The negligence we endured at the hands of the restoration crew was unbelievable. It was implausible to us that they could be our insurers regularly contracted company of choice.
Negligence; in legal terms, a breach of a duty to take care. Every aspect of our dealings with the restoration company that our insurance company employed to deal with our fire claim consisted of negligence in one form or another.
After just going through 36 hours of labour and an emergency c-section, I was quite surprised when the telephone in my hospital room rang & it was the owner from the restoration crew, wanting to speak to me. Especially since he was well aware of what we had just been through. My parents had stopped by our home the day before to check in on things for us. There was no friendly, congratulations on the other end. He just asked “You know those small test patches in the drywall I told you about, that we need to remove to assess how much smoke and soot penetrated the walls? Can we have your permission to do that?” Of course thinking nothing of it at the time, I gave him the go ahead. I couldn’t believe though, the negligence they took in regards to our feelings. We had just lost everything to a house fire and became brand new parents at the same time. Could they not have given us even a few days or a week’s peace?
I think it was approximately a month later that we received an itemized inventory list from the restoration crew. It was spreadsheet with 77 pages and 1581 lines of items listed. We were instructed to fill in the two columns beside each item description which were “Purchase Price” and “Where & When Purchased.”
The list was extremely overwhelming to say the least. I mean, seriously, how were we to remember where we bought every item in our house down to pencils, pens and socks? And, how were we to know what what we paid for something, say ten years ago? Dave was long haul truck driving throughout the week. He would help go through it when he was home on weekends but much of it was left for me to review. It didn’t take long to notice there were several items of our belongings not listed. I don’t mean things like a mug here or a plate there either. Big things were missing. They didn’t even list our two year old three piece suede couch set. More expensive clothing items like Doc Martin boots, roller blades and all of our coats and many more items were missing from the list too.
Of course, the first thing I did was call our insurance company. The adjuster’s reply; “Well, it’s your responsibility to make sure all items are listed or you won’t be paid.” I asked him why it’s my responsibility when he hired a company to be paid from my policy to do it right the first time. This was their negligence. Not ours. He wouldn’t budge. If things were missing from the list, it was my responsibilty to make sure they were, or not be paid. I had an extremely large task ahead of me.
Our next encounter with the restoration company was when we met the owner at our home to review the fire damage and tear out they had done. We hadn’t seen our home since before Tyson’s birth. It had been approximately three months. When Dave and I got out of our truck, we could smell the overbearing stench of the fire. We left Tyson sleeping in his car seat in the truck. There was no way we were going to allow him to breathe that in. We took note of the large and deep tire tracks ripped in our lawn leading up to the front door.
We entered the door and could not believe our eyes! The flooring had been ripped out of every room. The entire kitchen was gone. All of the track lighting fixtures had been removed but not the ceiling overhead. Drywall, insulation, cabinetry with lazy susan and specialty racking, countertops, breakfast bar, sinks, even all of the plumbing had been removed. We had a large two level kitchen. The second level had been gutted also. All tongue and grove wainscoting had been removed from floor to ceiling. However, the ceramic floor remained. It was still covered in a layer of soot. The laundry room off of this room had been gutted also, but the hot water tank remained. The large window over our kitchen sink which had the air conditioner installed was boarded up with a piece of plywood but there was a large gap, approximately half an inch that was not covered. We could see to the outside.
The living room beside the kitchen was a total disaster. Only half of the drywall; from floor to midway up the wall had been removed. The ceiling remained. All of the baseboards, trim and light fixtures were removed. The floor was covered in debris, nails and screws. They hadn’t even swept it up.
We passed by the bathroom on the way to the bedrooms. The flooring, baseboards and the tub wall surround had been removed. The tub was full of soot and debris from pulling up the floor. The shower head was hanging off down to the tub. The toilet and medicine cabinet remained but the vanity sink, counter and cabinetry were removed. Even the towel racks and toilet paper holder was still on the walls. The toilet cleaner brush sat on the floor in it’s holder. They hadn’t removed any of the drywall either. The bathroom was the next room adjacent to the kitchen. Yet, the storage room directly beside the bathroom, had been completely gutted right down to the stud. It seemed strange to us.
We entered the baby’s room next. Everything had been gutted. The floor, walls, insulation, even the ceiling. You could see into the attic. They had removed the insulation in the attic overhead also. They had actually swept up the floor in this room.
Our bedroom was directly beside the baby’s room. As we entered, we saw all of the room and closet doors from the entire house piled together against a wall, still black with soot and all hardware still attached. Only half on the drywall had been removed just like the living room. The ceiling had been removed as well as the insualtion overhead in the attic. The closet had been gutted of all our specialty racks and organized shelving.
