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  1. #1
    ttran is offline Junior Member
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    Angry Roofing contractor damaged property while on the job...What are my rights?

    What is the name of your state? Virginia

    A week ago, I had roof replacement job done on my townhouse by a local roofing contractor. Yesterday, while out on my fenced yard, I noticed that there was a huge damage to my one-year-old AC unit. It looks as if some one had dropped a very heavy object on it from a high place and the top of the of the unit is smashed in. Unfortunately I was out of town the week the job was done, but my housemate and my neighbor had noticed that the contractors were being neglegent and were just chucking stuff off the roof. Besides witnessing their carelessness, they did not actually witness them damaging the unit. As soon as I found out about the damage (unfortunately, 5 days after the job was done!), I inquired the company about it. But of course they denied all responsibilities!! They claimed that it was like that when they arrived! But this was a lie because my housemate had noted that there was no damage at the end of the first day of the job (this was a two day job). However, she did not go out to the yard any other days after the first day. But it seems that there can be no other culprits. Replacing the AC unit can be anywhere from 5k-10k. What can I do to get them to take responsibilities for their neglegence? Do I have a case since nobody actually witnessed them damaging the unit?
    Last edited by ttran; 03-26-2007 at 10:17 PM.
  2. #2
    Rexlan is offline Senior Member
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    No case .... maybe I damaged it when you were not looking. Point is, you will need to prove it to win even though it is apparently pretty obvious.

    Secondly, "my housemate and my neighbor had noticed that the contractors were being negligent and were just chucking stuff off the roof" is a stupid remark, obviously by a person who does not know what they are talking about. How do you remove roofing in a "non-negligent manner"?????? Leave that argument alone.

    Roofing is generally removed with a heavy spade and it is pushed off the roof on a plywood slide. This is normal stuff. They try to catch it as well in a truck when possible and they throw the remainder off so it can be picked up. Do you think they carry every piece down on a ladder? That would take a week.

    A bigger problem is that in Virginia you can be a C contractor in 10 minutes. Contractor is almost a buzz word and they don't even have to be insured or carry workman’s compensation insurance for employees if they are small! You're lucky one of them didn't fall off your roof and you can thank Senator Wagner. He is one of the "good people" responsible for this Virginia law which I tried to change.

    Your best bet will be to file a claim with your homeowners insurance. It may be covered and they will go after the "contractor".

    FYI, an outside air conditioner DOE NOT cost 5-10K – check around! All that is there is the condenser and compressor.

    If it is a heat pump, which it likely is, a new 5 ton outdoor unit would only run about $3K unless it is a self contained then it is about $5K. 3 ton is about average and that is a bit less.

    Being dented does not mean it is not functional and repairable either. Most have the fan in the top which may require replacement and some sheet metal. Worst case is you may also need the coils, but it is easily repairable.

    If you can not prove you case how can you win? Your "housemate" should have been more diligent in your absence.
  3. #3
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    In addition to Rexlan's comments, I'd like to add the signed contract required to begin work will also change your rights. Many roofing contracts I've seen require the homeowner to cover or move to protect palnts, A/C, sheds and other items which surround the home just for such reasons. If you signed the contract, you probably signed away your rights to sue for this particular damage.
  4. #4
    moburkes is offline Senior Member
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    Homeowner's insurance won't pay for damage to the a/c unit, unless that damage was caused by a covered event. Roofing material potentially falling on it is not a covered event.
  5. #5
    ForFun is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rexlan View Post
    No case .... maybe I damaged it when you were not looking. Point is, you will need to prove it to win even though it is apparently pretty obvious.

    Secondly, "my housemate and my neighbor had noticed that the contractors were being negligent and were just chucking stuff off the roof" is a stupid remark, obviously by a person who does not know what they are talking about. How do you remove roofing in a "non-negligent manner"?????? Leave that argument alone.
    I tentatively disagree with this.

    If the housemate saw that the A/C was not damaged after day 1 of work, the neighbor and housemate saw the roofers throw things off the roof haphazardly, and after the work was completed the A/C unit appears to have been damaged by a heavy object falling on it, there is probably enough evidence to infer that the roofers damaged the A/C. That's not to say that the OP would definitely win a lawsuit, but I don't think it's a sure thing that he'd lose.

    Also, obviously it's possible to remove roofing in a non-negligent manner (I'm not sure what you meant by implying otherwise). But while a roofer may need to throw things off a roof, I suspect it would be considered unreasonable for a roofer to throw things willy-nilly all over the yard below with no regard for who or what is below.

    Why is my reasoning flawed? Thx.
  6. #6
    Rexlan is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForFun View Post
    I tentatively disagree with this.

    If the housemate saw that the A/C was not damaged after day 1 of work, the neighbor and housemate saw the roofers throw things off the roof haphazardly, and after the work was completed the A/C unit appears to have been damaged by a heavy object falling on it, there is probably enough evidence to infer that the roofers damaged the A/C. That's not to say that the OP would definitely win a lawsuit, but I don't think it's a sure thing that he'd lose.

    Also, obviously it's possible to remove roofing in a non-negligent manner (I'm not sure what you meant by implying otherwise). But while a roofer may need to throw things off a roof, I suspect it would be considered unreasonable for a roofer to throw things willy-nilly all over the yard below with no regard for who or what is below.

