Moving company damaged hardwood floors
September 5, 2018 11:00 AM   Subscribe

During our recent move to a new rental the moving company gouged the hardwood floor at the top of our steps. The foreman acknowledged the damage and I immediately called the company and spoke to their customer service and informed them and they said they would work with me to make sure it was repaired. It hasn't being going well...

I followed up the call with an email (including pictures of the damage) stating that the two affected boards would need to be replaced and that the landlord/owner would not find it acceptable to merely fill the gouge with filler. The company scheduled a time to send out a "master repairman" at a particular date and time. That date and time came and went. I had to contact them again and they rescheduled for the next day. The repairman showed up and he filled it with filler. I made sure to tell him that wasn't acceptable and I didn't consider the job finished. I emailed the next day with updated pictures of the damage and told them it wasn't acceptable and that they needed to either send me a licensed contractor or I would hire my own and they would need to reimburse me. They asked me to call, so I did. I spoke to the same guy I've always spoken to and he said he needed to speak to his manger and he'd call me back and he hasn't. The amount of time I've waisted on this is definitely grinding my nerves and I just need to get this wrapped up. How would you handle it? It seems I have all the proof I need to just hire someone to do the work and take them to small claims, but that seems like a pain in the arse.
posted by matt_od to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You probably won't like what I'm going to say, but you're going to end up paying in either $ or time.

If it were me, I would get a couple of estimates for the repair and start calling the moving company daily. Also check with your insurance. If the deductible is lower than the cost, maybe the moving company will pay that amount. There's a good chance that they will continue to ignore you. At that point, there's nothing else you can do but take them to small claims court or post an online review. Our family experienced something similar (movers slashed the carpet in a house we were selling!). We never got them to fix the damage properly, but we decided to let it go and will post a facts-only review online.

Life can be unfair at times, but you are in control of how much energy you are willing to expend to be right. In this case, there's no shame in deciding that the juice is just not worth the squeeze.
posted by jraz at 11:58 AM on September 5, 2018

Let your liability insurer know about this. It's their job to handle this kind of thing.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:34 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pardon me if you've already worked through this, but -- are you aware of the scope of the repair you're asking for? If they're going to remove entire boards, it may not be feasible to refinish just those boards; it will likely be necessary to sand and refinish the entire floor. Depending on what state you're in and the size of the job, that might take you near or over the cost limit for small claims court.

The hassle & non-responsiveness you're facing now is very likely because the repair you're requesting is going to be very expensive (possibly unreasonably so, given that they've already done what some would consider a reasonable repair). Whether or not you believe this level of repair is necessary, understanding how much you're asking for will help you figure out the best strategy for negotiating with the moving company.

The other thing worth figuring out before you decide your next step is: how much are you personally on the hook for here? Take a look at your lease; it's possible the most the landlord can do to you is to withhold some or all of your security deposit at move-out. Depending on the laws in your city/state, you might be able to contest that if the floor has already been repaired to a reasonable standard. As a tenant, you can call a local tenant's rights organization or the state Attorney General consumer affairs division to get some advice. They will surely recommend that you document the repair carefully, with photos.

If you're determined to do your best to make the moving company replace/refinish the boards, then you might try the following:
- If you have rental insurance or any other applicable insurance, contact your insurer. They will likely end up negotiating something with the moving company's insurer (which may or may not equal the cost of fully refinishing the floor).
- You might try getting a quote for the job and sending that to the company (do this BEFORE you book the job).
- A lawyer could draft a letter for you to send to the moving company threatening a suit. Sometimes just that threat can get a result. Ultimately, though, this might still end up in small claims court, and there is no guarantee that it would be decided in your (or rather, your landlord's) favor. You should decide for yourself how much time & money you are willing to spend on an uncertain result, the benefits of which will be mostly for your landlord.
posted by ourobouros at 2:53 PM on September 5, 2018

As Ourobouros said, if replacing boards is the only acceptable option, the scope of this could be huge... many thousands of dollars... in order to get the entire floor to actually match after replacement. This is probably why they have been leaning so hard on wood filler, in order to avoid the big cost of the big fix. It's... understandable, in a way.

When diving into these costs, keep the amount of your damage deposit in mind at all times. Speaking from experience, here: I have more than once, perhaps foolishly in hindsight, spent more than the amount of my deposit on fixing a place up before leaving. Sometimes it's better to just write it off.

If you end up needing to eat the cost of the whole floor, though... maybe save it for when you're almost finished living there, so at least it will also repair any future damage at the same time.

If it must be fixed now, for whatever reason, I also agree you should probably shift to a compromise position, because almost every path I can find out of this will require you to pay some of the costs, one way or another.
posted by rokusan at 5:11 PM on September 5, 2018

Have you tried writing a very negative 1-star Yelp review, or the equivalent in your country if you are not in the US? I am not as versed in the legal approaches that the other Mefites describe, but I and several friends in similar situations with small local businesses have found them suddenly *much* more responsive and *very* motivated to get me to revise my public review. For many companies that’s their primary source of inbound business.
posted by amaire at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2018

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