Many homeowners are surprised to learn, sometimes too late, the possible liabilities associated with hiring a lawn care professional or any contractor. Contractors have the right to sue a homeowner to cover the cost of injuries resulting from an incident on a homeowner’s property. For example, a homeowner hires a lawn cutter in Gallatin, Tn, to mow the lawn and trim the shrubs. The lawn care pro suffers a broken ankle because he stepped in a hole while mowing the lawn. Could the homeowner be liable?
The answer to that question is, “Yes!”—the homeowner could be held accountable for any injuries that have occurred on the property. Many homeowners may feel the need to save a few bucks and let the kid in the neighborhood mow the lawn or allow the guy that was recommended by a friend to clean the gutters. By doing this, a homeowner can jeopardize his/her property and possibly bring personal liability into a lawsuit. To prevent a disaster like this from happening, below are a few tips that a homeowner should keep in mind before hiring any home improvement professional.
Make sure the proper homeowner’s insurance coverage is in place—Having proper insurance can certainly reduce the chances of a homeowner being personally accountable for injuries. Liability homeowner’s insurance helps protect assets and cover defense costs in the event of a lawsuit due to injuries on a property. Most standard homeowner insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of coverage, and more is available if one feels the need to be more protected. Since these policies vary by state and also vary by insurance carrier, double checking with the insurance provider to confirm that proper policies are in place for maximum protection is advisable.
Only hire true professionals—Hiring an unlicensed contractor can expose homeowners to major liability; therefore, making sure the professional being hired is licensed and insured is almost mandatory. Some homeowner insurance policies will exclude coverage for injury claims if the homeowner hires a company that did not have the proper workers’ compensation and liability insurance. Professional home improvement companies will always maintain proper insurance to protect a homeowner if and when an incident does occur. Requiring any and all hired independent contractors to verify and present all certificates of insurance to confirm proper insurance coverage protects the homeowner.
Define the role of the hired help—Figuring out if the hired party is classified as an employee or as an independent contractor can determine whether or not a homeowner is liable for any injury that occurs on the property. This comes down to how much control the homeowner has over the worker. Hiring a lawn maintenance crew in Kannapolis, North Carolina, that has his/her own equipment and performs yard work for other homeowners would be considered an independent contractor, and the liability of any injury would likely fall on the shoulders of the landscaping pro. On the other hand, if a homeowner hires an individual to clean a home, gives instructions on how to perform the task, and provides the supplies and tools needed to complete the project, the hired person would be considered an employee, and any costs associated with injury would most likely be borne by the homeowner. Defining these working relationship parameters before entering into any agreement will ensure the homeowner is aware of any and all liabilities.
When hiring anyone to perform work in or around a home, homeowners are opening themselves up to legal headaches if a provider gets injured on the property. That is why it is so important that the homeowner is covered by the proper insurance and is also cognizant of whom they hire to perform the work. Putting all of these precautions in place will not guarantee the absence of injury but will certainly reduce the chances of being unprotected if something does go wrong.