    Why is my reasoning flawed? Thx.
    I agree that if they are willy-nilly about throwing stuff about but then how do you define that? It is just customary to do this and I am certain that they would not do this intentionally. What one perceives as willy-nilly may be normal to a roofer.

    I also think it is pretty obvious what occurred, but not winnable in court. The OP could of course try small claims and that may be a good option.

    I also agree with tranquility .... I just had my roof done and they did have a "waiver". I said no thanks but they did it anyway ... did a good job overall but some of the shrubs took a hit. I think that is just going to happen. I also have two heat pumps but they survived!

    I'm not too sure that the homeowners insurance would not cover this so I would check.
  7. #7
    moburkes is offline Senior Member
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    What on your homeowner's insurance policy would cover this? I've never written a policy that covered this, and I've been writing them for years.
  8. #8
    Rexlan is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by moburkes View Post
    What on your homeowner's insurance policy would cover this? I've never written a policy that covered this, and I've been writing them for years.
    I don't know but it was just a "suggestion" and it cost nothing to ask does it? I think there are differences in underwriter policies from different companies. In this case we apparently have a mysterious occurrence and it may well be covered.

    For example if a tree on someone else’s property falls and hits my fence will the homeowners you sell cover this?

    Mine does now .... the old one did not!
  9. #9
    moburkes is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rexlan View Post
    I don't know but it was just a "suggestion" and it cost nothing to ask does it? I think there are differences in underwriter policies from different companies. In this case we apparently have a mysterious occurrence and it may well be covered.

    For example if a tree on someone else’s property falls and hits my fence will the homeowners you sell cover this?

    Mine does now .... the old one did not!
    Yes.

    But, it does "cost". He will have a claim on his record, that, even if not paid, can increase his rates, and make him unattractive if he shops around.
  10. #10
    Rexlan is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by moburkes View Post
    Yes.

    But, it does "cost". He will have a claim on his record, that, even if not paid, can increase his rates, and make him unattractive if he shops around.
    I don't really think that is true either. It is more of an intimidation tactic than one of practical application. It may apply, however, if you have several claims but if it is true for something like this single event then your insurance company needs to have it's license revoked. That sort of treatment would be known by the market.

    Maybe people shop for insurance but mine is so cheap that I can't imagine wasting the time. They are all about the same on price +/- a few if they are decent companies and not independent brokers shopping off camber markets for their clients which can fluctuate widely.

    I’m not sure you understood the tree thing either. If the neighbors tree fell on my fence MY homeowners will pay for it .... his too, maybe. But mine will. My carrier recently changed their policy for some strange reason, after it happened to me and I had to go to court to get reimbursed by the neighbor!

    State Farm, Allstate and those folks won't pay unless they have changed their policy recently.

    We should not hijack OP's thread either. I am guilty!
  11. #11
    moburkes is offline Senior Member
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    Maybe I was misreading your post. I don't work for a particular insurance company, by the way. However, a company that I did work for was able to tell a prospective no for a claim that was filed but not paid. It was legal.

    Insurance covers named perils such as: theft, fire, hail damage, lightning, ACTS OF NATURE (like yours), etc., but not a ladder or roofing material falling on the a/c unit. Also, the OP hasn't even stated his deductible.


    HIJACK is correct!
  12. #12
    GatorLaw is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttran View Post
    . . . Do I have a case since nobody actually witnessed them damaging the unit?
    Common law rule of Res Ipsa Loquitur "the thing speaks for itself" could be used to create a rebuttable presumption of negligence. You would need to show

    1. The harm would not ordinarily have occurred without someone's negligence
    2. The instrumentality of the harm was under the exclusive control of the defendant at the time of the likely negligent act
    3. The plaintiff did not contribute to the harm by his own negligence.

    Of course, you may have signed away your right to sue in your contract. More information would be needed.
  13. #13
    ForFun is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rexlan View Post
    I agree that if they are willy-nilly about throwing stuff about but then how do you define that? It is just customary to do this and I am certain that they would not do this intentionally. What one perceives as willy-nilly may be normal to a roofer.
    That's something that would have to be answered in court. Just put a couple of independent roofers on the stand and find out what the industry standard is for preventing such accidents. If the defendants didn't comply, then there ya go.
  14. #14
    ttran is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you for all your postings. They have all been very helpful!

    To answer some of the questions...
    1. Yes, I did sign an "Acceptance of Proposal" before the before the job began. This, however did not state that I must waive my rights in regards to any property damage that may occur during the job. This contract only states the type of job that will be done and the payment specifications. It also states that their workers are fully covered by Workman's Compensation Insurance.

    2. My homeowner's deductable is $250 and they do cover damages to the ac unit caused by negligence of others (other than the dwellers of the home). I believe they treat this like a destruction of property done by any random culprit.

    To give an update, I have gotten a few quotes on the unit, and it turns out that I will not have to replace it, and the cost of a repairment will be around $500. This is good news, compared to the expected 5k, should I end up having to pay for it myself.

    I want to ask you all for some advice on a related topic. As per the contract I signed with the roofers, I was to give them half of the money prior to the job, and the other half after the job is completed. I am now withholding the other half of the payment until I find out what my righst are, or until they take responsibility for their negligence. Is it illegal for me to do this?
  15. #15
    moburkes is offline Senior Member
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    They are considering it vandalism, which makes sense. It is something that I hadn't even considered. I apologize to you Rexlan.

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