Author Topic: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?  (Read 1105 times)

Kayad

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Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« on: December 09, 2020, 05:12:26 AM »
I'm not handling this situation all that well, so seeking some community wisdom:

About three weeks ago we moved across town.  Old house is one we own, 1940s construction.  Our plan is to do a short term rental of this house and sell it in the spring (this is a sensible plan for various reasons).  Washer and dryer in basement.  Basement is ~200 square feet, finished in a remodel at some point. 

Moving company decoupled washer but didn't close taps.  We were kind of around during the move (trying to avoid the maskless movers, but that is a separate issue...) but didn't notice it, and didn't return for 6 days, when we found lightly running tap and a modest flood.  I.e. An inch of standing water on the linoleum where the washer/dryer go, and then the carpet was sopping and had wicked water into the baseboards and drywall.  We immediately tore out the carpet, scooped up the standing water, and ran a fan for a few days to try and dry it out.

Our next response was to call the moving company.  After an unpleasant week of interaction, it's clear the owner of the company is a lunatic and isn't going to make it right short of a lawsuit (his final position seems to be we flooded our own basement to try to get him to pay for preexisting damage).  He may have adopted that position after he got the quote from the remediation company, which I just got a copy of a few days ago: 7.5k (to demo the bottom foot of drywall throughout the room, do mold remediation/dry it out, and repair drywall).

So, what to do?

It now seems pretty clear that I should try and submit this to homeowner's insurance (2.5k deductible).  That didn't occur to me until I was shopping for a second remediation quote and the company asked if it was going to be through insurance.  It hadn't crossed my mind because I've never made a home insurance claim before and I (naively) wasn't thinking the repair would be more than the deductible.

I'm interested in any insight and experience in submitting a claim of this type to home insurance.  The second remediation company told us to emphasize that this was "sudden and accidental" and that we took all the steps we could to remediate.  Any other thoughts?  Is this likely to be covered? How much is this going to drive up my premiums?

Also interested in any other suggested approaches.  I.e., the 7.5 k quote seems a little bit insane.  We're not remotely handy enough to do this ourselves, but we have a trusted handyman who probably could do the demo and drywall.  Is there a responsible way to do this (in terms of the mold remediation concern) without going through one of these remediation companies?

Finally, we've thought about a legal claim against the moving co.  We probably just don't have the bandwidth (emotional or timewise) to deal with that right now.  (Even though we are both lawyers).  If we went this route on our own, it'd probably be small claims (5k limit), they'd push us to mediation to start and one way or another the final result would probably be a 2 or 3k coming our way.  Not worth 40 hours of our time and stress, but interested if anyone has other thoughts.

Thanks for any insights!

researcher1

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2020, 07:18:50 AM »
You need to forget about holding the moving company accountable.

They are movers, not plumbers.
YOU should have disconnected the hoses and made sure the water shut-offs were fully closed and not leaking.

Besides, you were there during the move.  It is your responsibility to check for these things.
It clearly was a small/slow leak (not water gushing from the taps), so I'm not sure why furniture movers would be responsible for this.

I would not go through the remediation company.  Do this on your own or hire out the work yourself.
Get a moisture meter and determine if you even need to rip out drywall.
It probably does, since you didn't immediately buy/rent a few dehumidifiers to pull the moisture out.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2020, 07:23:14 AM by researcher1 »

NonprofitER

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2020, 07:22:27 AM »
Hi Kayad,
Hard to advise, but I can share our experience with filing a homeowner's claim for water damage.

We returned from a weekend out of town to find that our dishwasher (which we had started as we were leaving out the door) had somehow leaked onto laminate flooring we had under it. Only a couple of pieces looked wet/warped, and I assumed it was no big deal. My husband did some googling, disagreed, and started pulling up a few of the laminate pieces to find some standing water underneath. We called insurance, I figured they'd just put some fans up and try to match the laminate, but they sent a remediation company out and those guys immediately removed every piece of laminate until they stopped finding any "signs of water". That ended up being about a 10 x 10 foot square of our kitchen and dining space. They put out fans and dehumidifiers, then came back and rolled out cardboard for us to temporarily walk on (not ideal in a kitchen) while we dealt with insurance. Insurance paid the remediators.

