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Who pays for damage while plowing? HOA or U?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Lawnscape89, Feb 22, 2007.

  1. Lawnscape89

    Lawnscape89 Senior Member
    Messages: 213

    During last weeks 5" Snow that converted to an Ice Storm, `;'; the only way to take care of sidewalks after the storm was with a skid loader. Needless to say, the 72" buckets were wider than the 48" sidewalks and we have some damage to the lawn area along the sidewalks.

    My question is: How do you cover the cost of repairing the damage? Do you come back after the snow has melted; re-seed and remove "clumps" of sod and "eat" the repair cost or bill the HOA? Please keep in mind that I do both the snow removal and lawn care for these HOA's. I want to keep them happy, but I don't want to put my profit back into repairs.

    They were demanding that the sidewalks be cleared as the kids needed a safe path to school. This stuff was like moving concrete and we could only work during daylight hours as it would start to refreeze at around 6:00 PM daily. It was a very difficult task and you could forget using a snowblower. Many contractors had crews out with pick axes and digging bars to get this stuff up.

    Since we have never had any damage close to what we have now, I'm not sure how to deal with the upcoming repair costs. Thanks for any of your input as to how you guys would handle this situation.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2007
  2. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    My opinion would be that if you, as the contractor, caused the damage, you are liable for correcting it. It was your decision to use a 72" bucket on a 48" sidewalk. Especially since you've got the lawn care for this place, it shouldn't cost much to rake it and spread some seed. The goodwill will far outweigh the cost. Let them know now what happened and what you are going to do about it. But have some justification for using equipment that was too big for the area. Even if you say it was the only way to get the job done to make it safe for the kids to walk.
  3. Wesley's Lawn

    Wesley's Lawn Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    How much damage is there? How long were the sidewalks you did? if anything its mostly only going to take one piece of sod to cover the damage on each side considering that bucket is 2 feet wider then the sidewalk and you assume that u stayed centered on the walk for most of the length. I don't know all the circumstances but I think you could of found a better way of doing it then using at 6 foot bucket which you know is bigger then the side walk, what about going and renting a dingo or MT50 and charging the HOA extra or a smaller bucket, or you could have done it by hand and billed them for time instead of using the 6ft bucket and causing all the damage? If its a good account and depending how how much damage there is and what its going to cost I would say just eat it. You or your guys (don't know who did the work) screwed up and now you as the owner have to face the consequences (the cost of fixing the damage) but even tho it will cost you money it will go along way with the HOA and when bidding season comes around, well you get what im saying.
  4. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    I gotta say if it was your decision to use the wrong size bucket than your eating the repair cost.

    around here the towns sidewalk machines leave 1-2" packed down and that is normal.
  5. Lawnscape89

    Lawnscape89 Senior Member
    Messages: 213

    We have over 3 miles of sidewalks in ONE of the HOA's. We did get a Dingo and it took 8 hours to go about 100 yards!! No kidding. There was really no other option. Like I said, it was about 6" of rock solid ice. Also, these particular sidewalks are next to the road that the county maintains and they do a pretty good job of getting the snow up on the sidewalks when they plow. Usually, I would never put anything that would damage the turf on a sidewalk. But after the first day, there weren't too many options. In this particular development, we had 5 skid loaders on the sidewalks for 2 days, plus the Dingo for a day and a half. Even if I had narrower buckets, the wheels would've been on ice and we would've gotten nowhere.

    I certainly understand that I should take care of replacing the damage but I don't know that I should eat the whole thing as these were very unusual circumstances (in the end, I probably will as a good will gesture). I should also note that the property manager was well aware of how we were taking care of this development. Most contractors were still completing sidewalks 5 days after the storm ended (myself included).
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2007
  6. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    IMO, and you might not like it is, you should have stayed on top of the storm. Sounds like you waited too long to see if it would stop. Over Valentine's day we got slammed, aprox. 18" in a 24hr period with 15-25 mph winds to boot. I had my sidewalk guys at our condo's 4 times throughout the night just so things like this dont happen. I obviously paid through the nose for labor but I'm sure it was a lot less that any type of repairs we might have had if we didnt stay with the storm. But to answer your question, yes you should be responsible for the repairs. Make it up in the price for spring clean up so you dont have to eat all of it.
  7. wirenut

    wirenut Senior Member
    from nh
    Messages: 529

    you should have told them they will be getting a repair bill for the sod that will be torn up
    if you didnt ,shame on you..fix it and work it in to this years services some where i guess:drinkup:
  8. Superior L & L

    Superior L & L PlowSite Veteran
    from MI
    Messages: 3,041

    Your contract, your damage, your $$$$$$ to repair

    Sorry dude but it happens to the best of us. Every year you learn a little more and change your contract just a little. Doesnt matter how long you've been doing this you cannot plan for everything!
  9. ThisIsMe

    ThisIsMe Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 745

    Some damage could be "wear and tear" but I have to agree with the others.

