Contractor liability regarding pre-existing damage

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Posted by: from Winnipeg
12/15/2015 at 11:41:59 AM

Long storey short, I am contractor on site for a house reno. Upon taking down the basement walls (drywall/paneling) the foundation shows major problems. The client agreed in contract to sign off on any work before boarding or new construction is to start. A professional has assessed, it's a major problem and needs to be addressed fast. The owner wants me the contractor to just board over without repairing it. I do not want to and told him only way is if he signs a document acknowledging the damage and allowing me to cover the problem.

Is there any recourse on my end if he signs or doesn't sign? For the record he does NOT want to sign and just wants me to cover it to make a fast sell. Any opinions?

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B. Vince from BVM Contracting in Toronto
Date/Time12/15/2015 at 1:05:44 PM

Get the report from the "professional" for your records. If this problem isn't addressed, you and the seller can await on being sued by the new homeowners and you had better carry liability insurance. But it sounds like the work is being done without permits?

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Dave in Winnipeg
Date/Time12/15/2015 at 2:05:12 PM

Yes the owner is wanting the cheapest fix. I want to get a contract signed and notarized stating he is aware of the damage and had me cover regardless. I hope that should be enough on my end?

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Date/Time12/15/2015 at 2:05:45 PM

Quick answer.....walk on it....don't get involved. Its a case of blatant dishonesty to the next owner. Or, describe what exactly is wrong. I can't comment unless I get a description of the problem. The solution might be worthwhile.

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Dave in Winnipeg
Date/Time12/15/2015 at 2:08:24 PM

The owner doesn't want to spend the money to get foundation fixed but he wants me to board over top of it and I don't feel comfortable with that. He said he might do half of what is needed to fix the problem with the foundation but I need him to sign off staying up there is problems and he wants me to board regardless of the problem. Would that be enough to keep me safe on my side of things?

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Date/Time12/15/2015 at 2:29:08 PM

Personally, I would not get involved in any of this "cover up". Do you really need work bad enough to chance tarnishing your name, let alone your peace of mind. You sound honest, keep it that way.

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Dave in Winnipeg
Date/Time12/15/2015 at 2:31:52 PM

If I take my name off the boarding and let them hire someone else for that would I be alright to continue with the rest of the reno work without any liability on that end? It's a larger contract and I don't want to bail on the whole project.

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Date/Time12/15/2015 at 2:52:56 PM

First, you take pictures of everything.

Then you leave your smart phone on movie mode, put it in your pocket and ask him or her one more time if they wish the repairs that should be completed to be done.

And again strongly suggest they do so. If they say no, your covered. Then walk away. I would have nothing to do with it.

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Date/Time12/15/2015 at 3:15:44 PM

You are not liable if the customer signs a waiver releasing you of any liability. You are merely the contractor working on behalf of the client. Your job is not to (or be expected) make moral decisions for the client. You run a very small risk even if the client does not sign any waiver for this reason. However, it is highly advisable to do so.

Walking on a project is never a good idea as you are doing this to make money, not play robin hood.


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Date/Time12/15/2015 at 4:07:02 PM

Send an email asking them to confirm what they wish to do with the issue and asking them to sign the waiver. It sounds like they would have no issue in blaming you if the s**t hits the fan.

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Date/Time12/15/2015 at 5:57:23 PM

First, were permits taken out for the renovation? If so, an inspector has to view areas before providing his/her approval. If the permits were taken out, you cannot board/drywall the area until it is inspected ... and the area must meet code. If the permits were noty taken out,be careful! This is the basement but there may be other issues to follow. I would, at the very least, put together an email stating your concern about the foundation and the request to cover it. Ask for a reply so that you have something in print. The contract would be better ... or supplement the email. Legally, I don't believe you can be at fault as "full disclosure" on selling a property falls on the seller.

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Date/Time12/16/2015 at 2:44:52 PM

I would NOT cover up till he signs the document and in this case I would even take a picture and make my self clear from the conspiracy.

Think about the future buyer, the Inspector

(from new buyers side) and the sellers Real estate involved - It is the sellers obligation to DISCLOSE of ANY existing situation that he is aware of. When it is caught then all trouble will start.

Why would you become the part of the crime. Safe guard and protect your self from future problems.

Hope that helps.

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