When Spring Weather Causes Nasty Surprises

The coming of spring is often accompanied by meteorological cocktails that can cause roofs to leak or even collapse. 

If such damage occurs to your building, here are some legal tips and strategies that should be implemented without delay in order to arrive at an appropriate solution and avoid aggravating the situation. 

1. Secure the premises 

Your safety and that of the users of your building are of primary importance. Ensure the premises are as safe and secure as possible, particularly by restricting access to the building to avoid injuries, and wait for the opinion of an expert before allowing people to re-enter the building. 

2. Submit a claim to your insurer 

Your next reflex should definitely be to notify your property insurer1 of the damage so it can quickly coordinate any urgently required remedial work, temporarily relocate you and your tenants, and have an investigation into the circumstances of the loss conducted by a claims adjuster or technical expert. 

3. Preserve the evidence 

Be sure to document your file! We advise taking photographs of the premises, and keeping a record of the weather reports for the days preceding the incident and the snowfall and rainfall statistics. Keep all related invoices and record how much time was spent dealing with the loss. In other words, arm yourself with any and all information that could be useful for your claim. 

4. Experts 

Unless your insurer has done so, you should retain the services of a technical expert (for example a structural engineer or an architect) to opine on the cause of the roof collapse or on any design and/or construction defects affecting the building. The expert can also advise you on the type of remedial work that should be performed. 

The services of an accredited appraiser may also be required to determine the extent of the loss you have suffered, be it in terms of inventory, business interruption costs2 or property damage. 

5. Minimize your damages 

The victim of a loss has the obligation to minimize the damages sustained, which means limiting and reducing them as far as possible. It is thus critical to react quickly and make well-informed decisions. 

6. Duties of property owners 

What are the obligations of the building’s owner in such situations? The owner is obliged to maintain and preserve the building, so we recommend establishing a snow-removal program in order to avoid excessive snow accumulation on the roof, and keeping a record of all snow-removal operations. You should also keep an eye out for any warning signs, such as cracks or cracking noises. 

A prudent and diligent owner will also ensure that the building is configured in such a way3 that water runoff falls away from the foundations. It is also essential to systematically replace any sealant that is dried out or damaged. 

If you have any questions regarding the foregoing or would like advice on the legal courses of action open to you, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the members of Langlois lawyers’ insurance law team, who will be pleased to assist you.

1 Subject to the conditions of the insurance policy.
2 If the loss involves a commercial building.
3 For example, eavestroughs/gutters and landscape grading.

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