    Let ht HOA know you are coming to repair it. Might also be a good time to get some more work out of the job. Mention the old "well the men and equipment will be here" anything else you need done?

    Sometimes making good on your damages could be rewarded.

    Just my two cents.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2007
  10. QuadPlower

    QuadPlower PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,056

    To late for this one, but Bobcat makes an ice scraper attachment. It is kind of like and up side down disc. I don't know how well it works, just know they make one.

    I had one case two years ago where ice got built up on a short section of sidewalk. I use my kubota and bucket, but I thought about renting the mini excavator from the local dealer. If I had more to do, the $220 a day would have been worth it.

    What does your contract say about damage? Mine says I fix it. I'm sure you can make it up some how. I like the idea of charging more for spring clean up. But my contract for HOA already states what I will charge for spring clean up.

    This spring when it is sunny and 60+ degrees out, you and your guys can have a good laugh about how you are glad about repair sod instead of chipping 5" of ice by hand with a pick axe.

    I guess I would say eat it and try to up sell to the home owners. You might want to write a form letter that states what happened and how you are going to fix it in the spring.

    Good Luck
  11. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    Hopefully you can make it up this summer with some other project.

    What Dingo did you rent? Gasser or Diesel? Tracked or Wheeled? Toothed Bucket or Smooth?
  12. Lawnscape89

    Lawnscape89 Senior Member
    Messages: 213

    Ok, I was hoping to get at least one or two that would say either bill the HOA or split the difference with them. :eek: I understand that I'm responsible and ultimately, I will take care of it.

    I also know how to plow with the storm. I'm not a small contractor and definitely not the largest in the area, but both large and small alike ran into the same issues with not getting the sidewalks clear. It's a (very) rare occasion that we get 15 degree temps for a week after a storm here. Usually, it snows and the next day it's sunny and 40 degrees, not this time.:dizzy:

    I actually rented a Ditch Witch that the local rental company had just purchased 3 new units to add to their fleet. We put over 40 hrs on it. It had rubber tracks and a smooth bucket and was a gasser. Turned out to be a real life saver in this situation.

    The best option (and at least on contractor was doing it) would have been the mini excavator with a smooth bucket.
  13. rgrimes945

    rgrimes945 Senior Member
    Messages: 134

    Magic Salt

    Seems to me if would have presalted or something a lot of this could have been prevented.If there is concern about children walking on sidewalks maybe( if you have not) you should add presalting to your list of options for the HOA Magic Salt works pretty good in the case.
    Ray Grimes
  14. Lawnscape89

    Lawnscape89 Senior Member
    Messages: 213

    I did pre salt the drive lanes but not the sidewalks. It really wouldn't have helped, anyway. What we had was 6" of snow and most sidewalks were done at least once during some point of the storm. Then, we had freezing rain and sleet all night long. So, the next day we started moving as much as possible. It was very wet and heavy. Whatever we didn't get too that day, was not coming up in the next several days because overnight EVERYTHING froze solid as we had 15 degree temps and for a week it never got above the mid 20's. I have never seen a storm like this and if I had, I would have handled thing much diferently.

    The tough thing about pre salting is that we can NEVER trust the weathmen to be correct and it's hard enough to get the Property Managers to go along with pre salting drive lanes, let alone sidewalks.

    However, after this past storm, it may be much easier to get approved. :confused:
  15. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 28,362

    I read this thread, then thought about it for a while.....

    Hindsight is always 20/20, but this site is used for us to learn from each other's experiences.

    I THINK this is what I will do if this ever happens to me.

    You say you had a large amount of sleet / freezing rain, etc., after the snow.

    It was then that the HOA wanted the sidewalks cleared.

