qian_weng

appliances stolen from construction site

J w
last month

We got all appliances delivered on Monday morning and everything stolen over night with a broken window on the second floor... it’s nearly 30k loss including a 700lb subzero fridge. Any advice on what we could do? We don’t have cameras on the site. Neighbor’s camera didn’t capture anything. Police told us it’s unlikely we can find our things back. We have to buy another set and this will definitely drag the construction... it looks kind of obvious to me the delivery person should be the suspect but I can’t prove anything.

Is it gc’s responsibility for such loss? Any advice on how to reduce the loss? Thanks!

Comments (41)

  • JJ
    last month

    New construction? What does the contract say? We added course of construction insurance, but I think the GC is responsible for this depending on the contract. Good luck. I would say inside job for sure.

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  • Olychick
    last month

    Did you purchase or did the gc? If you purchased with a credit card, you might have purchase insurance through your cc company. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-benefits/purchase-protection-credit-cards-cover-belongings/

  • J w
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks! It’s a new construction. Our contract didn’t specify anything about theft at the site. GC hasn’t responded to us about the insurance part yet. Hopefully he has insurance and is willing to cover it. We paid the appliances almost a year back so we won’t be able to claim anything from credit card (it’s 90 days on visa). A lesson for all others going to build their home, we should pay more attention to insurance before build... It is definitely inside but don’t feel there is any chance getting the things back.

  • recordaras
    last month

    Wow I’m so sorry! What on earth are they even going to do with a stolen SZ fridge? I can’t imagine there is any kind of resale market for those? In any case I hope whoever did that drops all 700lbs on his foot and that the buyer has nothing but $$$ service calls.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    last month

    Sorry for your experience. Job site theft happens. On most job sites there are lots of people who can see what is being delivered on any given day so lots of suspects. If you have access to model nos and serial nos. you might communicate with the manufacturer and flag anyone seeking service on one of the matching serial no. appliances in the future (if they're SubZero you can bet on some service.)


    Builder's risk insurance is really a misnomer; it protects clients. We ask our clients to purchase their own builder's risk insurance policy since they can usually purchase it less expensively---sometimes as an add-on to their homeowner's insurance policy on their existing home--and to the extent that it protects them. As the builder, we carry general liability and workers' compensation insurance.

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor
    last month

    Same as @Charles Ross Homes. Property owner carries property/fire/theft insurance.

  • devonfield
    last month

    That is just terrible. Start scanning second hand websites for them, I bet they will be on a craigslist type site in short order.

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    The G.C. is almost always responsible for taking reasonable steps to secure the jobsite. It would be unusual that a jobsite theft was the homeowners' responsibility. If the G.C. was aware of the delivery and didn't object then s/he is likely going to be seen as the responsible party.

    Insurance protects the owners' interest, it does not remove the responsibility from the G.C. I don't understand a G.C. asking the owners to carry theft insurance as it doesn't protect the G.C. then. However, I doubt that an insurance company is going to bother subrogating a $30,000 theft, but they certainly could. If the builder were to get the policy they can't be held responsible as it was their loss that was being insured against, but that is neither here nor there. This is only true for thefts and possibly attractive nuisance claims, all other weather/fire/etc. would not have the same neglect of duty problem.

    So, the OP likely now has two separate questions.

    (1) Who should pay? and (2) How do you get them to pay?

    The first question is relatively easy compared to the second question. If you have insurance, it should pay, if not then I would consider consulting an attorney but usually a significant theft will be seen a neglect of established duty claim against the G.C. Having said that, the problem is trying to get the G.C. to pay $30,000 without spending more than $30,000 in the process, which is a lot easier said than done.

    You really should talk to an attorney sooner rather than later. You want to buy the appliances under protest rather than accepting it is your responsibility to do so. This might simply be an email noting that you are buying the appliances again in order to expedite the process but would like to know the G.C.'s plan to keep this order from being stolen.

  • sholaesq
    last month

    Hope you had a good builder‘s risk insurance policy.

