skip to Main Content

Legal Liabilities for Building Owners and Managers: the 6 Most Important Questions to Ask of a Commercial Roofing Contractor

Unfortunately, society has become more and more litigious. This fact is never more obvious than with commercial roofing projects and commercial building owners. Because of the potential for liability, DK Haney Roofing has a full-time, in-house counsel who helps the company and its customers navigate the legal landmines surrounding roofing contracting. His name is John Forbes and his insights and diligence are put to the test on a daily basis.

Six Questions a Building Owner or Manager Should Ask a Contractor

 Managing the roof maintenance is a very complicated issue for every building manager.  Unfortunately, there are no “manuals” for maintenance and repair for a roof, despite the fact that these issues can become extremely expensive to deal with. When it comes time to find a reputable roofing contractor to repair or replace a roof, DK Haney’s Forbes suggests six questions a building manager should ask.

#1 What is the experience of the roofing contractor?

 “It is critical for a building manager to research the relevant experience of any contractor – especially a roofing contractor,” Forbes said. “By relevant, I mean what type of commercial roofing projects has the company completed. Nobody wants to be or should be a guinea pig!

“With DK Haney Roofing, we have extensive roofing experience with commercial buildings, institutions such as prisons, schools and public buildings, retail and many other categories. We are proud of our experience with each of these entities and will always offer to provide references from previous clients.”

#2 Does the contractor have adequately trained crews?  

“In many cases, a foreman for a commercial roofing company will have experience and training, but the crew – the guys doing the work upon the roof – has little or no training,” Forbes said. “This is dangerous for the crew and exposes the building owner to serious liability. It should be standard procedure for a building manager to inquire about the contractor’s training policy for all crew members.

“Every employee of DK Haney Roofing – from managers to the newest employee – is trained and certified before they set foot on any client property. A building manager who is interviewing potential roofing contractors would be wise to ask about their employee training, how often this occurs and documentation that is available to prove this.”

#3 What is the financial condition of the contractor?

 “Repair or replacement of a commercial roof can be an expensive budget item for a building owner,” Forbes said. “Concurrently, the materials and human resources necessary to complete a job are also expensive for contractors. If the contractor lacks the capital needed to pay employees and purchase materials and this causes delays in the completion of the job, this can become a crisis. Because of this, it is fair and even advisable for a building owner or manager to ask for and verify the financial condition of any roofing contractor. Credit checks should be a part of every contractor’s evaluation.

“DK Haney Roofing has been in business for more than 30 years and enjoys excellent credit ratings and financial stability.”

#4 What is the safety record of the roofing contractor?

“Because we want our employees to get home safely to their families every night, safety is very important to DK Haney Roofing,” he said. “However, the safety record of a roofing contractor transcends the human issue. It is a serious business concern for a building owner/manager.

“Quite simply, if someone is hurt on a job site, bad things can happen to a building owner. It could mean costly delays caused by safety investigations or other legal liabilities. For this reason, it is critical that a contractor has regularly scheduled safety training for every employee and that this is documented for presentation to a potential client.

“DK Haney averages less than one injury situation each year and because this is well below the industry average, we are very proud of this record.”

#5 What type of material is the contractor using? 

“Unfortunately, less reputable roofing contractors will sometimes use shoddy materials,” Forbes said. “While this increases their profit on jobs, if the materials are not of the highest quality, the roof will not last as long. For the building owner, this will mean a shortened lifespan of the new roof and additional expense for re-roofing before planned. A very low bid from a contractor may suggest cheap materials. It is incumbent on the building manager to ask what roofing materials will be used on the job and what their American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) rating is. “At DK Haney, we have several high-quality material options.”

#6 Does the contractor have adequate insurance?

“If there is a problem on a roofing job site – injuries to the contractor’s employees or tenants, damage to the building or adjacent buildings – and the contractor does not have adequate liability insurance, the building owner can be held liable for any damages. This can be an unmitigated nightmare for the owner. A building manager should always insist on seeing the contractor’s insurance policy. DK Haney carries a $5-million umbrella insurance policy on every project undertaken.

“As a former plaintiff’s attorney, I know how damaging lawsuits can be. When something goes wrong, the attorney for the injured parties prepares to sue anyone who is associated with the building – contractors and building owners are at the top of the list. Without adequate liability insurance, accidents can cost a building owner millions of dollars.”

After Asking These 6 Questions, Get a Contract

“Having a valid contract, which expresses the responsibilities and agreements of all parties, is the single most important issue I deal with daily,” Forbes said. “Basically, this agreement represents that which is expected from the building’s owner or management, the roofing contractor and any subcontractors. Any issue that is overlooked and not included in the contract is not legally enforceable and therefore leaves all parties to the agreement vulnerable.

“There are at least two critical aspects of a roofing contractor work contract:

  • Completion date for finishing the projects
  • Minimum liability insurance clause

“Most business people would be surprised to learn how many building owners and roofing contractors begin a project without a valid contract. This is a recipe for disaster for all parties involved.”

Back To Top