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Responsibility for jobsite materials

26594 Views 47 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Unregistered
I'm taking a break and building a deck at my own house which has created a situation that is making me think about job site materials.

I just had 2100 ft of Brazilian walnut decking dropped in my driveway, nothing stopping it from walking away but the quality of the neighborhood I guess.

Got me thinking, about having materials dropped in the driveway of a customers house and the liability of who is responsible for them should some of them mysteriously get up and walk away.

Does anybody cover themselves with a waiver? I'm thinking maybe it should be something discussed with the homeowner and have them sign a waiver, letting them know if there is no way to store materials on their site in the garage or somewhere safe that they acknowledge that they are responsible for the materials and replacement of any if they happen disappear. Some of this stuff is expensive and I don't want to replace it.
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Grumpy said:
IMO the materials might be at the job site, but the customer doesn't take delivery until they are installed... because that is what the contract agrees I will do.
I think you hit it on the head there, the contract can dictate the terms, if yours says you own them until installed then there is no question to be asked in regard to the initial post, however if you use a contract that states otherwise then... well I guess that was what the original post was about anyways.

The other thing I learned from all the responses is different trades and types of jobs really have a bearing on the situation. However, the question I presented was pretty specific and is not about all the other conditions other trades or projects bring with them.
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On my construction site, the contractors are responsible for all materials until they are installed. We write it in to their scopes of work. Occasioanlly things come up missing, and we argue about it. Generally, if a whole bunk of plywood comes up missing, we find out it never shipped. If the trade attempted to secure it, and it came up missing anyways, we sometimes split the cost. Sometimes some $ is worth keeping the relationship good. We encourage well planned drops of material to minimize the potential.

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Mike mine doesn't state either but I have a moral obligation to my customer. Unless they specifically do something to promote the theft of my materials, like take something small and valuable and put it on the street, then I don't blame them.

Again It dawned on me that there may be laws that govern this.

I really hate GC scopes of work and agreements. "I idemnify myself from any wrong doing, even on my part, and place all blame and responsibility onto the back of the sub contractor."
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This obviously depends on the situation, the type of service being done and the project. Obviously if we were installing a tile floor and on day two of the job three boxes of tile were missing we are not going to re-charge the customer.

But when we are building a custom home and have $50K worth of cabinets deliverd and secured inside the house. If someone breaks into the house and steals them then the burden of insuring and/or replacing them is on the owner.

How about vandalizm. If some kids come into a project and drag their fingers through wet drywall mud, we carry on and fix it. But if someone breaks in and breaks windows, kicks holes in the wall, damages fixtures or goods the owner needs to have that insured.

If you are a painting contractor painting an occupied home and one evening someone breaks in and vandalizes the home, do you re-paint for free?

I suggest checking with your liability insurance carrier to determine what you are and aren't covered for and find out how to best include a clause that requires the owner to carry insurance which includes a course of construction clause.
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I would disagree with you unregistered - but you kind of covered yourself on the last statement. I require all owners to carry additional coverage with me as an additional insured party. As well as all my subcontractors naming me as an additional insured.
IMO, if I'm building a custom home for someone - it's my responsibility until substantial completion and they take possession. I'm pretty sure that the law sees it that way also.. again unless provisions are made to the contrary in the contract. And even then it may be deemed useless in a court of law in some states.
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O.K. let me clarify that as far as the original question was posed, a contractor needs to take some responsibility for protecting the materials deliverd to a project. The question then is when does the liability shift to the homeowner?

I think that we agree to a point. But I find it hard to belive that a contractor would accept responsibility for the entire project until the day it is finished. I wonder if your insurance company would agree with you. Also there must be a point that the contractor can not be considered liable for damages or loss beyond his control and that the owner should be insured for that possibility.

If you have a home completley framed and an earthquake knocks it down is your insurance going to cover the loss or is the homeowners?

If you have all but the floor covering complete on a home and somebody breaks in and steals appliances or fixtures that you supplied and installed do you really think it is your responsibility to replace them?

Our view is that we are hired to provide, fabricate and install the portions of work as stated in the contract. It is also our responsibility to protect the complete portions from damage by exposure or additional work, but that once a certain portion is completed as stated in the contract, it is the property of the owner.

I have to believe that if you had your decking material delivered and moved it to the back yard, that if it then got stolen it would be the homeowners insurance that would cover the loss, not your insurance. I have even seen homeowner make a claim on their insurance for contractors tools stolen from thier home.
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I see it the same way as if someone walked onto the site and fell into a hole. Who's responsibility is it? It's the contractors. The same thing if someone walks in and steals something. The contractor is responsible to secure the site until substantial completion or TCO when the homeowners "home insurance" policy kicks in.
If you frame the house and an earthquake knocks it over is totally different - that's covered under builder's risk insurance which, as stated earlier, I have the owner carry. Typically, if a construction loan is secured, the mortgage company will require the owner to have it anyway.
I don't think we'll all ever agree on this - but that's alright :)
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Unregistered, please register. I think that your input would be welcome on this board.
I look forward to hearing from you. Steve
I think most builders have the owner carry builders risk because the premiums are much lower for the owner.

And what teetor said.
There are a lot of good answers here but the problem is that everybody is looking at it from the prospective of the work they do and not the original scenario. As long as we keep jumping all around to new builds, remodels and other types of work the answers will always be different.

a contractor needs to take some responsibility for protecting the materials deliverd to a project. The question then is when does the liability shift to the homeowner?

Totally agree.

I see it the same way as if someone walked onto the site and fell into a hole. Who's responsibility is it? It's the contractors.