  • BT
    last month

    The G.C. is almost always responsible for taking reasonable steps to secure the jobsite.


    True, if GC would have left the doors open - YES, however when window is broken ... I think courts will not agree with you. Builder is not negligible here. GC will not be required to install metal bars on windows.


    The devil is in the policy and details.

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    True, if GC would have left the doors open - YES, however when window is broken ... I think courts will not agree with you. Builder is not negligible here. GC will not be required to install metal bars on windows.

    Well the courts do agree with me. Just FYI, if the locked windows and doors themselves are stolen after they have been installed it is the contractor's responsibility and the courts in every state agree with me. The problem is sufficiency and reasonable foreseeability. The contractor has a duty to sufficiently protect from reasonably foreseeable events.

    Nationally, break-ins occur in 1 in 30 jobsites. Is it reasonable to believe your job could be broken into with $30,000 of appliances sitting there? The answer to that question in all 50 states is... Definitely! Is locking a door sufficient protection against theft? Nope. Why? Because it happens despite locked doors in about 1 in 30 jobsites.

    If the contractor installed a fence, security cameras, a security system, locked the doors, the appliances were not left visible from the street, it would still be a tough case for the contractor to win but at least then he has a shot.

    ----

    In many ways torts are pretty simple, the fault usually lies with the party with a duty who was in the best position to prevent the damage. It is rare that a homeowner will be in a better position to be aware of and prevent a theft. So the risk of loss is going to lean towards contractor by default.

    Builder's risk insurance is really a misnomer; it protects clients.

    It is called builder's risk because it protects the insurable interest of owners from risks that the builder takes. Some of those are arguably not really builder risks, such as extreme weather, but that is the idea behind the name. The idea being that a builder can take risks to complete the project such as starting projects in imperfect times or leaving a project in various stages of partial completion without having the owners bear any losses to their insurable interest.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    last month

    What constitutes "reasonable protection" requires some context.


    For what it's worth, we had a Bonus Room air handler stolen from a client's (locked) home under construction the day after it was installed. The home was being constructed in a master-planned community which wasn't gated, but had 24/7 roving security and had a good number of completed and occupied homes. The client's builders risk insurance carrier paid for the replacement air handler. If I recall correctly, the insurance carrier covered the replacement cost because the unit was bolted in place, but would not have covered it had it been simply delivered and staged in the home awaiting installation.

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    What constitutes "reasonable protection" requires some context.

    It really doesn't though... just so we are on the same page, what insurance covers and what it does not cover is immaterial to who is responsible for damages. Insurance exists to protect an insurable interest and payment is disconnected from fault or legal responsibility.

    A contractor has two major hurdles to overcome in construction in order to not be held responsible. The first is that the contractor has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent damage that is foreseeable. Reasonable steps, or reasonable protection, are the steps that would normally mitigate that type of damage with costs commiserate with the protection they give. Reasonableness usually comes down to cost. It is unreasonable to spend $1,000 to protect $1,200 worth of stuff. It is not unreasonable to spend a $1,000 to protect $50,000 worth of stuff. Locking doors and windows doesn't mitigate break-in damage. We have discussed this already and I understand it isn't pleasant but that is just the way the cookie crumbles.

    The other hurdle is control. Let's suppose that the contractor did everything right and it still got stolen, s/he will still have a tough time making the owner pay because the contractor had control. If you lend your car to a neighbor and it gets stolen, your neighbor is responsible. If your insurance covers theft, then it will pay because insurance protects you from loss. However, if your insurance didn't cover theft, your neighbor would be responsible regardless of any measures he took to secure the car. Even if he locked the car in Fort Knox he would be responsible. Now control on job sites is a bit more nuanced, but not by much. Generally, a contractor has control of the jobsite.

    I understand this is not the contractor's fault, but it also isn't the homeowner's fault. A G.C. could try to disclaim it in his contract and that would certainly complicate things, but you can't disclaim negligence. So he would still have to prove he took reasonable steps to secure the appliances or be negligent. If the G.C. required the owner to carry insurance and the owner didn't he could probably get off the hook.