    You say that the temps were about 15 degrees for the week, not melting the material off.

    I guess maybe it would have been a situation to say to the HOA "listen, it's ice, I cannot plow it. Let me put down a boat load of salt on the sidewalks. This will do 2 things. First, it'll pit the ice, so it's not quite as slippery. Second, it will work its way down to the cement of the sidewalk, and creating a layer of melt between the sidewalk and ice. Once this is done, it will be much easier to 'peel' the ice off of the sidewalk. If you want it peeled up immediately, we can do that with skidsteers, but since buckets are wider than your sidewalk, we cannot be responsible for damage to the turf."

    Again, I realize it's too late for your situation, but for others on the site, it would be what I would try.
  16. carl b

    carl b PlowSite.com Addict
    from Ohio
    Messages: 1,330

  17. tjlands

    tjlands Senior Member
    Messages: 579

    I wouldn't get on the guys case, you had mostly if not all snow, We had heavy sleet to heavy rain(torrential at times) and the temps never got above 25 degrees.Wind chill of 0. I was prepared, didn't matter. Worst ice storm I have ever been subject to.
    3 feet of snow would have been easier. Much easier, 18" a piece of cake
    As far as damage I would never put a Bobcat on a sidewalk, that is just me. Especially to break up ice. You have to be responsible for any damage.
    I went thru 6 pallets of Lesco melt and other calcium chloride and 40 guys clearing sidewalks and ice for 24 hours after the storm. And that was just the walks.
  18. tjlands

    tjlands Senior Member
    Messages: 579

    Pre treating does not work with this kind of storm. We have to pre-treat several costumers walks and lots and once the freezing rain washes it away it just starts freezing all over.
    I watched it happen.
    It was a downpour of rain in the middle of this. It was a mess. Trust me magic salt washes away just as fast as calcium chloride.
  19. oarwhat

    oarwhat Senior Member
    Messages: 166

    Ok I'm going to go against the majority. Since this was an "ice storm" and far above anything they they are likely to ever see again, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for some form of reimbursement. If you would have received 3 feet of snow wouldn't they have to pay for some loader work or snow removal? With 5" of ice the situation doesn't look as bad because everything isn't buried in 3' of snow. This isn't a situation where the guy screwed up and has to fix his mistakes. He didn't have a choice the walks had to be cleared and the only way to do it was to tear up the grass. He's not looking to be reimbursed for all the extra equipment and labor needed to clear the walks,just some help in making the repairs. We had the same situation when Buffalo had 85" in 2 weeks a few years back. My largest contracts paid for some extras they really didn't have to. Most managers and reasonable and can help you out.
    If it was me I'd talk to the manager explain the circumstances and try to reach an agreement. Start a little high and let him talk you down (they love that). Maybe end up at your cost or even 1/2 . Anything is better than nothing. The worst that can happen they say no. If you do it in a professional manner and don't make waves what's the harm. They may help you out in the future. To stand by and not even address the issue with them is crazy!!
    Sorry for the long post just my opinion Randy
  20. IndySnowPlow

    IndySnowPlow Senior Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 214

    Some good & bad comments on this topic and some will agree and some will dis-agree. The best thing you can do now that the damage is done is to "learn" from what happened and prevent it from happening again ( come up with a plan ). We can learn from our mistakes and become better at what we do ( The school of hard knocks ).

    Even though our contracts state "We are not responsible for damages that occur to pavement, concrete, existing landscaping, lawn grass etc. we still have our business ethics and reputation at stake with these customers. Our company does go out and we repair "divots" as we call them where we did in fact not pick up the blade as we should have or make minor repairs due to the snow plowing operations that a plow operator may have not placed or moved the snow in accordance to our common plowing practice. Sure we dig up some turf, knock over a flood light etc. but because we know how to tell in our profession what damage was caused by a plow and what was just plain storm damage, we can be a better company and sort of " Clean up" after ourselves and keep our customer relations the BEST it can be.

    You have to have a plan of action for each BEFORE & After the storm aswell as before & after the plowing season. Lay it out in the plan with the best and worst case scenario you can come up with and you will find that things workout alot better for you and your customers.

    To think your just going to go push the snow....and send them a bill after a good nites rest...that will be the 1st & last step to sinking your business ship in the middle of the icy cold waters. IMO...we would fix it after the weather breaks into spring.