Consistency Saves…Complacency Kills

By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.

When I was in Navy flight school many years ago, there was a phrase we all lived by, and some died by: “Complacency Kills.” This meant if you became overly confident or too comfortable with flying, you were most dangerous, and more likely to become a smoking hole in the ground.

The same can be said about the building business. Once you become great at what you do, or even the best at what you do, a little “King Midas fever” can creep in and you believe that everything you touch turns to gold.

In my specialty, I see this attitude often in areas where homes are undergoing structural repair. Typically, when a builder is dealing with a dozen or so structural claims in the same neighborhood, there is a wide variety of remedial solutions – all perceived to be bullet-proof by warranty personnel. This is where complacency creeps in. Sometimes its not, “all good.”

In adjusting structural claims, you would think that common criteria are applied and all homeowners are treated fairly. You would think that whatever is done, is consistent. Think again. Sometimes that’s not the case.

For example, I’ve seen two or three repair engineers working for the same builder in the same neighborhood, all designing different solutions for the same defect. I’ve seen two adjacent homes of equal age with the exact same distress and the same builder being repaired at two ends of the spectrum – one structurally, and the other cosmetically. Why?

A change in warranty personnel, a corporate re-thinking in the structural repair approach, a communication glitch – the reasons don’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith are friends and neighbors, and Mrs. Jones knows that she didn’t get treated the same as Mrs. Smith. No justice, no peace!

My point is be consistent! Why put a bull’s-eye on your back? Have consistent adjusting criteria. Have consistent repair solutions that adhere to industry standards of care. Be consistent – especially when working in the same neighborhood. Have I stomped my foot enough on that one?

Also, don’t think that confidentiality agreements will keep neighbors from comparing notes – they do, and they will. The goal is to make sure everyone reads from the same book.