We had loads of building work done while we were away and the sods did a crap job and left the place in a dire state, debris and dust everywhere. AND they put a big dent in my fridge.
In the T&Cs I signed it said the client is supposed to 'remove all items from the area where work is carried out and Bastard Company can't be held responsible for any damage blah blah'. We really couldn't do that because the work was throughout the house so we just did our best to move most stuff and cover things up. We're trying to get compensation from them for various aspects of the work. Are they really not liable legally for any damage because of that small print?
When did they give you the small print? If they gave it to you after you had agreed the work and entered into the contract with them, they cannot then add new terms into the contract. In this case, they would be obliged to act "reasonably" ie. to take reasonable precautions to ensure that they don't trash your house etc.
If the terms were on the back of a document that you signed, you are taken as having accepted the terms and conditions written on the back BUT, where he was trying to exclude or restrict his liability for loss or damage caused to your property by his negligence, he can only do so if that term of the contract is "reasonable". There is an act called the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, and it says that, to determing whether the term of the contract is fair and reasonable, you must have "regard to the circumstances which were, or ought reasonably to have been, known to or in the contemplation of the parties when the contract was made."
So, was it reasonable for them to agree that they could come and trash your house, dent your fridge and leave rubbish everywhere? Probably not, but either way, if THEY are relying on the fact that the contract was reasonable, THEY muct prove that it is (section 11(5) of the Act). Although there are no hard and fast rules as to what is and is not reasonable, you could certainly point out that he had seen your house and knew full well that you were not going to be moving out the fridge etc.
Also (not sure how much info you want, but I'm having a quiet day at work, so I'll carry on...) if there are unreasonable or extreme terms in a contract, the person seeking to rely on them (ie. the builders) should have made sure that they bring them to your attention. The more onerous the terms, the more important it is that they make you well aware of them before signing, otherwise they would probably not be allowed to rely on them.
So here, I'd probably write them a letter saying clear up your mess / finish the job / pay for my fridge etc. and wait for them to reply that they're not liable because of the exemption clause. When they do that, write again and say that, as they were attempting to avoid liability for their own negligence, (i) the term was unreasonable and therefore not valid. If they disagree, it is for them to prove otherwise (refer to sections 2(2), 11(1) and 11(5) of the UCTA if you want); and (ii) point out that they are his standard terms of business and you are a consumer, so he should have made you well aware of the terms if he wanted to rely on them.
I hope that helps!!!
You can always threaten legal action - it's v. easy to start a claim in the Small Claims Court, so chuck that in too.
The Act is available here: http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=all+primary&PageNumber=50&NavFrom=2&parentA ctiveTextDocId=224526&ActiveTextDocId=224526&filesize=137496
You can't always rely on standard T&Cs - despite what people seem to believe. It is totally unreasonable of them to have behaved as they have done.
A lot of it is sounding confident. Also threaten to publicise / report to Trading Standards etc.
As an aside I once had some faulty Ray Bans -took them back to the shop and agreed that they could repair them (on 1 July). They said standard T&Cs meant it would take 2 months - ie after the summer ended I said no - unreasonable according to some regulations I'd looked up - back within 2 weeks or else I'll report you to Trading Standards. Funny thing, I got them back, repaired, bang on my deadline.