DEAR WALDMANS: I have been in the storage business for almost three years and there have been many situations during this time that have left me quite baffled. This last one though, gave me a major headache. I had a roof leak in 15 of my units, four of which were rented and had tenants' goods in them. After taking care of moving the tenants to a nice high-and-dry unit, I knew I had a major problem with the roof.
Having never had any construction problems since I purchased the facility, finding a professional roofer that would do a good job was new to me. I opened up the phone book and found several roofers that said they were bonded and licensed. I figured they had to be competent since they had placed such a large ad in the Yellow Pages. After calling several of the roofers listed, the one I picked told me that he had been in the business for more than 20 years and indicated he could give me a good deal because he was doing another job near my facility. I made an appointment and met with him the next day. He told me I needed to replace the roof with a rubber one because my roof was so flat. A rubber roof was certainly a new type of roof to me, but he assured me that my problems would be solved. He required half of the money before he started and the balance of the project when he finished. I had the work done the following week and it looked like a good job. What did I know? I knew nothing about roofing or what it was supposed to look like. I just wanted it to stop the leaking problem. Two months later we had a downpour that lasted for several days. Much to my surprise, the same roof leaked again, only this time it was twice as much as before. I immediately called the roofer back, and he told me it was probably just a small problem. He and his men showed up and worked on the roof for two days. The second day, one of the guys fell from the ladder and broke his arm. I was very upset, but figured he had his own insurance. Wrong. I was served with a lawsuit from the guy and he wanted me to cover his hospital bills and time out of work.
I couldn't believe this was happening to me. After the accident, I discovered that the
roofer did not have any insurance and as for their license, it had lapsed. My roof still
leaks, I am involved in a lawsuit and 15 of the units can't be rented. What a major
headache this turned out to be. What did I do wrong to deserve all of this grief?
--Major Headache in Milford
DEAR MAJOR HEADACHE: This will only have to happen to you once, now you that know how easy it is to get into trouble. First, just because people state they are licensed, does not mean they know what they are doing. You should check with your building officials to find out what is required to be a contractor. "Bonded" is another good word that makes people feel safe, but it doesn't take a lot to be bonded either. Determine where the company is located. Do they really have a building or do they work out of their home? Not to say companies working out of their home are not reliable, but you need to establish company credibility. Do they have an address where you can reach them if you need to?
Check to see if they are covered by insurance. So many people are willing to take what people say at their word. Unfortunately, you cannot always believe what everyone tells you, especially when you have no clue as to what they are talking about. It really puts you at a disadvantage when you don't understand what people are telling you.
Always get references from any contractor you hire. Before any work starts, you should get a copy of the contractor's insurance policies (workers' compensation and liability policy) and a written bill along with a copy of the contractor's warranty. Hiring large companies that have solid references is always a good choice. Sometimes, it's better to pay more for quality work.
It is quite evident that you have every reason to have a major headache. We wish you luck with your lawsuit and the roof.
A father-daughter team, the Waldmans are self-storage owners/operators and attorneys.
In addition, Ms. Waldman holds a master's degree in labor and employment law from
Georgetown University. The Waldmans are co-authors of the industry's leading series of
books on self-storage operations: Getting Started, Forms, Policies & Procedures and
South Carolina Tools. Another creation of Ask The Waldmans are their colorful posters
designed exclusively for the self-storage industry. Comments and questions for ASK THE
WALDMANS may be sent to: The Waldmans, P.O. Box 21416, Charleston, SC 29413.
Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.