Long story short, insurance ultimately paid for us to replace ALL THE FLOORING in downstairs, because the laminate had been "continuous" throughout the entire first floor of the house. So they allowed us to pick a new "similar cost" flooring to put in. (We actually took the opportunity to upgrade to porcelain wood look tile, because its indestructible, but we paid the small difference in material and they still paid the extra labor for tile installers rather than laminate installers).  They paid for new trim along the floor of the entire downstairs (since the original trim was removed for tile install). They also paid movers to have our things packed up and moved to a storage pod in the front yard (which they also covered) while the flooring was being replaced, and paid for movers to unpack the pod once the work was done. They paid for house cleaners to come and clean the place top to bottom after all was done, and paid to compensate us for extra food costs while we couldn't access our kitchen.

What was initially something I thought I couldn't be bothered with (and looked so minimal) ended up being a multi-week ordeal, but we got brand new floors with minimal negotiation.

To your situation:
1. Yes to emphasizing the "sudden and accidental" nature of this incident. That is key insurance speak for "are we going to cover this or not". If water damage is caused by an ongoing leak or drip that the homeowner knew about but ignored, its not covered.

2. After my experience, I'm pretty pro filing a claim. I had no idea how damaging a small amount of water could be and never would I have thought the water had extended as far as it had - there was almost no visible signs that it had.

3. I'm sure our insurance premiums went up a little, but not more than $100/yr?  We have stayed with the same company and this incident happened probably 4 years ago now. No price gouging that I can tell.

4. I advise you to ask your insurance company if you can call your own contractors vs. using the ones they automatically dispatch. The people they contract with are incentivized to do the cheapest/simplest fix. I wanted an objective opinion and called 2 or 3 local contractors to get their quotes in addition to the insurance-suggested person. Our insurance company had no problem with this, and accepted the quote we chose and submitted.

5. I did not sign anything or agree to the final amount until everything was done and dusted. The insurance agent wants to close and resolve the claim as soon as possible, but I wanted to make sure the work got done before I closed out the claim. Again, they didn't give me much push back. But just be aware that if you do file a claim, don't sign an agreement about a specific dollar figure until you know what the repairs will cost fully.  Be prepared to advocate a little if need be. I had to ask for the insurance to cover movers to get everything out in order to install new floors - and they were agreeable to it, but I had to ask. It wasn't automatically offered.  So think through all the associated costs with any repairs and be sure to ask for those to be covered.

Obviously, my comments relate to my experience. I'm not sure which company you're with, but assuming its one of the big players, I assume they would be similar.


researcher1

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2020, 07:30:42 AM »
but didn't notice it, and didn't return for 6 days, when we found lightly running tap and a modest flood. 
We returned from a weekend out of town to find that our dishwasher (which we had started as we were leaving out the door) had somehow leaked
This should be a lesson to ALL homeowners...do NOT leave the water on in an unoccupied house.

I shut the water off at my home anytime I'm leaving for 24 hours or more.

It is an easy way to prevent the disasters noted above.
Just take 5 seconds to turn off the main shut-off valve as you are leaving.

mistymoney

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2020, 09:37:10 AM »
but didn't notice it, and didn't return for 6 days, when we found lightly running tap and a modest flood. 
We returned from a weekend out of town to find that our dishwasher (which we had started as we were leaving out the door) had somehow leaked
This should be a lesson to ALL homeowners...do NOT leave the water on in an unoccupied house.

I shut the water off at my home anytime I'm leaving for 24 hours or more.

It is an easy way to prevent the disasters noted above.
Just take 5 seconds to turn off the main shut-off valve as you are leaving.

wow - that seems a bit extreme for just a day gone? Guess it can prevent some things, but if I turn off the main valve there is still a whole lot of water in the pipes.

