Am I liable for work done by a roofing contractor without my permission?

I have a rental home that had roof damage from a fallen tree limb. Neither my rental agent nor I were able to contract any of our regular maintenance people, and while the rental agent was inspecting the damage, a ‘neighbor came over and said he was a roofing contractor and would do the temporary repair. I contacted my insurance company and they assigned a claims adjuster for the repair. I got his estimate, and called the roofer. They requested a copy of the insurance estimate. After a couple of days, I called the roofer back to see if they had gotten the estimate from my insurance company. They said that they had gotten it, but they were ‘way apart on the cost’ The contractor also said that they would contact the insurance adjuster and ‘negotiate a fair price for true work’ This morning I received a call from my rental agent asking me what was happening with the roof repair because when the tenant came in on the first of the month to pay the rent, he was complaining about the roof not being fixed. I explained the dispute between the insurance adjuster and the contractor about the price. My rental agent said she would call the roofer and ask what was happening. She called me back in just a few minutes to tell me that the job was finished. At no time did my insurance adjuster, the rental agent or myself tell the contractor to do the work, no have any of us signed any kind of contractor or authorization for the job. The contractor did say that the tenant told him to do it. The contractor, at no time has told me directly what the charge would be. I am willing to pay what the insurance adjuster said, or of he increases his estimate and sends a check for an increased amount, pay that amount.

Asked on March 4, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If they worked without your permission (or the permission of your authorized agents)--but you had been in discussions with them; so this plausibly was an honest mistake on their part, not, say, some scam--and the work was done properly and you have the value of the repairs, you would most likely, under principal of avoiding "unjust enrichment" (getting an unfair benefit), have to pay the fair market value of the work. The fair market value (e.g. what the average or reasonable roofer would charge for the work done) may be considerably less than this roofer wants, but without an agreement with you for them to do the work, fair market value is likely all they could recover if they were to sue for the money.

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