How to negotiate with floor contractor who damaged my table
October 7, 2013 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Contractor is doing a pretty good job on a floor repair. Unfortunately, his guys picked up my beautiful ceramic tabletop by its ends, it cracked in the middle, and it is now trash.

Contractor is making nice noises about accepting blame for the damage and knocking an agreed amount off my final payment. But I'm not sure how much to ask for.

For example, using approximate round numbers, let's say the table cost $3000 in 1998, and that a replacement today would cost $5000. From my own POV, I deserve $5000, to make myself whole with as little disruption in my life as possible. OTOH, Contractor might offer only $2000 on the ground that the table had depreciated, and/or that the table broke because it had become weaker over time.

In your judgment and experience, what do I deserve, and what am I likely to get?

(To simplify the question, since the contractor has admitted fault, for now, let's not consider suing anyone, nor whether the guys were negligent in the way they picked up my table.)
posted by JimN2TAW to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You deserve the replacement cost of the table. What you paid for the table is irrelevant, the only thing that matters it what it would cost you to buy an equivalent table now. Maybe someone sold you the table for $1 when you bought it. Or maybe you overpaid by twice the value of the table. It doesn't matter. What can you buy another one for now?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:40 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry: And, is the answer likely to change if either his or my insurance company gets involved?
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:42 PM on October 7, 2013

I *might* start by offering him the opportunity to find a replacement. This might give him the opportunity to come to the realization that it will cost $$$ to replace...I think you deserve a replacement tabletop, and this is why he is (hopefully?) insured.
posted by arnicae at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

is the answer likely to change if either his or my insurance company gets involved?

No, insurance typically covers the replacement cost of items. This is why when you get in a car accident, the insurance company wants an estimate from an auto repair place to decide how much to pay you - because they are interested in paying whatever it costs to fix the car. Ford's cost to build the thing in the first place does not factor in.

The liability is simply to put things back how they were. The cost involved is whatever it takes to do that.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'd start off by explaining that it would all be simpler if you didn't have to involve anybody's insurance company and offering to pay him the originally agreed amount (no discount) after he replaces table.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he's not being squirrely about it, I'd give him the specifics of the table and offer him the opportunity to find a replacement. Otherwise, I'd tell him that I'd go find a replacement and bring him the receipt.

I'd definitely try to avoid any negotiation over the value, depreciation, etc. Either he gets you a new table, or you buy yourself a new table and get reimbursed. That's the choice you present.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:16 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why would he pay you? He could just as easily renege, without any kind of immediate hassle. Therefore, he has a lot of leverage before you decide on small claims route.

The insurance route protects you from the loss such as this - plus your ability to collect.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:20 PM on October 7, 2013

I don't know if it is a relevant analogy or not, but when my dry cleaner damages my shirts, I get a depreciated value, not replacement cost. Rather than negotiate a method, negotiate a price. Also, I am pretty sure he would give you more if he reduces the bill by some amount rather than having to give you cash. If his insurance is involved, then you are negotiating with them. Ask for replacement, but not sure they will go for it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:49 PM on October 7, 2013

You had a tabletop that can't support its own weight and breaks if picked up at the ends? Did you know that? You had people come in to do work in your house that requires them to move your furniture. Did you tell them about the special handling your tabletop requires?
posted by Good Brain at 6:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [10 favorites]

This one is tricky for me, because moving a table by the ends is usually fine, so unless you told them specifically not to move it because you knew it shouldn't be lifted that way, it sounds to me like they didn't do anything wrong, and that it was just an unlucky accident. Who is to say that it wasn't ready to break no matter how they moved it, or the next time you put something on top of it. It sucks that it happened, but I don't know that they were in the wrong.

That being said, if they offer to work it out, than let them, but if they offer you less than what you want, that doesn't mean that they are being unreasonable.
posted by markblasco at 7:26 PM on October 7, 2013

What kind of 1998 table has appreciated in value...?

Ceramic tables were popular then, look a bit dated now, and will not generally have appreciated in value. I don't mean to snark on your (ex-)furniture, just throw out the warning that anything that forces somebody to really look into it may turn up that your table is worth $200. Because that's just how it goes for dated furniture -- note not "old," just dated, which is where 1998 is at right now.

Not an expert, just a small-time junk dealer. Furniture that costs thousands fifteen years ago is very rarely worth loads right now, and in the rare cases it's usually because it's got a name attached that probably already would've been mentioned. Does it have a 'name'?

Can you post a link to a picture of a comparable table...?
posted by kmennie at 7:26 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does your contract have anything to say about this topic?
posted by slidell at 9:58 PM on October 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you.

Kmennie, the $5000 figure was a guess at replacement cost, not any appreciated value.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:17 AM on October 8, 2013

He needs to pay you replacement cost. But replacement cost will be based on a replacement value -- a similar table of similar age -- not a new table... so for replacement costs you should visit a couple of resale shops or go on Craigslist to see how much tables of that era and of a similar style go for.

Furniture depreciates a lot more than you think. Unless it is an antique, a piece of art, or from a very high end manufacturer, most furniture depreciates to 100-600 for a dining set the minute you bring it home no matter how much you paid for it. How much used furniture sells for depends more on its style than original purchase price.

Unfortunately for you, those ceramic topped tables from that era are not popular right now so they go for pretty cheap. On the flip side, I see them on Craigslist all the time so you should be able to find a replacement easily.

And, in the future, if you have furniture that requires special handing you should make sure to move it yourself or provide special instructions AND supervise to make sure those instructions are carried out. As the veteran of multiple movers breaking the unbreakable, I can attest to the importance of that. :-)

I think you are likely to get $200-300, sorry.
posted by LittleMy at 6:08 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not a legal expert, but I watch a lot of Judge Judy. If this case were presented to her, I imagine that she would order the contractor to compensate you for today's value of your 1998 tabletop. In other words, if that table had not been broken, how much would you have been able to sell it for? That's how much money you should receive.

If someone totaled your 1998 Honda Accord, they would not be obligated to buy you a brand new 2013 Honda Accord, nor reimburse you for the amount you paid for the Accord in 1998, right? Same goes for the table, in my opinion.
posted by kitty teeth at 7:38 AM on October 8, 2013

Do an insurance claim and ask the contractor to make up the deductible. Part of being a homeowner is homeowner's insurance. The table could have easily been broken by yourself, a guest or a rambunctious dog...
posted by Gungho at 8:12 AM on October 8, 2013

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