Recently when asked to quote a job on a very old building I was concerned that even though the job was not much, that there was the possibility that the AHJ may insist on some non related changes that could tremendously increase the cost. Therefore prior to quoting the job the owner allowed me to buy a permit, (to cover the cost of an inspection), in order to have it looked at by an inspector to see if he would have an issue with a couple of items. Remember, I had done nothing, everything was “existing” at that time.
He wrote a code correction into my file as though I had already done the job. At that time I hadn’t even been awarded the job yet. Then two weeks later I recieved a "you have not responded" letter demanding to make the corrections "or else". I did get this resolved ok.
However, my question is. What’s a contractor to do when he goes to look at a structure in order to quote a job, and he sees obvious, unrelated code violations that an inspector would also see, and possibly make an issue with it? What do you guys do?
In this town, a very qualified person once started their own EC business. They were delighted to get a job for the town's largest property management firm. The first job wasn't bad, either - just replace the light fixtures in a warehouse that was between tenants.
When the inspection came, there were many unrelated items that the inspector cited. When all was said and done, the EC was stuck fixing these violations out of his own pocket. He had been suckered by the management firm.
That's the 'worst case.' Or, is it? Conceivably, should a loss (fire, injury, etc.) happen, and be caused by something you SHOULD have seen, you're likely to be required to justify your actions.
"Liability" is found, these days, in the law library under "fiction." There's precious little logic or sanity to it.
You really need to chat with a local attorney who is familiar with contractor's liability. Then, make sure to document your notification of the customer as to any hazards you may find. If the dangers are such as to pose an "imminent" danger, then you probably also have an obligation to notify the appropriate AHJ.
I have had one customer, for the past several years, whose restaurant was truly a "slice of the third world" in more ways than one. Indeed, I've posted plenty of pics here from that place. Yes, there IS a marked similarity to the pictures currently in the news, from bases in Iraq.
Yet, things have not remained idle. Steady progress has been made in correcting these faults. The owner actually is serious, and is having repairs made as the budget allows. Indeed, at one point he closed his doors for two weeks, just so the kitchen could be redone.
Not every customer is that conscientious. Keep your eyes open, and have a 'Plan B." Most of all, be willing to walk away from a bad situation.
Wow, this looks like a bullet I've been lucky enough to dodge so far. I make it a matter of policy to alert a customer of any violations that I find, and tell the customer that I "cannot" perform service unless that issue is first resolved. I try to do this while in the presence of a third party, but it doesn't always work out that way.
I think it may be a good idea to include a new disclaimer in my contracts from now on. Time to have lunch with my attorney.
This sounds like a flaw in the existing building policy in the building department. There should have been a way to make it clear they were looking at existing work, not your work. The guys around here seem pretty good about separating "existing" from new.