Porch Repair in Baltimore

3 Replies

I have a row house in Baltimore built in 1920. The home has a shared porch with the neighbor. The porch on my side appears to be sinking and needs to either be repaired or replaced. The porch on the neighbor's side appears to be in good condition. 

A contractor had recommended that both sides of the concrete porch be repaired.  When I questioned why the neighbor's home needed to also be repaired, I was told that that it would avert any damage done to the neighbor's porch when my porch side was repaired. The alternative, would be to request that the neighbor sign a hold harmless agreement releasing the contractor from any liability of damage of their porch while mine is repaired.  This does not seem like a viable alternative. The neighbor has nothing to gain, and everything to loose by signing that hold harmless agreement.

These are my questions:

1. Wouldn't the contractor's insurance cover them in the event that the neighbor's porch would be damaged?

2. None of the other contractor's mentioned the possibility of the neighbors porch potentially being damaged.  Why would this be more of a concern to this contractor?

3. Can someone share their similar experience?

The neighbor would have to PROVE the contractor did damage to the other half of the porch , it would become a legal nightmare , the neighbor would sue you first , not the contractor .

If none of the other contractors mentioned the possibility of a problem , I wouldnt touch them 

I hope you are getting prices from a MHIC licensed contractor .   ( maryland Home Improvement Commission ) 

@Erick Garske Do you have a photo of the porch? 

As far as contractor questions go: 

(1) The contractor should have general liability insurance, which would cover them in the event that damage happens to an unassociated person or property at the worksite. As @Matthew Paul said, the neighbor will come after you first, they will not go after the contractor. It will then be your responsibility to go after the contractor after the fact. 

(2) I haven't seen the property or understand the logistics surrounding the working area, but I am leaning towards this contractor is looking to get a little more work, which is why he is saying your neighbor would need to have his side repaired too. Most contractors understand the need to work carefully around other property and people, and will take the measures to limit the impact on those surrounding areas otherwise they risk getting sued themselves. 

(3) I don't have a similar SFH home experience, but I work in commercial construction and there are always complaints from neighboring properties regarding work and/or damage. What I recommend is having your contractor or someone take photos of the entire area that will be worked on and the adjacent areas. Document EVERY crack, scratch, etc. and have this put together in a readily accessible report, maybe even send it to your neighbor and have them sign off on it. This will be a huge headache saver on the back end, as you will have a detailed report you can reference back to when everything is finished. This will allow you to easily describe what damage was existing and what damage (if any) came as a result of your work. Hopefully this isn't the case, but if your neighbor did come after you, this existing conditions report will go a long way in any legal battles.

I would not recommend the neighbor sign a hold harmless agreement, because all this is doing is pardoning your contractor of any liability and putting all the liability back on you as the homeowner. This will come back and bite you if you are not careful. 

Have you thought about using a different contractor or are you dead set on using this specific one? 

1. Depends on the insurance, and the claim

2. Because they are connected, more than likely...but this answer depends on the actual structure of the porch

3. Extensive, learn everything about your porch and its structure then talk to these guys, once you know the answer to a question you can ask them and know whether they know what they are talking about.