Pre-Existing Conditions: Limit Your Liability
Adapted from the October 2005 issue of the Dri-Eaz Keystone
The consumer of 2012 is the most litigious (read: "sue happy") generation that small service businesses like ours have ever dealt with!
Whether you are dealing with new customers or long time pre-existing customers, you must especially pay attention to pre-existing conditions. In the past, we comfortably assumed that the customers were aware of the damage or "wear & tear" existing with heavy soiling factors. Not so today!
Pre-existing conditions have always had the potential of resulting in added liability and problems for restorers, (but not so much for residential & commercial cleaning services).
Without question, your best defense is to identify and document any pre-existing damage whether caused by excessive soiling, poor maintenance, moisture, etc. or not. Then, communicate it to all appropriate parties (homeowners, property management, insurance adjuster, etc.). Pre-existing damage may relate to:
- Quality of building pre-existing material installation
- Pre-existing integrity of building components or contents
- Pre-existing appearance of building components or contents
- Pre-existing microbial contamination.
Two critical forms of pre-existing damage to look for are carpet delamination and microbial growth. Both are commonly associated with water damage, and can become your liability if not identified and documented prior to starting the job. Sun rot and/or color loss in draperies or upholstery are examples of other commonly overlooked pre-existing damages.
I strongly recommend that you develop several different pre-inspection forms to guide your estimators or technicians prior to starting the delivery of any new cleaning or restorative service.
You can find a good example of an Upholstery Condition Inspection Report by following this link. Since 1987 it has been the only comprehensive such form in our industry. If you would like to check out the form, CLICK HERE.
You can download a "proof set" as well as find the price for bundles of 50 of these valuable 2 part NCR forms if you should need them.