If you turn off main valve in the basement, dose that kind of suck the water back from flowing for a leak on the 2nd floor? Or would water on hose side of the shut off all slowly leak through? Or just a bit and not all?

Omy

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2020, 09:49:59 AM »
Do you have vacant home insurance? If not, your house may not be covered for this type of damage. Flooding, vandalism is often excluded if your house is vacant.

researcher1

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2020, 10:09:34 AM »
wow - that seems a bit extreme for just a day gone? Guess it can prevent some things, but if I turn off the main valve there is still a whole lot of water in the pipes.

If you turn off main valve in the basement, dose that kind of suck the water back from flowing for a leak on the 2nd floor? Or would water on hose side of the shut off all slowly leak through? Or just a bit and not all?
How is that extreme?  It literally takes 5 SECONDS to turn the shut-off valve.
It should become a normal part of the process when leaving home for more than 24 hours.  Just like you would close your windows and lock your doors.
It is so easy, why wouldn't everyone do it?  Just read the two disasters above to see what you can prevent by doing this.

When you shut the water off, it relieves the water pressure on the pipes, meaning zero chance of water spewing from leaks. 
And if a leak does happen, it is just a dribble of whatever little water is sitting in that particular section of pipe.

If I'm leaving for the weekend or longer, I'll spend another 30 seconds to shut off the breaker to the water heater AND open the basement sink faucet for a few seconds (lowest point in the house), which ensures that virtually no water could leak anywhere.

terran

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2020, 11:36:24 AM »
but didn't notice it, and didn't return for 6 days, when we found lightly running tap and a modest flood. 
We returned from a weekend out of town to find that our dishwasher (which we had started as we were leaving out the door) had somehow leaked
This should be a lesson to ALL homeowners...do NOT leave the water on in an unoccupied house.

I shut the water off at my home anytime I'm leaving for 24 hours or more.

It is an easy way to prevent the disasters noted above.
Just take 5 seconds to turn off the main shut-off valve as you are leaving.

wow - that seems a bit extreme for just a day gone? Guess it can prevent some things, but if I turn off the main valve there is still a whole lot of water in the pipes.

If you turn off main valve in the basement, dose that kind of suck the water back from flowing for a leak on the 2nd floor? Or would water on hose side of the shut off all slowly leak through? Or just a bit and not all?

Put a straw in a drink then put your finger over the end and lift it out. What happens to the water in the straw? Same thing in the pipes in your house, if the water comes out something needs to replace it. You'd pretty much need a leak in two spots for the water to come out and somewhere else so air could replace it.

parkerk

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2020, 11:54:15 AM »
Do you have vacant home insurance? If not, your house may not be covered for this type of damage. Flooding, vandalism is often excluded if your house is vacant.

This. I worked in home insurance for a while, assisting with handling claims.  If you tell them you were moving out with no one immediately planning to move back in you're very likely to trigger the vacant home exclusion.  What's more, anyone associated with the home insurance company who comes to look at your house and sees it's empty of furniture and obviously not being lived in is going to have to report that back to the insurance company, so this would be very, very difficult to hide from them. 

That said, it can't hurt to look into getting the insurance company to cover (you should be able to withdraw a claim with no effect to your premiums), but definitely be prepared to pay to get this fixed yourself.  And while you may not need to go with the pricey restoration company do make sure that whoever does it has experience remediating water damage.  Nothing like thinking you've dried it out sufficiently only to find a bunch of mould six months later.

Sorry you're dealing with this!  It's just one of those things that can happen and it sucks when it does.

mozar

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2020, 01:45:33 PM »
D you have baseboards? When I had mold I removed the baseboards, let it dry for a few days, cleaned it with mold disinfectant and painted over it.

Removing and replacing drywall is also not that big a deal. I don't know what your handyman would charge you but diy would be the cost of each drywall sheet of about $15 each with seal tape and some drywall mud.

six-car-habit

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2020, 01:54:26 PM »
 If you shut off the main valve feeding water to your house, there is still pressure in the home's pipes due to the height of the water.  If a person lives in a 1 story house the only water that will come out a faucet, after shutting the water inlet to the house,  is the smaller amount of water going up to the showerhead.  It will seem like the water stops coming out of the faucet realtively quickly . Water gives a pressure of about .43 psi per foot sitting in a tank or pipe.

