Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

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Latest post Sat, Jan 30 2016 8:33 AM by karen2222. 7 replies.
  • Thu, Jan 28 2016 3:03 PM

    • bleu2th
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    Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    Thought I did eveything correct. Hired a licensed contractor with license in good standing, all insurances. Interviewed him and heard he had 22 employees with the image of a large firm that won't play the leapfrog cash poor game dragging finishing the job until new money comes in. I had a structural framing repair that required knowlege, structural engineer and City Permits.

    I entered into a contract to begin and finish the work in a 3 week time frame including engineering and permits. Damaged home frame replacement with MicroLam beams, drywall replacement, Entire ceiling re-mud work and painting. The job stalled out after 3rd payment of 4, the sheet rock was only installed, no mud work, No ceiling, no paint and failure to install one 12 Lam Beam.

    I understand my role at reminding this contractor about the breach of his contract. My question liens towards the contractor failing to take out a permit, get any sign off from the city or promised sign off from structural engineer needed to validate structural repairs were completed. Without that my home value is greatly diminished as the home went thru a SB800 Lawsuit and damages are part of the home records.

    Without risking any defamation actions from this contractor how far can I go towards reporting him to the contractor license board, filing format complaints against internet online contractor referral service or at very least using these threats of reporting to agencies to effect refunds for unfinished work and work that will have to be completed by another contractor that will exceed the balance of my contract?

    Thank you

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Thu, Jan 28 2016 4:19 PM In reply to

    • Kivi
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    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    Having had a few of these kinds of headaches in the past, I can only suggest what I was told to do.

    Firstly, read your contract carefully. There may be some language in it that is pertinent to your situation. You do have a written contract with this dude, don't you?

    Secondly, before making any formal complaints or taking legal action, you need to give the contractor a chance to "remedy" the problem before you hire someone else to finish the job and/or consider further legal action. You want to do this one in writing. Send him a letter both certified mail return receipt requested and regular mail. (A lot of people duck certified mail as "bad news".) Outline your complaints about the incomplete work and apparent missed deadlines. In my case, I gave both contractors 30 days or I was going to hire someone else. You don't say in your post how long ago the partial work was done, but if it has been more than a few weeks since he has shown up to work on your project (or otherwise communicated), it may be time for such a letter.. At least twice, my letter worked (somewhat) for me. However, the jobs in question were much smaller ones than the one you have described here.  I also did not threaten legal action because of the smaller nature of my jobs. (I did not think that my "damages" were going to be enough to justify hiring an attorney. There is not point in threatening legal action, if your threat is idle.)  I just said that if I did not have completion by a certain date, I was going to hire someone else to finish the job. I believe I gave a deadline of thirty days. In one case, the contractor finished the job. In the other, since I never heard back from the guy, I hired someone else, and that was the end of it.

    Secondly, sometimes construction work "stalls" because the city (or whoever) needs to inspect what is done before it can be "sealed up" and, thus, inaccessible for inspection. I don't know about your jurisdiction, but in mine, the city inspectors work on "their schedule", not yours, and not the contractor's. I am not saying that this is the issue here. I don't know. It does not seem like you have had any communication with this contractor. If the contractor responds to the letter and raises this issue,  you may need to rattle some cages with City Hall or, if nothing else, you may be able to verify or refute what he saying with the appropriate people at the Planning and Permits dept, etc.

    These are my initial suggestions.

  • Fri, Jan 29 2016 10:55 AM In reply to

    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    bleu2th:
    Without risking any defamation actions from this contractor how far can I go towards reporting him to the contractor license board, filing format complaints against internet online contractor referral service or at very least using these threats of reporting to agencies to effect refunds for unfinished work and work that will have to be completed by another contractor that will exceed the balance of my contract?

    Anytime you speak or write negatively about someone, the "risk" of a defamation action exists.  How substantial or trivial that risk may be obviously isn't something folks on an Internet message board can predict.  That said, since a defamation claim requires a false statement of fact, anything you say or write should include only true facts (or opinions, but I can't see how statements of your opinions about the contractor will get you anywhere).  I would absolutely file a complaint with the CSLB.  You should also submit a claim to the company that issued the contractor's license bond (you can get the necessary info to do that by searching the contractor's license number at the CSLB's web site (bonding info is about halfway down the detail page).  Threatening to do these things could be construed as extortion and isn't a great idea.

  • Fri, Jan 29 2016 11:16 AM In reply to

    • bleu2th
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    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    Thanks for the reply. I don't agree about threats of going to the CLB as being a "threat of extortion". They are the licensing agency to keep the contractors operating under a comon rule of business practice. As a matter of fact my contractor violated the guidelines. He told me he is only allowed to collect a $1000 deposit on the job but during the same evening suggested if I give him the first installement of $8K he would get a jump on ordering materials. He did not order materials until I gave him the next installment when work began. To date after 3 payments he still failed to order one of the main structural beams. Additionally, after my asking for a break down of labor and materials in the final stages he did not supply them. I paid an invoice to demo ceramic floor tiles from a small 9X12 room he charged me $1600 for and tried to tell me he was giving me a discount as it was 32 man hours an very difficult. He was never at my home, I was present and the tiles were removed in about 3 hours then 2 apprentice workers were left with a dull scraper for 2 more days unsupervised that could not get the thin set scraped off the floor. I have 3 estimates from licensed contractors that they would have charged $3-400 to do the same. I think this is ripe to bring in front of the contractors board for over charging and I plan to collect it back whether in court or giving him the choice of appearing before the CLB with me and my records.