True also.

if you had your decking material delivered and moved it to the back yard, that if it then got stolen it would be the homeowners insurance that would cover the loss,


That is the point, as a contractor I have to take steps to secure the material. I just can't throw it on the lawn and say it's your baby now. But when you are counting on the homeowner's built in security, such as inside a garage or in a fenced back yard to help protect the material you still better get something in writing that says the homeowner is now responsible because when push comes to shove the homeowner is going to do everything possible to try to get out of paying for it.

You deliver $10,000 worth of cabinets to a remodel job and make arrangements with the homeowner to store them securely out of the way in a corner of the garage. You discuss with him that they need to be kept safe and secure, he assures you that they will be safe in the garage. 3 weeks later you come back to start the job and you discover that 2 are missing. He tells you "Oh yeah, my daughter left the garage door open over night a few times last week."

Who's going to pay for the replacements? It is going to come down to who signed what.

Unless the homeowner wants to pay additional fees for a locked container or a 24 hour security gaurd how else can you protect yourself from theft or homeowners neglect?
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I will get to registering soon, thanks for the welcome.

I think we may actually agree on this but are all looking at it from a different point of view that fits our own experiences. I am fortunate to have never had to make a claim in the 15+ years I have been building.

Belive me, if someone walks onto the job and fall into a hole, you can bet that BOTH the contractor and the OWNER are going to have liability issues to deal with.

The way I look at it is that the owner is hiring us to do work on his property, it is my responsibility to execute the work in a safe and secure manner, however there are certain risks involved and the owner needs to accept those risks, especially when a loss is caused by something out of my control.

Now off to to register.
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Teetor said: if you had your decking material delivered and moved it to the back yard, that if it then got stolen it would be the homeowners insurance that would cover the loss,


I disagree!!! It's the contractor's material until it's installed. Then it becomes the building owners... unless you have an agreement otherwise. To me it's that cut and dry. Bundle of shingles on the ground is mine. Bundle of shingles nailed to the roof is yours.
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Ahh...but what if you have shingles nailed to the half the roof, the wind picks up and strips the roof for you. Are you going to buy and re-install 1/2 the roof? On a house, maybe.

Now what if you get lucky and pick up some Million dollar roofing job on some condo complex, you sub out or piece work installers and the same thing happens, you have a $500K loss due to mother nature. You know your supplier isn't going to give you free material and your piece workers are going to re-install for can't swallow $500K just to make the client you are forced into an insurance claim.

What if you have been paid 50% of the contract because you are 50% complete? When does the liability fall on the owner.

and back to the original question..if I have lumber delivered, then move it to the back yard and it gets stolen, you can bet that the owner is going to be making a claim on his insurance or at least attempting it before I explore the options with my insurance.
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Yes unregistered it means I will replace the roof under certian conditions. The exclusions would be if the winds were exceeding the manufacturer's ratings. It's my fault for not protecting the shingles before they could set. I give a warranty that I stand behind. If there was a tornado or hurricane then no I wouldn't, unless their insurance paid me.

The laibility in a case of blow offs, which IS NOT THEFT so we are talking apples and oranges again, is dictated by my written service guarantee. The term varies form job to job but usually lasts 10 years. If one shingle blows away in the wind in 30 mph wind I fix it no questions asked. If the shingles begin to fail for no reason the manufacturer gets involved but this is now a warranty issue youa re discussing and NOT a theft issue.

Back to the original question... If I have shingles in the front of someones house and they get stolen I am going to tell my customer to keep an eye out then call my supplier and order more... and guess what? My customer won't ever see an extra charge on their invoice and I will never ask them for a dime! It's not theirs until I install it. It's not their fault it got stolen, unless they actually took it. That's my moral stance on the subject.
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I think that I wou........

oh...never mind.....
... in regards to the different scenarios / experiences of the posts. That's why I've been trying to point the differences between a remodel and new construction. Two totally different animals as far as security of site, materials, tools, and the public goes.
Hatchet I agree.

Grumpy - I think your company would change it's policies if you were in a business where (1) your materials were more desirable. Roofing shingles are pretty un-sexy and not real high on the list of thieves. (2) Your materials were a larger percentage of the project cost. - You bill out a $6000 roof and you have $900 worth of shingles is not the same as doing a $20,000 kitchen and having $15,000 worth of cabinets.

This can go on and on, but it all comes back to what I said. Every trade is going to be different based on what they are installing, ratio of the percentage of the materials to the total project cost, new or remodel. Every contractor has to make the call based on risk, and all of the above. Morals don't enter into it once you are in a situation where you have to take the profits from the next 6 months of jobs to pay for one stupid mistake.
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Mike you may be right, but this is the business I am in and I can only speak on my own experiences. I will say that I grew up in a big city and have had $5 toys stolen from me as a child, right out of my front yard, as I stopped playing to take a break and get a drink of Cool-aid. I learned early on never leave $15,000 anywhere unsecured. If that was the case I'd have figured a mini-storage type container into my proposal and keep the materials in that.

I have done that on occasion actually... but not for our shingles, for our ladders and scaffolds, breaks etc...
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Sometimes I will do business with contractors, and I learned early on that they will want to store their flooring in my warehouse untill they are ready. I didn't blame them, it was safer and kept it off the job site.
Now I tell them there is a storage fee over 60 days, or they can rent a container to sit on the site for quick access.

They pay the fee.....

I am sure they add this into their overall estimate, and if something happens to the flooring in our warehouse, insurance will cover it.
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