Construction-related property damage doesn't have to be a result of your own projects: neighbors carrying out renovations, new additions, and/or demolitions can present an incidental threat. Whether you are the owner or manager of your property, it's important to take steps to protect your own legal and financial interests by identifying hazards and working proactively.
The Many Forms of Property Damage
While the most obvious types of construction-related damage might include visible breakage and destruction – for instance, as caused by bricks and other debris falling into your property – the full list goes much deeper. For instance, a neighbor establishing or expanding foundations may employ pile driving, drilling, and excavation techniques. These can cause heavy vibration in the nearby ground (potentially damaging your own foundations, walls, and windows), or may even weaken the surrounding soil and lead to sinkholes in your own property.
Even when contractors perform their jobs reasonably well, incidents can happen. It's smart to remain aware and cautious of any new projects.
Establish Control and Cover Yourself
Be proactive about your situation. Generally, a good first step is to speak with the owner of the property in question and ask to be added to their insurance policy. Inquire, as well, if they would be amenable to a written agreement regarding the reimbursement of potential damages incurred. There's no reason to fear appearing difficult, as this is a routine action that can certainly be done in a friendly and professional manner. Of course, it's good practice to retain the services of a professional attorney like Thomas A. Corletta Attorney at Law here. In some instances, it also may be shrewd to involve an independent engineer and obtain a neutral assessment of the construction plans.
Dealing with Damages
Perhaps you're already dealing with property damage without the safety net of a prior agreement with the builder or owner to fall back upon. Never fear: if the loss is clearly a result of nearby construction activities, it's reasonable to expect that your neighbor will be responsible for damages. Be aware, however, that landowners and contractors may not be liable for harm caused by surface water that has been diverted into your property as a result of shifting land. This is a special case, so it's best to stay wary of this prior to construction and address it appropriately.
Of course, situations and local regulations will vary from case to case, so consult with an attorney in any event.