Coming home to damaged property or getting the call from your contractor that something’s gone wrong is one of the worst things you can experience as a homeowner. Yesterday, you were excited and optimistic about the renovations. Today, your quest for a dream home has turned into a nightmare. But don’t panic! There are logical steps you can follow to make sure the situation is handled quickly, fairly, and responsibly.
The Most Pressing Questions on Your Mind
Before we talk about what you should do next, let’s start by addressing some of the questions that are likely racing through your mind right now.
“Who’s going to pay for the damage?”
Assuming you hired a licensed contractor, they’re required by law to have insurance. A reputable contractor will either cover the damage themselves or be willing to file a claim with their insurance company. This means you won’t have to worry about any extra expenses.
“Do I need a lawyer?”
You don’t necessarily need to get lawyers involved. Even on the off chance that the contractor is uncooperative, many cases can be resolved in small claims court without legal representation. You’ll only need to lawyer up if the damage is beyond the claim size handled by small claims courts ($25,000).
You hired a professional contractor because you wanted the job done right – but now your home is damaged and you’re not sure how to proceed. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, remain calm. Yes, it’s frustrating and may slow down the pace of your renovations, but the most important thing is to address the problem logically.
Assess the Situation
Before you confront your contractor, take a minute to consider whether the damage is actually the contractor’s fault. Keep in mind that in the case of natural disaster or negligence on the part of the homeowner, the contractor is likely not liable.
For example, if your basement floods because of a pipe damaged during renovations, your contractor might be at fault, and you should address the situation with them. On the other hand, flooding caused by rainfall is obviously not something you can blame on your contractor. Thankfully, your home insurance should take care of this.
Talk It Out with the Contractor
Regardless of how frustrated you are, try to remain calm when talking to your contractor. Avoid accusatory language and ask for an explanation. Give them a chance to explain what happened and apologize. Chances are, your contractor will want a quick and civil resolution as much as you do.
In the best-case scenario, they’ll apologize and offer to fix the problem free of charge. A contractor’s reputation is their livelihood. So, if they’re at fault, they’re likely eager to make it right and make it up to you.
File a Claim with the Contractor’s Insurance
Remember, a respectable contractor values their reputation and will own up to mistakes when they’re at fault. They have insurance to cover the cost should your home get damaged while they’re working on it.
However, depending on the type of damage and your relationship with the contractor, they might offer to cover the cost out of their own pocket rather than filing an insurance claim. Whether you choose to take this option up to your own discretion. If you’re reading this before hiring a contractor, remember to look for a licensed contractor with their own insurance!
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In the absolute best-case scenario, your contractor will accept responsibility and offer to cover the damage themselves or file a claim through their insurance carrier. This will likely set your renovation schedule back a few days or weeks, but on the bright side, it allows you to handle the situation amicably.
However, if the contractor denies responsibility or doesn’t have insurance, your claim may end up in small claims court. Although no one enjoys going to court, it is comforting to know that the legal system will have your back if a rogue contractor refuses to fix their mistake.
Hire a Contractor You Can Trust
Don’t leave any aspect of your home renovation up to chance. You should always make sure a contractor has insurance and read their reviews before you let them work on your home. Read our step by step hiring guide to ensure you hire a reputable company you can trust. When you’re ready to start hiring companies, ask these 10 questions during your interview process. Taking on a home renovation is an exciting process. Make sure your renovation goes as planned by hiring a contractor you can trust.
Article updated February 2020.