Most damage that shows up in carpet cleaning is pre-existing damage (urine, OTC chemical cleaner damage, etc.), so why should you end up having to pay for it?
Here are some tips that can help reduce the risk of getting stuck with a claim that wasn’t even your fault:
How: Get every work order signed before you begin work and put wording on your work order, usually on the back but referenced on the front, in which the homeowner or building owner waives the rights of his insurer to collect from you for damages that show up after cleaning.
Why: Insurance policies have terms that say that the homeowner or building owner shall do nothing AFTER loss that impairs the rights of the insurer to collect from the responsible party. By having the work order always signed before you start, a work order that has such a provision in it will in most cases prevent the homeowner’s insurer from trying to collect for damage from you. If damage shows up after cleaning, it can be explained to the homeowner or business owner that if you are responsible for the damage, that responsibility is limited to the value of the used carpet (ever bought used carpet before? Its kind of like buying used underwear…you could, but no one really wants to, so it’s not worth much). The homeowners policy or commercial building policy likely has replacement coverage and will pay new for old. Then once the policy pays the insurer will see about collecting from the responsible party. After the homeowners’ policy has paid and the insurer tries to collect from the carpet cleaner a copy of the signed work order with the “waiver of subrogation” on it usually makes the claim go away.
How: While you’re at it, add language on the work order where the homeowner or building owner agrees that the personal property on the premises cleaned is NOT in your care, custody or control.
Why: If personal property is damaged and the your insurer tries to apply the care, custody or control exclusion to the claim, a copy of the work order can be sent to them and that usually will resolve the problem.
How: The attorney can also put language on the work order where “to the degree covered by insurance owned by the customer” the homeowner or building owner agrees to defend and indemnify you for any “bodily injury” or “property damage” arising out of your work which injures or damages property belonging to non-residents of the premises being cleaned.
Why: If the homeowner allows a plumber on to the premises and the plumber trips over your hoses and gets hurt and files a claim against you, the homeowners’ or building owners’ insurance can be called on to pay for injuries to the plumber. Standard homeowners and businessowners policies include “contractual liability” which would cover such a contractual assumption of the liability.
While these steps don’t eliminate the need for carpet cleaners to carry insurance, they can certainly keep you out of a lot of trouble. But remember to always get your work orders signed before you start a job!