We noticed that the floor in the hallway was really sloped, almost heaving. The owner of the restoration company explained that one of the floor joists had broke. It must have happened with all the weight of the many fireman in full gear entering the house. He noted that their remedy for that would be to “glue it back together.”
The owner of the restoration company went on to explain what they planned to rectify the damage. He said they would replace removed drywall and fixtures but would spray seal what remained. He said that the spray seal was to encapsulate the smell and that it had to be applied wearing a respirator suit. I asked him if he could guarantee that there would be no trace of smell afterwards of the fire or the spray. He said they could not make any guarantees because “everyone’s sense of smell is different.” I also asked him how safe this sealant was, if you have to wear a respiratory suit to apply it, to use with a brand new baby and lungs. I asked him if he could give me a written guarantee that there are no health hazards especially to a new baby. He said he could not do that either. I asked how he planned to seal the crawl space in the basement? I mean, how do you seal dirt? He never did give a real answer.
At this point he asked us if we felt any other work needed to be done. Dave and I took some time privately to discuss what we had just seen and learned. We were taken by surprise. What happened to those small test patches he had told us they were going to do? We were not prepared nor did we give permission for them to do this to our house. We returned to him and told him that we felt ultimately due to the smell that he couldn’t guarantee would be gone that the house should come down. We also stated that if it didn’t need to come down, that the rest of the drywall & insulation should be removed as well. They didn’t even remove the ceiling or insulation directly over where the fire occured. Wouldn’t it be the worst?We felt everything had to be taken down at least to the framework of the house. We also expressed our concern about the sealant. Wasn’t that just using a chemical to cover a chemical? The soot was full of plastic, carbon monoxide and other components. We told him we wanted to research the structural damage to the floor further as well.
He told us that he would have to discuss it further with our insurance adjuster as he wasn’t sure they’d be willing to do all of that. He mentioned that they had discovered mold throughout the house. He said it was especially in the wall behind the tub surround. They found it when they removed the storage room wall. He said that they also found mold on the floor behind where the fish tank was.
It was very insulting. I knew exactly what he was speaking of. We had replaced the caulking in our shower a year or so earlier. A small spot in the caulking didn’t take. When we turned on the shower, a small amount of water went into the hole where the caulking didn’t take. How many people have done this? The other spot he talked of was also superficial. I had been doing a water change in my fishtank one time & forgot to close the valve in the hose before opening it. So when I opened it, water shot out of the hose. I cleaned it up but a small amount must have remained on the tile behind. When they pulled up the flooring, there was no trace of even a water stain. And so what? Every inch of the house was covered in soot that needed removing as well.
After he left, Dave and I were standing out on the front lawn. A neighbour came over and explained to us that the crew drove their truck right up to the front door over are walkway to load it up while tearing out the house. They drove right over our well line to the house. They did this is in the backyard also, driving over our septic bed. You should never do this as driving over the lines in the ground creates pressure and can cause them to split. Our neighbour also told us that one day they must have forgot the key because she observed them crawling in one of the front windows to gain entry to the house.
Again, I called the insurance adjuster and expressed our disdain for the restoration company. Their negligence and laziness caused damage to our front lawn. We don’t even know if that negligence has caused damage to our water supply or septic system. Additionally, they washed all of our dishes in our sink washing all the chemicals and soot down into our septic system. They failed to have it pumped. That could potentially ruin the tank and bed. We will not know until inspected. I expressed my anger at the negligence of professionalism as well. What kind of company sends their employees in through the window? I discussed their failure to thoroughly clean the house. There was still soot all over the walls, framework and subfloor. How were we to be confident it would be sealed properly based on the negligence we’d seen so far from them? They hadn’t even taken a correct inventory our belongings that they packed up themselves.
The insurance company then brought up the mold issue again. I expressed that if there was mold throughout the house, that it was most likely caused by their negligence to properly board up our kitchen window. Their negligence allowed all of the weather elements into the house for over three months, not to mention the bugs.
I began seeing the red flags. It was beginning to look more and more like the insurance company had this restoration company in it’s back pocket more than anything else. I requested a toxicology report be performed to assess the mold and soot content in the house.
*See further Contract Negligence next >>>– Restoration company damages our belongings, attempts to sell us back our own removed materials at a discounted price and misplaces our belongings.*
“On one occassion, when I went to speak with the owner of the restoration company, we passed by many buckets full of used drywall screws and nails, painted baseboards and mouldings, etc. The owner said “When you’re ready to rebuild, we offer many building materials at discounted prices.” Had my ears just served me correctly? Did he just try to sell me back what he took out of our house?”