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Contractor dispute...

Old 11-09-2011, 01:48 PM
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Default Contractor dispute...

Signed up with a "high end" contractor to do some cosmetic work in my house. Agreed price was $1600 and the materials were supposed to be ready in 3-4 weeks at which point he would install. I gave him an $800 deposit for the materials.

After a number of emails and calls, a month ago he personally showed up with a pile of unfinished materials, and in trying to use my living room floor as his shop he broke about half. He left with his tail between his legs and said he'd be back in 2 days to do it right. The next week he still wasn't back and he said "I would understand if you just want your money back" so I said "yes please that sounds great, let's just part ways and call it even, I understand sometimes things just don't work out."

Well turned out he didn't have the $800 to refund me, so he started making more frantic phone calls and promises. He said he'd finish the job at no remaining cost to me, I need to give him the chance to make it right, etc etc.

I say fine, the next time I see you are either finishing the job or you are refunding my money.

Well after 3 more trips to my house and continued screwups, he finishes the job today, 2 months late. Not 100% what it was supposed to be in the first place, but pretty good.

Of course as he is finishing up he says "so about that other $800..."

Against my better judgement I gave him the $201.00 I happened to have in my wallet. (stupid me went to the ATM today) He wasn't especially happy about that, and neither was I.

My guesstimate is that in materials he's maybe in it for $300-350, including the stuff he personally broke. The reason I didn't just do it myself, is because of one particularly difficult detail - which on his 2nd time measuring (a month after the deposit) he said he couldn't do anyway because it was too difficult and error prone.

Should I feel bad? And which should I feel worse for, the extra $200 I DID give him or the $600 I DIDN'T give him?

Last edited by Flot; 11-09-2011 at 02:04 PM.
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Old 11-09-2011, 01:55 PM
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They are called "CONTRACTors" for a reason -- they CONTRACT to do a specific job, to a specific quality, for a specific price. There is NO REASON on the planet to deviate from the CONTRACT unless you have a change order signed by both of you -- effectively, another CONTRACT.

The only question is, should you tip him?

From what you posted, if he wants to make the job 100%, he gets 100% of the money. If the job is not to 100% he is now finished, no more money coming his way.
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Old 11-09-2011, 01:57 PM
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Man, that blows. Sounds like the guy just blew it, didn't plan the job correctly to begin with and then rushed it to get done. Shame on him. I have always believed that installing the work is the easy part. PLANNING it correctly is what separates the goood contractors from the guy's that should not be contractors.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:00 PM
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The oddity for me is that he represented himself as being 100% top class and delivered worse than I expected from the lowest bidder.

Of course he continued to sell himself even as I pointed out the things that were not right, which could not be fixed without doing the job over completely. It is a case where I am reasonably happy with the job but it was not what we agreed on and not to the standard of quality it should have been.

The guy is obviously having a hard year but man when I heard that he couldn't refund my $800 which he had sat on for 2 months, I just about lost it.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:09 PM
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Your first mistake was giving him $800 up front. NEVER pay for materials not installed, NEVER pay for work not performed. If the contractor can't afford the $800 for the materials up front there is a really good chance you will experience the very problems you did experience.

A quality contractor will NOT ask for so much money up front. Also, when materials are installed, the contractor does NOT get paid for them until he provides proof they are paid for from his source -- think: mechanics lien.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:11 PM
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so what was this job that was impossible to do- and what in hell is a high end contractor-

iv been in construction for over 45 years- worked for others - owned my own company- - was i a high end contractor???--

lets see a pic of the work he did-
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:11 PM
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Of the 3 vendors I spoke to, I am pretty sure all of them wanted at least 50% down. This wasn't quite your normal "contractor" job, more high end finishing work, but point taken.

In retrospect this guy chased me down for the job and deposit - I thought it was because he was a go-getter, but I have a feeling it was because he needed to pay somebody else.

Dead horse, as I was giving him his $200 he didn't look very happy about, I told him that he could have that and I wasn't going to drag his name through the mud over it. I am not "outing" him but I appreciate the insight in dealing with this sort of situation.

This is the 3rd problem I've had in about 12-15 jobs total. Frustrating, but the ones I have let slide have annoyed me to this day.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Eyeball View Post
Your first mistake was giving him $800 up front. NEVER pay for materials not installed, NEVER pay for work not performed. If the contractor can't afford the $800 for the materials up front there is a really good chance you will experience the very problems you did experience.

A quality contractor will NOT ask for so much money up front. Also, when materials are installed, the contractor does NOT get paid for them until he provides proof they are paid for from his source -- think: mechanics lien.
A 50% deposit is indeed over the top. There is one exception though, and that is custom ordered materials. For custom materials, I won't order until you pay.

