Ask the Lawyer — About Volunteer Work
Q. My heart goes out to the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi who have suffered so much from Hurricane Katrina. The destruction is just unbelievable. I want to help any way that I can. One thing I can do is to donate my services as a contractor and my equipment to aid in community reconstruction. I do want to protect my business from potential liability issues, however. Are there steps that I should be taking?
A. Builders and remodelers frequently volunteer their time, money and tools for a wide variety of worthwhile projects. Whether it involves wholesale reconstruction in the wake of a natural disaster; participation in a home build project, such as Habitat for Humanity; or a charitable project organized by their local home builders association, such as wheelchair ramp construction, builders and remodelers have repeatedly demonstrated great compassion and generosity that truly makes them pillars of our communities.
Volunteer work does present some potential pitfalls. The contractor has no control over the condition of the property or structure, which could be poor, and the contractor may be faced with an adverse working environment. Poor conditions could pose construction problems and result in latent defects that could potentially lead to a future claim and lawsuit against the contractor.
Given the circumstances, and because the work is being performed for no compensation, it is not unreasonable to ask the property owner for a waiver of liability and disclaimer of warranty. A sample disclaimer of warranty and waiver of claims document is set out below:
Disclaimer of Warranties – Waiver of Claims
This agreement is made and dated this ____ day of _____, 20__, by and between ____________,
hereafter referred to as the Contractor, and ______________, hereafter referred to as the Property Owner. In consideration for the following described work to be performed on a volunteer basis without charge by the Contractor at the following described premises owned by the Property Owner, the parties agree as follows:
Work performed: _________________(description)___________________________________
The contractor shall perform the work as described. The Property Owner accepts this performance “as is” without warranty. Any express, statutory or implied warranties, including an implied warranty of workmanlike construction, an implied warranty of habitability, or an implied warranty of fitness for a particular use, are hereby waived and disclaimed.
Waiver of claims — The Property Owner further agrees, in consideration for the performance of the above-described work, to assert no “claims” against the Contractor arising out of the condition of the premises, including but not limited to claims resulting from the work performed by the Contractor, and any resultant or consequential damages therefrom. The Property Owner further agrees to indemnify and hold the Contractor harmless from any and all liability from third party claims and expenses that may arise out of the Contractor's work on the premises or from the condition of the property, to include all reasonable attorneys' fees and other legal expenses that the Contractor may incur.
I acknowledge receipt of this disclaimer of warranties and waiver of claims document. I have carefully read and reviewed its terms, and I agree to its provisions.
____________________ __________ _________________ ___________
PROPERTY OWNER DATE CONTRACTOR DATE
The sample language in this disclaimer is provided for educational purposes, and may not necessarily be compatible with the laws of each state. Some states may require disclaimers to contain specific language, specific format, and/or may require a specific type size. Some states may not consider disclaimers for residential construction to be valid under any circumstances. Builders and remodelers should consult with their local attorney concerning the validity of disclaimers in their jurisdiction, and concerning the appropriate language and form of disclaimer instruments.
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"Ask the Lawyer" is a service of the NAHB Legal Action Committee and NAHB Building Products Issues Committee. The information provided is intended to familiarize you with the law in this area. It is not intended to be an exhaustive presentation of legal information on this particular subject, and in no way constitutes an opinion of law. Your own attorney must review this information to determine how it may apply to your particular situation.