, then you shouldn’t hire this contractor. If you don’t like their previous work, it’s likely that you won’t like what they do with your home.
  • Do not pay upfront – if you pay upfront for the work, then you lose your leverage. If you don’t like the work they have done on your property, you can withhold payment until the dispute has been resolved. If you pay upfront, you will not have a leg to stand on when it comes to negotiations down the line.
  • Look for the TrustMark – for all building trades, the TrustMark indicates that the contractor has passed all of the checks to become a member. If your contractor is a member of the TrustMark scheme, this would indicate that they are reputable.
  • Get several quotes – you don’t want to get ripped off. To ensure that your contractor is pricing the work competitively, you should get at least 3 quotes before deciding which contractor to hire. If you don’t have an accurate understanding of what the work should cost, this could leave you vulnerable.

Conclusion

Embarking on a renovation project is not an easy decision to make. The financial aspect is just one part of the conundrum, but actually finding a contractor that is professional, efficient, trustworthy and good at their job is more difficult than actually financing the project. After all, you could choose the most affordable contractor but be blindsided by bogus reviews and wind up paying more than the initial cost in fixing their work. This is why knowing your rights and knowing what to look for is important. It can save you not only money, but stress and outrage at a poorly done job. 

Try to implement a vetting process that clarifies all potential issues and think of the worst case scenario when you do this. It’s best to know that the contractor has liability insurance than figure out that they don’t once the damage has been done. Let us know in the comments section below if there are any other ways you can verify a contractor before hiring them. Like & Share this article with friends and family that are looking into starting their own renovation projects as checking a few boxes is better than spending your hard earned money on damaged property.

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