Truth be told, on a job that small, I wouldn't even have taken a deposit, if no material was custom. Sign the contract and pay upon completion.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Just1more View Post
Man, that blows. Sounds like the guy just blew it, didn't plan the job correctly to begin with and then rushed it to get done. Shame on him. I have always believed that installing the work is the easy part. PLANNING it correctly is what separates the goood contractors from the guy's that should not be contractors.
I have said that for YEARS. I always have said, I don't make my money swinging a hammer, I make it coordinating and managing.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:17 PM
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You shouldn't feel bad - sorta sounds like you are both at least fairly satisfied with things as they are now - its over fogettaboutit
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Flot View Post
Of the 3 vendors I spoke to, I am pretty sure all of them wanted at least 50% down. This wasn't quite your normal "contractor" job, more high end finishing work, but point taken.

In retrospect this guy chased me down for the job and deposit - I thought it was because he was a go-getter, but I have a feeling it was because he needed to pay somebody else.

Dead horse, as I was giving him his $200 he didn't look very happy about, I told him that he could have that and I wasn't going to drag his name through the mud over it. I am not "outing" him but I appreciate the insight in dealing with this sort of situation.

This is the 3rd problem I've had in about 12-15 jobs total. Frustrating, but the ones I have let slide have annoyed me to this day.
By the way, the time to have asked for our advice was BEFORE the job.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:26 PM
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There's no shortage of jobs, so this will be BEFORE some of them.

But ok - what do you do when your contractor says sorry I can't give you your $800 back because I don't have it?

Material was (supposed to be) custom cut and painted for my job before delivery. I can understand someone wanting 50% up front.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by THT Mod 2 View Post

A 50% deposit is indeed over the top. There is one exception though, and that is custom ordered materials. For custom materials, I won't order until you pay.

If you required me to prepay for any materials, custom ordered or not, you wouldn't be a consideration for hire by me. The only way I will ever pay for materials that are not installed is when I buy the materials myself. Right now I have custom ordered (from Germany) sink, pedestal, and toilet sitting in there waiting to be installed. I paid for those, then waited 4-months for them to be delivered to me, not the contractor.

We are lucky in this area, in Calif a contractor can't ask for/take more than 10% of the contracted job at signing, and then they can never invoice or ask for payment for work not performed. Doesn't mean they don't do it, just means the consumer is in a better position if something comes to butting heads.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by THT Mod 2 View Post
By the way, the time to have asked for our advice was BEFORE the job.

We have a winner!!!
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Old 11-09-2011, 03:16 PM
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1) Was he licensed? Check with the building department. A licensed contractor will lose his license.

2) No license? Then he was contracting illegally. As such, you have NO obligation to pay ANY unlicensed contractor for ANYTHING, even if he provides materials.

3) You didn't use an unlicensed "contractor" did you? Flot???
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Old 11-09-2011, 03:43 PM
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Just out of curiosity, what were you having done?
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Old 11-09-2011, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by billinstuart View Post
1) Was he licensed? Check with the building department. A licensed contractor will lose his license.

2) No license? Then he was contracting illegally. As such, you have NO obligation to pay ANY unlicensed contractor for ANYTHING, even if he provides materials.

3) You didn't use an unlicensed "contractor" did you? Flot???
I thought FL was pretty tough on contractors.

Here in the great state of MD you can't do anything for a homeowner without a license except cleaning and putting up TV antenna (thank you Jack Luskin) and who needs an antenna anymore....

And as for the deposit issue if you are unknown yes I would require one third. Otherwise you are not going on the schedule and I'm not ordering anything. But after 5 trips if you really aren't happy with his work he should refund you everything you have paid and look for another line of work. He clearly lacks an understanding of the limits of his abilities and stupid should hurt and be expensive for him.

Save the next customer from being abused.
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Old 11-09-2011, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by billinstuart View Post

3) You didn't use an unlicensed "contractor" did you? Flot???

Hey Flot -- you have a 5th Amend right to not answer that.
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Old 11-09-2011, 04:26 PM
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I have done a bunch of work to my house in the last year. what I have done, is I provide the materials, and then I pay for the labor once it is completed. It eliminates the need for up front money.
Makes things real easy.
I did have one contractor that said, he wanted to pick the stuff out so he knew he would get good stuff, I said no problem, bring me the receipt the day you drop it off and I will pay you in full for the materials right there, worked out no problems.
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Old 11-09-2011, 04:40 PM
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In Florida, ANYONE performing construction work for money must be licensed and insured. The statutes further state that IF the individual is not properly licensed, any agreement (contract) is illegal and unenforceable in a court of law. Done all the time..no license, no pay.

In ANY case turn this flake into contractor licensing in the community which issues your permits.

Any legitimate contractor will not ask for 50% up front..in fact, the state frowns on prepayment of over 10% UNLESS it involves a deposit for special order items.

If this guy had "hurt himself" on your property, he'd probably end up owning your home. This is a common ploy..maybe not that extreme, but certainly sue you for thousands of dollars, and be supported (and encouraged) by bottom feeder lawyers and chiropractors.
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