    ----

    The law is always nuanced and so a bit unpredictable in general terms. I will also freely admit that I am filling in the unknowns based on general experiences and the specifics could differ. However, in this case, the law isn't the real problem. Having legal precedent on your side is the easy part, turning that into a $30,000 check from your contractor is the heavy lift. However, you might get some amount back by consulting with an attorney. While winning cases can be pretty expensive, a favorable settlement can be pretty inexpensive and each party paying half is a lot better than the OP paying the whole $30,000.

  • just_janni
    last month

    Mostly just wanted to say I am sorry that you are going through this, and if it helps with cashflow - I have had really good experiences with LQD out of New Jersey buying appliances - including a 36" stainless all fridge, shipped to NC.


    Hang in there - and this is EXACTLY why contractors have insurance.

  • J w
    Original Author
    15 days ago

    Thanks all for replying. We just heard back from our gc that his insurance won’t cover this as this is not property damage caused by them. We are worried that negotiating with the gc will have a bad impact on the remaining work. He still need to help us finish the house.

    On the other hand, we are quiet disappointed seeing his indifferent attitude, not even a sorry about what happened. He has been trying to avoid us since this happened, we called him many time asking him to submit a claim. He gave us a case number finally, but then told us the insurance company said no.

    He asked us to talk to his insurance directly. Should we talk to his insurance? Or skip that and talk to an attorney?

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    15 days ago

    J w:


    You got ripped off. It sucks, however, this doesn't appear to be your GC's fault. You can rattle his insurance company's cage a bit, but I wouldn't let this affect your relationship with your GC.


    Life isn't fair. Move on please.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    15 days ago

    Your builder's comment about the loss not due to property damage caused by him leads me to believe a claim was submitted under general liability insurance-- which I wouldn't expect to cover a loss due to theft. However, your builder's risk insurance policy may cover it. Check with whatever agent provided the builder's risk policy. If it doesn't, then Joseph Corlett's advice above would be my recommendation, too.

  • Celadon
    14 days ago

    Which party took out the builders risk? That’s whose insurance has a claim,

  • bry911
    14 days ago

    He asked us to talk to his insurance directly. Should we talk to his insurance? Or skip that and talk to an attorney?

    You should speak to an attorney first.

    We are worried that negotiating with the gc will have a bad impact on the remaining work. He still need to help us finish the house.

    You can protect the relationship while the work continues and dispute this later. Buy the appliances without any admission to the G.C. about responsibility and then deal with that at the end of the contract. You can simply note, "In the interest of expediency I have purchased the appliances again, hopefully we can reach some settlement with your insurance company."

    Once your home is finished you can address the issue again.

    I would personally spend $50 - $200 on some battery operated GPS tracking devices before repurchasing the appliances. You can sell them on ebay when you are done and the final cost will be little to nothing and might save you $30,000.

  • bry911
    14 days ago

    You got ripped off. It sucks, however, this doesn't appear to be your GC's fault. You can rattle his insurance company's cage a bit, but I wouldn't let this affect your relationship with your GC.

    Life isn't fair. Move on please.

    You got ripped off. It sucks, however, this doesn't appear to be your client's fault. You can rattle your insurance company's cage a bit, but I wouldn't let this affect your relationship with your client.

    Life isn't fair. Move on please.

    ----

    And there you have the problem...

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor
    14 days ago

    "we paid for" and "we had delivered" may really define things if you also own the property where you have hired the GC to build. How & if it was transferred to the GCs responsibility is the question.






  • chispa
    14 days ago

    We did a big remodel and the appliances were only brought in when everything was finished. They delivered and installed the appliances the same day. A lot harder to steal appliances that have been fully installed. They were Wolf and SZ and the appliance shop coordinated the same day installation with the factory certified installers.


    A house about 1/2 mile from us had their appliances delivered and placed in the garage. They were also stolen that night.

  • strategery
    14 days ago

    The question is who should have, and who actually has insurance.