    Nothing defaming about it, just fact and estimates. Thank you for the thought of going to the Bonding company. I thought of that just this morning. I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him make it good. Unfortunately, his supervisor that was on my job the entire time told me way too much about his failings to give me the fuel to make sure I do this correctly. My goal is that he will pay me what it will take to simply finish the job with reimbursement of what he failed to do and I paid for. Should be a simple solution, question is whether he wants to go the simple route or I make claims to his license and bonding company.

     

  • Fri, Jan 29 2016 11:28 AM In reply to

    • bleu2th
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    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    I do have a contract from him spelling out completion dates. He failed them all and since the final completion was the week following Thanksgiving and this is January I have given him ample time to make good. 2 weeks ago in a phone call he apologised and told me he would give me my structural sign off in 2 days without fail. His lead supervisor has left him and does some work for me. He informed me that this contractor was paying past bills and payroll with new money and is working thin. This is why I need to make a big impression now. He did not appear to me as flighty and I was impressed how he started. The work is excellent, however alot of good id does me with open and unfinished walls to continue to look at while he scrapes up money to finish. 

    I did pay an attorney for his time and I wrote a carefully worded demand  letter outlining his reimbursing me for monies it will take to finish the job, his abandonement of same and exactly where I go next to CLB, on online referral (Home Advisor) that I got him from and court if need be. Next is his move. I don't get a response or acceptible settlement I have done the homework and will not depart from my demands. Ball is in his court

     

  • Fri, Jan 29 2016 4:10 PM In reply to

    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    bleu2th:
    I don't agree about threats of going to the CLB as being a "threat of extortion".

    Ok, so you've throroughly read Penal Code section 518, et seq. and reviewed case law interpreting the relevant statutes?

    I'm not saying you shouldn't report what happened or make a bond claim; I'm only suggesting that threatening it might not be the best idea.

  • Fri, Jan 29 2016 6:49 PM In reply to

    • bleu2th
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    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    I appreciate your point and of course I did not read the statute as I am not an attorney but did consult with one who wrote the template for me to use. I plan on the person responding and working out the issues. They are simple, I paid for materials, labor and 3/4 of my contract. He did not perform and has billed me for more than he is entitled to. The way I look at it I have the right to go to the CLB with a complaint and by informing him BEFORE I do it and wait for a response I am not threatening but rather informing him of my rights and actions that will follow.

    No offense but I just finished up a 4 year defect construction lawsuit where I dealt with many attorneys on both sides including Apellate and I am of the opinion that if you get 100 lawyers in a room and ask what color it is you will get 99 different versions of color and one answer that we are in the wrong room. I prevailed in long battle that I had to sue under the SB800 Right to repair act that is thinly veiled to protect homeowners but was authored by the building industry. Let's just say the in my battle of David V Goleth I won the battle but not sure about winning the war after 3 appeals. Builder spent over $500K in defense to protect their future and try to make an example out of me. They had no legal presidence but alot of money and a lawfirm happy to waste time and money. I digress, sorry. Point is many was to look at this and since an attorney wrote my script and advised me specifically to mention the CLB, I am hoping I get his attention and he resolves it the easy way. If I don't hear from him my next recourse will be to file a claim against his Surety Bond for failure to complete the job. Simple and direct.

    I do appreciate your comments. Thank you.

     

  • Sat, Jan 30 2016 8:33 AM In reply to

    Re: Dreaded Contractor leaves job undone

    bleu2th:
    during the same evening suggested if I give him the first installement of $8K he would get a jump on ordering materials.

    That was your biggest mistake right there.  If you don't want to become a victim of a contractor's potential insolvency, always pay for work AFTER it clearly belongs to you.  That goes for materials as well.

    Even if he did everything in good faith and used that $8k check to buy the materials for your job (doesn't really sound like he did, but IF he had), those materials would be legally his until he delivers them to your property (possibly even until he actually installs them, I'm not entirely sure).  If he goes into bankruptcy now, those materials would be sold by the trustee and the proceeds distributed among his creditors.

    bleu2th:
    My goal is that he will pay me what it will take to simply finish the job with reimbursement of what he failed to do and I paid for. Should be a simple solution, question is whether he wants to go the simple route or I make claims to his license and bonding company.

    You can't insist on cash unless your contract provided for that.  You can try insisting he carry out his obligations under the contract by a certain date, but since it sounds like he hasn't even been in contact with an engineer, much less the city (you should be able to call the city building department and find out whether this contractor has applied for any permits for work at your address), this will just be a formality and you shouldn't expect any results from it.  I think he has already spent your money on whatever he needed to pay most urgently to avoid (postpone) bankruptcy, so your "simple solution" isn't simple for him at all.

    BTW, I am not specifically familiar with the contractor-licensing agency in your state, but typically all you can expect from them is disciplinary action (revocation of his license).  This is likely to REDUCE rather than enhance your ability to wring any progress out of him, so in your shoes I would not make involving that agency a priority just yet unless you know they actually help contractors' customers in some direct way (mediation?).

    Have you tried asking your lawyer for general advice about what he thinks you should do to salvage what you can from this debacle?  If you steered your lawyer the way you steered us here with your questions, you might not have gotten the best bang for your lawyer's-fee buck.

    And, just curious, did you get bids from any other contractors?  If so, were they all OK with your 3-week schedule?  Three weeks including engineering and permitting seems awfully ambitious to me, since the the engineering would normally need to be done first and submitted to the city before the permit would be issued, and the work should not be started until the required permits are in hand.  I think the contractor's willingness to agree to that schedule might have been a warning sign.

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