  Suppose another person has a 2 story house with a basement. The city is supplying , say 60 psi of water to the main pipes throught the system. Homeowner shuts off the isolation [ shut-off] valve from the city pipe.  This stops the 60 psi of pressure constantly feeding the leak at the basement.  It does not stop all the accumulated water in the 1st and 2nd floor pipes , which is now 'trapped' in the house, from coming out the hole in the system - created by the faucet valve left open in the basement. They still get a partially wet basement, the "straw vacuum " effect is not going to keep it dry...
« Last Edit: December 09, 2020, 01:59:42 PM by six-car-habit »

researcher1

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2020, 02:42:21 PM »
Suppose another person has a 2 story house with a basement. The city is supplying , say 60 psi of water to the main pipes throught the system. Homeowner shuts off the isolation [ shut-off] valve from the city pipe.  This stops the 60 psi of pressure constantly feeding the leak at the basement.  It does not stop all the accumulated water in the 1st and 2nd floor pipes , which is now 'trapped' in the house, from coming out the hole in the system - created by the faucet valve left open in the basement. They still get a partially wet basement
This is nonsense.

A quick Google search shows that there is only about 1 gallon of water within 100 FEET of standard 1/2" water line.
- So if there was a leak on the second floor, there might be a few drops of water.
- A leak on the first floor, there might be a small dribble of water.
- In the basement, there may be a quart of water.

Under no circumstances could you ever come home to a "partially wet basement".
If you were still worried, you can simply turn the faucets in the basement on for 15 seconds, which will relieve all pressure/water from the system.

six-car-habit

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2020, 07:24:38 PM »
 Yes , you are right it would be at most a few gallons of water. Maybe more if the person lived in a multi floor apartment bldg . I didn't mean to imply the basement would be flooded a full inch or more.

  When a gallon of water spills on my floor, i like to throw a towel or two on it, before it gets behind the baseboards. I put the comment there for the person who might be reading this blog, thinking that a magic vacuum effect will keep their floor from getting wet if they have a pipe break but the main shutoff was closed.

MilesTeg

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2020, 10:09:38 PM »
I'm not handling this situation all that well, so seeking some community wisdom:

About three weeks ago we moved across town.  Old house is one we own, 1940s construction.  Our plan is to do a short term rental of this house and sell it in the spring (this is a sensible plan for various reasons).  Washer and dryer in basement.  Basement is ~200 square feet, finished in a remodel at some point. 

Moving company decoupled washer but didn't close taps.  We were kind of around during the move (trying to avoid the maskless movers, but that is a separate issue...) but didn't notice it, and didn't return for 6 days, when we found lightly running tap and a modest flood.  I.e. An inch of standing water on the linoleum where the washer/dryer go, and then the carpet was sopping and had wicked water into the baseboards and drywall.  We immediately tore out the carpet, scooped up the standing water, and ran a fan for a few days to try and dry it out.

Our next response was to call the moving company.  After an unpleasant week of interaction, it's clear the owner of the company is a lunatic and isn't going to make it right short of a lawsuit (his final position seems to be we flooded our own basement to try to get him to pay for preexisting damage).  He may have adopted that position after he got the quote from the remediation company, which I just got a copy of a few days ago: 7.5k (to demo the bottom foot of drywall throughout the room, do mold remediation/dry it out, and repair drywall).

So, what to do?

It now seems pretty clear that I should try and submit this to homeowner's insurance (2.5k deductible).  That didn't occur to me until I was shopping for a second remediation quote and the company asked if it was going to be through insurance.  It hadn't crossed my mind because I've never made a home insurance claim before and I (naively) wasn't thinking the repair would be more than the deductible.

