Update on damaged stairs

bob_mcbobApril 20, 2008

I posted last July about some damage to our stairs. You should definitely read my original post here first.

Anyhow... believe it or not, it's been dragging along since then without any actual repair work being performed. After a month of the moving company refusing to provide references for the "restoration expert", examples of previous work, etc. I started to look for other local companies who could come in and give an estimate.

I have a friend with an old house who suggested a very high quality renovation company that does a lot of work on old houses. They sent someone over in October with a finishing expert to examine the stairs and provide a quote. They were pretty shocked that the moving company's "restoration expert" had nailed boards to all the stairs. The finish guy who came along said it would certainly be easy to match the FINISH on the stairs if they replaced only the damaged treads, but that the wear pattern would be impossible to replicate properly. This is a country house, and the stairs have taken quite a beating. They've been painted and stripped in the past, and some traces of the paint still remain. He suggested that it might be possible to repair the damaged treads, but that he wouldn't recommend it.

The suggested course of action was essentially to rebuild the staircase with salvaged wood. If only the damaged parts were replaced, it would be very obvious that half the stairs had been replaced, and certainly not very aesthetically pleasing. They prepared a quote for us by the end of November, which we submitted to the moving company. Since the work was much more extensive, the quote was approximately three times what the original company quoted. It also covers damage the original company does not intend to repair.

The moving company have been dragging their feet since then. The woman we deal with is never in her office, doesn't reply to voice mails, etc. Some time in March they finally got back to us, essentially saying they would not pay for anything more than the original quote they obtained from the company they hired. We have not got any references or examples of previous work from this company. The moving company will not guarantee that the work will be satisfactory in any way. They've also instructed the "restoration" company to not deal with us directly.

We had our lawyer send them a letter outlining the facts, and have just received their final reply stating they have no intention of paying more than the original quote. They believe they are only responsible for the specific parts of the stairs they damaged, and that any additional work would be "a betterment issue".

It's become quite apparent that after the original damage they wanted to have a quick and dirty repair done and sweep the issue under the rug. They are NOT happy that we went out and got our own quote from a more reputable company. It's now got to the point where we're going to have to sue them to recover enough to pay for the damage they did. It's really turning into quite a nightmare, but we have no intention of rolling over and giving in.

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Sorry to hear about your nightmare. It sounds like your intension is to get the stairway and wall back to their origional condition before the movers came in any event.
If thats the case, Get a pro and get it done.
Whether you win in court or not, it sounds like your going to fix it right anyway, true?
I'd stop living with it and go on. Hopefully you'll win judgement for the full amount of the repair anyway. I think you'll win.

All the best,

The PorchGuy

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 6:15PM
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Sorry if I gave you that impression. We were not planning to replace the stairs. They are the original 140 year old stairs in the house, and they have a lot of character. I was describing the wear to give you an idea of just how impossible it would be to match them. Any partial repair would stand out like a sore thumb. Since they destroyed more than half the treads, it would be like a patchwork of new and old.

Also, I should say that when I mentioned "rebuilding" the stairs, the actual plan of action in the quote we obtained is to replace all the treads along with the damaged spokes, etc. We're not asking them to replace the entire stairwell.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 9:53PM
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If the damage was done prior to your taking possession of the house, maybe it's the previous owner's (& his homeowner's insurance)responsibility He's the person that should be putting pressure on the movers - after all, he hired them. Depending on your contract/settlement, there is usually a clause that says the house is to be delivered in such & such condition. If something has changed upon the final inspection before closing, funds are usually held back by the attorney/escrow agent for repairs but this may be a local method & not applicable in your state. I'd say that the semi-destruction of a staircase is a major change.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 11:45PM
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You've been waiting on this for quite some time, and you may be running up against some statute of limitations issues, so you probably want to get a lawyer working on this right away. I don't quite understand why you are dealing with the previous owners' moving company? Your claim is against the previous owners, not the movers. The previous owners then have a claim against either their insurance company or their moving company, which, in turn, probably has a claim against its insurance company. You mentioned having a lawyer prepare a letter. It sounds like you need a different lawyer.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 7:40PM
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You are correct, of course, sarchlos. The moving company has their own in-house "insurance". The original plan was simply to have the company they hired come in and do the work. This was arranged between the moving company and the previous owners. When it became apparent that would not be a good option, I went out and found some local companies to provide quotes for us. It was not easy to find a good building/restoration company, so it took months to get a quote. We gave it to them at the end of November, and they dragged their heels until the end of March, when they finally denied our request.

My mother's lawyer still has $5000 held back from the previous owners, which unfortunately does not cover the cost of the quote we obtained. Our latest communication through the laywer has been to the previous owners. They are obviously not happy about having $5000 held back for 10 months, but I think it's going to become more of a pain for them from now on. They seem to have got in touch with the moving company, since the final "we won't pay more than the original quote" notice was addressed to them, with us cced. They are claiming my mother has been unreasonable, dragging things on for months, is trying to swindle upgrades to the house out of them, etc. They're actually trying to shift their own legal burden onto the previous owners by offering to cut them a cheque for the cost of the original quote.

Up to this point, we've been trying to deal with the moving/insurance company to avoid any sort of legal wrangling. Our only other option all along has been to sue the previous owners for the cost of the quote, since "their" moving company insurance is refusing to pay for satisfactory repairs. In the previous thread I mentioned that my parents were recently divorced, so this is my mother's "new" house. Unfortunately, there has been so much going on in her life (and mine, with university) that the legal option would have been very difficult in the past.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 3:26PM
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Just to be clear: I'm not giving legal advice here, but it sounds like you need to have a very serious "let's get a move on" discussion with your attorney. Have you asked your attorney (or better yet has your attorney suggested) to negotiate an agreement with all of the other interested parties to toll the statute of limitations period pending these other settlement negotiations? Do you know what the statutory period is for this kind of claim? It sounds like the moving company may be dragging its feet to wait out the statute. Once the statute runs, the previous owners, the moving company and the insurance company will have no obligation to do anything but thumb their nose at you and say, nanny nanny boo boo.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 3:49PM
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Bob, you have more patience than I. I would also think that if the original owners have $5000 being held up bc of this ordeal, they too have more patience than I. I have no idea what your estimates are for but I would think just getting this resolved soon would be a relief for your MIL. I guess maybe she should decide what she would have done to repair the damage had it been her that dropped the treadmill and caused the damage and then proceed accordingly. No one can go back in time and 'not break' them so hopefully she can make the best of a bad situation.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 5:20PM
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