As I have worked with roofing contractors across the country, I have seen best practices when it comes to service and maintenance programs and how they relate to your insurance policies. Here are three items that every roofing contractor who is doing service and maintenance should consider.
Write it into the Contract
One of the main things I think about when the topic of service and maintenance departments comes up is protecting your general liability policy by writing it into your contracts. When putting together your contracts for re-roofing projects think about including service and maintenance of the roof and warranty in the initial contract. By selling that service up front with the roof and setting the expectation of going up on the roof once or twice a year after the project is complete to inspect and service the roof, you are now including those services under your general liability policy. You have an opportunity to protect your general liability exposure because if something happened on that roof or if you see compromises in the roof system, you have an opportunity to address it before it causes a problem.
I have seen claims involving projects that have been completed, and the contractor gets a call that there is a roof leak. They go up on the roof and realize there's a new HVAC system up there that wasn't up there when you completed the project or something else has been installed on the roof. With a service and maintenance contract as part of the original contract, you can use it to protect your general liability policy from claims in the future.
I know there are a number of contractors who are selling roofing service and maintenance on roofs they have not originally installed. They also work with current customers where they have been providing those services for the roofs they installed and several other properties in the portfolio they may not have worked on. For those situations where it is not in the initial contract it all comes down to documentation.
How are you documenting all stages of the roofing project to completion? How are you taking, storing and documenting with photos? Documentation is the best protection in case anything happens; whether you're at fault or not, just like we mentioned with the HVAC system above. It may be the HVAC contractors fault and by documenting everything along the way you can show that.
On the other side if it comes out that it was your fault, as your insurance company we are going to handle that claim a little differently. Due to your documentation we do not need to go through a ton of discovery and then find out it is our client’s fault. We are just going to take care of the claim using the documentation to settle quickly and as efficiently as we can.
Always Send Two Technicians
The other important thing for service and maintenance is that the fact that you should always be sending two people out. You should not be sending an individual out to climb up on a roof by themselves from both a safety and risk standpoint. It is difficult when you are just starting a service and maintenance program to commit two people to a truck for service, but from a safety and risk perspective it is very important. They can also validate what they find and what happens on the roof, with two voices carrying more credibility then one.
The industry continues to change, and it is more complicated than ever from a liability standpoint. In many ways it can be harder because you are trying to affirm what you did versus what someone else did. The only way to stay in front of that is with these key elements of having your contracts include service and maintenance, documenting everything and always having two employees on calls. It will help protect you, your employees and your company.
Shelly Duhaime is a Captive Specialist for NFP and has been serving roofing contractors for 20 years, in the role of risk management and alternative risk financing. See her full bio here.