I'm interested in any insight and experience in submitting a claim of this type to home insurance.  The second remediation company told us to emphasize that this was "sudden and accidental" and that we took all the steps we could to remediate.  Any other thoughts?  Is this likely to be covered? How much is this going to drive up my premiums?

Also interested in any other suggested approaches.  I.e., the 7.5 k quote seems a little bit insane.  We're not remotely handy enough to do this ourselves, but we have a trusted handyman who probably could do the demo and drywall.  Is there a responsible way to do this (in terms of the mold remediation concern) without going through one of these remediation companies?

Finally, we've thought about a legal claim against the moving co.  We probably just don't have the bandwidth (emotional or timewise) to deal with that right now.  (Even though we are both lawyers).  If we went this route on our own, it'd probably be small claims (5k limit), they'd push us to mediation to start and one way or another the final result would probably be a 2 or 3k coming our way.  Not worth 40 hours of our time and stress, but interested if anyone has other thoughts.

Thanks for any insights!

Absolutely state that is was "sudden an accidental". Slow leaks, like a dripping washer hose, are not covered by most home insurances!

Paper Chaser

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2020, 04:06:46 AM »
Are you guys handy enough to install paneling on the lower portions of the wall instead of redoing the drywall? That might be a pretty easy DIY approach if drywall finishing seems too daunting.

yachi

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2020, 01:56:57 PM »
Are you guys handy enough to install paneling on the lower portions of the wall instead of redoing the drywall? That might be a pretty easy DIY approach if drywall finishing seems too daunting.

Sorry.  Don't do this.  Paneling + finishing the edge where the paneling meets the drywall + putting in Furring strips to bring the paneling level with the drywall, is way harder than drywall finishing.  If you like the wainscoting look, now might be a good time to do that, but as an easier/cheaper repair I don't think it's better.

We actually had similar damage (maybe more extensive) on a rental house.  Tenant moved out during winter without notice and shut off the electricity which kept the hot water-based heat from turning on.  Froze the pipes and they burst.
We went full homeowners insurance, with a remediation company (working directly for the insurance company), and a separate contractor to restore flooring and walls.  Decided to add a few things not covered by insurance in order to make the house sell go better.

In my mind the remediation company helped with removing liability issues in addition to getting their expertise.  They ended up needing to remove the bottom cabinets in the kitchen in addition to the flood cutting of the drywall.

yachi

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Re: Mild disaster: Moving co. causes basement flood, what to do?
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2020, 02:07:09 PM »
Do you have vacant home insurance? If not, your house may not be covered for this type of damage. Flooding, vandalism is often excluded if your house is vacant.

This. I worked in home insurance for a while, assisting with handling claims.  If you tell them you were moving out with no one immediately planning to move back in you're very likely to trigger the vacant home exclusion.  What's more, anyone associated with the home insurance company who comes to look at your house and sees it's empty of furniture and obviously not being lived in is going to have to report that back to the insurance company, so this would be very, very difficult to hide from them. 

That said, it can't hurt to look into getting the insurance company to cover (you should be able to withdraw a claim with no effect to your premiums), but definitely be prepared to pay to get this fixed yourself.  And while you may not need to go with the pricey restoration company do make sure that whoever does it has experience remediating water damage.  Nothing like thinking you've dried it out sufficiently only to find a bunch of mould six months later.

Sorry you're dealing with this!  It's just one of those things that can happen and it sucks when it does.

This did not match my experience dealing with a nationwide home insurance company.  In my case I was a landlord and the tenant moved without notice.  The insurance company inspected everything when the house was empty except for a single bed and dresser in the basement (no living room, dining room, bedroom bathroom furniture).  I'm sure I didn't carry an additional vacant home insurance rider.  If I was OP, I would push back against any claim of the house being vacant.
See here for some differences between vacant and unoccupied:
https://www.millerpublicadjusters.com/free-property-insurance-claim-advice-blog/vacant-unoccupied-insurance-coverage-difference-important#:~:text=Therefore%2C%20in%20a%20homeowners%20policy,fire%20and%20wind%20remain%20intact.