Spring is not only a time for flying arrows for lovers; it’s also a time for flying arrows for homeowners. The first bit of warm weather and homeowners decide it’s time to do that project they didn’t get to in the fall and put off all winter. With that sense of overdue urgency, homeowners do tend to hire the first contractor with an open schedule but the next thing they know, they’re reaching for aspirin when the roof caves in.
Considering how much money we pay for our homes, we are surprisingly uneducated when it comes to hiring contractors for home repairs and improvements. We’re not sure if the state licenses contractors. We don’t know if they are required to carry insurance and, if so, what type and whether we need to be listed as an additional insured. We’re not sufficiently nosey to find out whether the employees are W-2 wage earners, having been with the company for a period of years. Generally, we hear one referral or we see “and sons” and hope for the best.
So it’s no surprise that the most common lawsuit in which the average person participates is against a contractor. The work of the attorney in these cases often starts with trying to figure out the unwritten terms of engagement. There may have been a written estimate, but no contract. The payment may have been made in cash to get a discount. The contractor may claim to have no assets beyond his truck and tools, and, anyway, he did what was agreed he would do.
A construction expert witness can help both the homeowner and the attorney to prepare and present the case. This expert witness is likely conversant in home repairs, building codes, industry standards, manufacturer’s instructions, safety requirements, and insurance and licensing requirements. If the expert witness is local, he may also be able to offer reputation testimony or have knowledge of other cases in which the contractor was sued and whether he has operated under other business names.
Another often over looked aspect of a contractor lawsuit is the permits required to engage in the repair, remodeling, or new construction. Just because no one seems to like to deal with the building inspector doesn’t excuse those requirements. It’s a key area to obtain advice from an expert with hands-on experience.
Depending on the nature and extent of the damage, you may require an expert witness who is a licensed contractor, structural engineer or architect.
By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law