  • Celadon
    14 days ago
    last modified: 14 days ago

    If this is your property, and you hired the GC to build, then you’re the one that should have the builders risk policy. And you file with your insurance.


    If the builder owns the property and is building the house to sell to you at closing, then his builders risk is the one to file with.


    You cannot tell me that neither one of you carries builders risk here!

  • J w
    Original Author
    13 days ago

    We own the property and we hired the gc to rebuild. We had no clue about builder risk insurance as home owner who thought everything would be taken care by a licensed gc. Seems most gcs have builder risk insurance, but our gc doesn’t given his reaction so far.

    Yes we scheduled the delivery dates based on gc’s schedule, rescheduled three times in order to fit his schedule and specifically asked for morning delivery so he could install those on the delivery date. We were concerned abt the safety but our gc told us it should be okay as long as the property is locked because fridge is too heavy. On the delivery date we called gc and directly contacted his plumber three times asking where they are. If gc sent his crew over as he promised, we would have most parts installed but they all came the next day morning instead.

    Now we are at the end of construction, does it still make sense to buy builder risk insurance for the last month? We now put battery operated temp cameras around the house ourselves. Without electricity and internet, these are temporary cameras not linked to anywhere but hopefully can scare the thief away. We also ask for separate deliveries and make sure gc do some partial delivery on them upon receiving. Not sure how to tag gps to appliances but those sound like interesting ideas.

    Looks like a really simple investigation with less than 5 ppl seeing the appliances are sent in the house (delivery guy+ppl working in the yard on the delivery day), unfortunately there is nothing police can do...

  • bry911
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    First, you should call an insurance company and ask them. Because you have already had appliances stolen they may not cover it in a new policy.

    Next, given what you wrote... you need to see an attorney and the faster you see an attorney the better off you are.

    Typically, there is gray area in these situations and cases like this pivot significantly on the actions of each party. One party may inadvertently do something that increases their exposure tremendously. Given your above post, the G.C. accepted responsibility for the security of the appliances and would end up on the hook for them. However, you need to get what you just wrote in writing from him and you might need to be a little subtle in getting it.

    If you ask him to write all that in a written statement then he is probably not going to do it. Make a list of all the steps to ensure the appliances were secure last time and ask him what additional steps you can take this time. Specifically, find a subtle way to include the bit about "it should be okay as long as the property is locked because fridge is too heavy." That is your winner right there.

    ---

    Having said all that, remember your goal is to reduce your cost not increase everyone's. You really want your G.C. to absorb some of the loss without too much fight, which is the real problem.

  • strategery
    13 days ago

    @J w, "as home owner who thought everything would be taken care by a licensed gc"


    Sigh.

    Not sure what is typical as we have only done this once ourselves, but we bought a lot and hired a custom builder. The contract stated that the builder was required to have insurance and we viewed the policy details. No surprises ensued.

    I'm curious what is typical for other custom builds.

  • D B
    13 days ago

    I always purchase a BR policy for the projects I'm working on. I've never had a theft claim, but have had weather claims. On these projects I am the GC and the client is the homeowner. I don't terminate the policy until the homeowner has their own homeowner's policy in place and they have taken possession. I don't allow them to store any household items in the home until they take possession. This thread has me curious as to how a BR policy would approach a theft like this. BR policies aren't very expensive in my market. A $500k build is usually about $1,500 give or take.

  • JJ
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    Our contract with the builder stated we would take out the policy as we owned the land and we paid invoices by the month.

    ETA: we did have the situation where the ins company threatened to cancel the policy because we were behind the schedule we had initially submitted. The builder provided them with an updated schedule and reasons for the delay. That episode also lit a fire under their butts.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    13 days ago

    "Builder's risk" insurance is a bit of a misnomer as it really protects homeowner's interests. Lenders financing new home construction projects typically require a builder's risk policy to be in place at the beginning of construction. If you're self financing, then it's up to you to decide what you want in place with regard to insurance.

