KINGWOOD, Texas – What would you do if you were suddenly stuck with a huge account, all because of someone else’s mistake? It could happen to anyone who hires people to work in their home. A desperate homeowner contacted KPRC 2 Investigates after contractors caused thousands of dollars in damages and now she can’t get anyone to help her.
Mistakes happen, but when it comes to who is responsible and who should fix it, it depends on which side of the fence you’re on.
“My heart stopped… I couldn’t breathe,” Bernadette Hagan said. “18,000 is a really big amount for me.”
Bernadette Hagan is stuck with a giant bill that started with a new fence. It’s in her backyard in Kingwood but not owned by her. Since her property is a public green belt, the fence belongs to the Sherwood Elm Grove Trail Association.
The association hired a contractor to replace the fence last August. Everything seemed fine until months later.
“On Tuesday, December 6, I suddenly lost half the power to my house,” Hagan said.
Several experts told Hagan the same thing, the underground power line was damaged during the installation of the fence.
“I said, well, that’s a long time ago and he said Well, this is what happens. He says that if you don’t connect several wires completely and nip it, in about three to six months it will snap and lose power.
Power line repairs have become complicated and very expensive
The kicker, repairs wouldn’t be as easy as simply replacing the damaged line.
“My house is an old house. It is inherited from older codes. So in order for them to legally do the job, they have to bring the house up to code,” Hagan explains.
The repair total was $18,293. She couldn’t get help from the trail association, and she didn’t even know the name of the fence company that did the job, since she didn’t hire them. Without power, she couldn’t wait, so she Hagan was forced to finance the entire job.
When repair crews dug up the line, the electrical wire could be seen under the pole and cemented to the pole. They told her this could only happen when the concrete was poured for the new fence.
The company fences file with the insurance company
The fence company filed a claim with its insurance company in April to cover the repair costs. But they denied the claim.
“They called me and told me they were denying the claim because they believed the line marker that 811 didn’t mark the wrong lines,” Hagan explains.
KPRC 2 Investigative Producer Andrea Slaydon tried contacting the fence company, but they never returned the calls. Hagan says a rep told him they explained to the customer that they are not responsible for damage to any unmarked power lines.
But in this case, Hagan isn’t the client. The client is the trail association.
“It’s been over four months and there’s no resolution and I’ve spent most of that time contacting the trail association,” he explains.
After repeated calls and emails, the president of the association (in part) told KPRC 2 News that they are,
“Work actively with stakeholders to resolve this issue and resolve any claims for damages caused by the association contractor.”
(See full statement below.)
What does the law say about who is liable for the costs of the damage?
We’ve reached out to a homeowners’ rights attorney who said it’s unclear whether the fence company or trail association that hired them is responsible for Hagan’s damages. But it’s clear that Hagan is the only party that hasn’t taken any action that caused the damage.
In retrospect, Hagan says he wishes he’d taken more photos to show the utility flag markers he remembers in his backyard at the time.
If you’re doing a job, you should also ask for the names and contact information of contractors, even if you haven’t hired them.
Related: What to do if utility crews leave damage in your yard
Full statement from the Sherwood Elm Grove Trail Association:
“The Sherwood Elm Grove Trail Association is actively working with interested parties to resolve this issue and settle any claims for damages caused by the Association’s contractor.
The Association disagrees with the factual background presented below in a number of respects, but as the Association is actively working with the parties involved to resolve the matter, the Board respectfully declines to discuss specific details. The Council respectfully requests that you refrain from publicizing the matter at this time, as this would likely frustrate the parties’ efforts to resolve the matter.
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