Homeowner Liability To Injured Roofer

Posted by: Feb 03, 2015By Brian Stutheit

To avoid liability to injured contractors, property owners should require proof that roofers and others doing dangerous work at their home have workers compensation insurance. They should also require by contract that they be informed of, and approve, any subcontractor their roofer uses.   Otherwise, the homeowner risks being a “statutory employer” of the roofers. That is someone deemed by law to be responsible to pay workers’ compensation benefits to a roofer injured at the job.

The case of Hoff v. Industrial Claims Appeals Office, decided in late 2014, sets out the law.  Hoff owns a house that she uses as a rental property. After sustaining hail damage to the roof, Hoff engaged Alliance Construction to negotiate with her insurance company to resolve the damage claim and repair the roof.  Without Hoff’s knowledge, Alliance subcontracted the roofing job to MDR. Hernan Hernandez was employed by MDR as a roofer. While working on the Hoff roof Hernandez fell to the ground from the top of a ladder, sustaining serious injuries. MDR did not carry workers compensation insurance.  An administrative law judge held that Hoff was responsible to pay $300,000 in injury benefits, because she was a statutory employer of Hernandez.  The workers compensation statute says: “. . . [E]very person performing construction work on a construction site shall be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, and a person who contracts for the performance of construction work on a construction site shall either provide . . . workers’ compensation coverage for, or require proof of workers’ compensation coverage from, every person with whom he or she has a direct contract . . .”

Hence, a person who contracts for the performance of construction work must have workers’ compensation insurance or obtain a certificate that demonstrates the existence of coverage during the period of the performance of construction work.

Property owners, get a certificate that the roofers have workers compensation coverage, and verify coverage with the insurance company.  Too many contractors buy insurance so they can obtain a certificate showing coverage, then they stop paying premiums and their coverage lapses.