  • PRO
    ProSource Memphis
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    BR is usually provided by the property owner, as that is who would need to be reimbursed for issues. I’m shocked that your loan department didn’t require proof of that before dispersing any money. General liability only protects the contractor from construction accidents or injuries, and sometimes acts of nature. It does nothing for the homeowner. Vandalism or theft, or a kid injuring themself during a trespass, fall under builders risk.

  • JJ
    13 days ago

    Not everyone borrows money to build.

  • bry911
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    "Builder's risk" insurance is a bit of a misnomer as it really protects homeowner's interests.

    It is not a misnomer... Builder's risk is what you are insuring against, not who is insured. Flood insurance, fire insurance, malpractice insurance, disability insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, etc. are all policies that insure against something. Flood insurance doesn't help the flood...

    Builder's risk protects ANYONE who has an insurable interest in the project from a loss because of a decision the builder made (a.k.a. a risk the builder took). That can be things like materials stolen from a jobsite because the builder risked having them delivered before use, it can also be like disasters that would have been avoided in a completed structure (as the builder chose to leave the structure in that state). In reality it does protect against natural disasters that wouldn't really be avoidable, but that is not where the name comes from.

    All insurance protects someone with an insurable interest from loss. Both the builder and owner have an insurable interest in a home, so if the homeowner and the builder are both named insured then the insurance will protect both parties equally without any right of subrogation, which is what you typically see on a builder's risk policy. So who purchases the policy is irrelevant, all named insured are protected from loss. If the client purchases insurance and doesn't name the contractor, then the contractor is an unnamed insured and will typically have the same protections but it is a bit more complicated because the insurance company may maintain certain rights to subrogate the claim that would not exist for a named insured party.

    ---------

    Builder's risk policies don't have anything to do with assigning fault and responsibility. Both builders and homeowners are protected equally under the policy because that is what they are designed to do. When there is no builder's risk policy then you have to use the normal tort rules to figure out who is "legally responsible" and those rules are about as clear as mud. However, as a very general guideline it is usually the party who was in the best position to prevent the damage so long as they had a duty to prevent the damage.

    In this case that burden seems to fall more on the builder than the homeowner. I suspect at minimum the builder would be found partially responsible and have to share the costs. However, there is a great distance between what might happen in a legal action and what the builder believes might happen in a legal action. The hardest part of this is going to be spending enough to convince the builder without spending so much that you lose money in the end.

    ----------

    Who usually provides the insurance is irrelevant. A builder who does a project without a builder's risk policy is an idiot. If the builder requires the homeowner to purchase the policy that is great, but needs to ensure it is actually purchased because regardless of who purchases it, the builder enjoys a lot of protection from it.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    13 days ago

    I'll reiterate my opinion that the term "builder's risk" insurance is a misnomer. The fact that it can benefit a number of parties is a propos. In our new home construction contracts, we require homeowners to purchase a builder's risk policy (it's less expensive for them to purchase because our policies are issued at commercial rates,) name us as additional insured, and provide us with a copy prior to the start of construction. Lenders in our area insist on a builder's risk policy being in place before disbursing any payments. When no lender is involved, it may get overlooked.


    Builder's risk insurance is also known as "course of construction insurance." If it were commonly called that, I suspect more homeowners would ask "what's that?" and more owners of self-financed projects would ensure the protections of a course of construction policy are in place for their project.


    Building a custom home is better when the interests of all parties are aligned around a common goal. Having the right insurance in place, and ensuring it protects everyone to the extent it can, helps support that end.

  • bry911
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    All of the people saying that builder's risk protects the homeowner are misunderstanding multi-beneficiary insurance. Builder's risk is a rather standard multi-beneficiary insurance policy. In fact, in law school builder's risk is typically noted as the default multi-beneficiary insurance example because it is the easiest to understand. If people took the time to actually understand the insurance rather than just how they typically see it used they would understand why the nomenclature is fitting and, I believe, have an improved understanding of the protection.

    We wouldn't then get people saying that builder's risk protects the homeowner, something that is patently false.

    ----

    Assuming the facts provided by the OP are correct. This builder could well find out that he too is protected by builder's risk insurance. If the OP has in writing the builder noting that the appliances would be fine because the refrigerator is too heavy to steal, then I assure you he assumed the risk. If this goes to court he will be paying. He would not be paying if he had builder's risk.

    Riddle me this Batman: If one day you, a builder, have $30,000 and the next day you don't have $30,000 and the only reason you don't have $30,000 is because there is no builder's risk insurance, would you have been protected by builder's risk?

    ----

    Who takes out a multi-beneficiary loss protection policy is irrelevant. The homeowner, the bank, the contractor, the developer, a subcontractor, and a supplier can all take out builder's risk policies on a job and that protection would extend to everyone on the job who has a loss because of an insured event. A subcontractor could file just as easily as a homeowner, that is the nature of this type of insurance.

  • cpartist
    12 days ago

    When we built we had to do as Charles mentions. We purchased the policy and named the GC as additional insured.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    12 days ago

    @bry111, at the end of the day, the houzz.com forum isn't about arguing the fine points of insurance or the law. We're not in a courtroom or a law school classroom. Rather, houzz is about providing helpful potential solutions for houzzers with problems. It you feel that the name "builder's risk" insurance is appropriate, that's fine. I find it misleading and so do the majority of my clients. That's not an assertion based on theory, it's the real-world experience of someone who builds custom homes for a living.

  • bry911
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    That's not an assertion based on theory, it's the real-world experience of someone who builds custom homes for a living.

    Experience is not always a substitute for knowledge, it may lead one to believe they have competencies that they don't. Many people have a working knowledge of tangential areas, which is sufficient understanding to do your job, but less than a complete understanding on the whole. That is great for their situation but can lead to advice based on an incomplete understanding. There is nothing wrong passing knowledge and you certainly shouldn't be expected to be an expert in things that rarely affect you.

    However, you were incorrect when you noted that, "Builder's risk" insurance is a bit of a misnomer as it really protects homeowner's interests. The nomenclature may well be misleading because clients believe that the builder provides it, but it is not protection for the homeowner anymore than malpractice insurance is protection for the patient. Saying that signifies that your real-world experience garnered a less than complete understanding.

    ----

    I agree that Houzz.com is about providing potential solutions, but there is also the concern of garbage-in, garbage-out. Some here, mostly pro's, seem to believe that the default position of tort law is that the owner is responsible. That is simply wrong. Stating things like "it really protects the homeowner's interests" can do real damage as it may lead someone to believe that all those protections provided by the insurance are things that the homeowner would be responsible for if the insurance is not there. That is wrong and could have consequences for posters, yet many of those with real-world construction experience are confident in that objectively false information.

    There is some value in this misconception, or more specifically how common it seems to be. In disputes the hardest position to overcome is someone who believes they are in the right when they are not. Largely there is no difference in outcomes between someone who fiercely believes they are right and someone who is right. An attorney will likely advise you to finish the project and attempt to dispute this with the final payment.

    If the OP is lucky the contractor will file a mechanic's lien and the OP can then defend that lien in court and maybe get in front of a judge without all the litigation expenses. If lucky the judge will review the evidence and advise the contractor of the law and to settle.

  • Sammy
    12 days ago

    Do you own the place where you currently reside? If so, and assuming you have homeowners insurance on it, have you filed a claim with that carrier?

  • shead
    12 days ago

    When you signed your contract with the GC, what did your contract say about insurance and who was responsible for carrying what?


    My contract with my GC said that we (the owners) were to carry the Builder's Risk policy, which was an addendum to our homeowner's policy.


    I'm really sorry you're dealing with this. I say this not to you but to future houzz lurkers, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE make sure you understand your insurance coverage BEFORE construction begins. I have firsthand experience about why it is SO very important! My story can be found here:


    https://www.houzz.com/discussions/5850824/dazed-and-confused-word-of-caution-to-those-building-or-remodeling