Bad contractor, No permit, Can I sue

erba08August 14, 2006

I paid a contractor to remodel my existing shed into a one bedroom apt. He almost never showed up, purchased over $3,000 worth of material and has $3,200 in cash of my money. He will not return my phone calls and has left me with a huge credit card bill, tons of material and an unfinished job. The only problem is I never got a permit from the city to remodel. Will I still be able to take him to court and sue? Does it look like I will get any of my money back? I DO have a signed contract. He is not licensed nor does he work for a company. But he claims to have 25 years experience. The only reason I trusted him was because he claimed to be a preacher at his church. STUPID ME!!!PLZ HELP!

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Lawyer time.

In most places, you will not have much success. You could win the lawsuit and he will have no assets for any recovery.

In the future, it is much safer to not pay a contractor until you have reciepts he paid material.subs----or pay for such costs yourself. The easiest way to do that is for the contractor to simply send the receipt/voucher to you for reimbursement/payment.

That way you can check for the material or go over the work with the sub---that helps eliminate possibiolities for fraud.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 2:00PM
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I don't think your failure to get a permit will affect your ability to recover. The amount may be small enough that you can (attempt to) recover it yourself in small claims court or your jurisdiction's equivalent. It's a pain in the neck, but you won't incur any attorney's fees by handling the filing yourself. You can probably find out what steps you need to take on the local court's web site. It will help if you know where this person lives and whether he has any seizable assets.

Life lessons are hard, aren't they? Learned a few myself, am sure I have a few more coming.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 3:55PM
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I don't think you have a leg to stand on.

First, it is normally not legal to turn a shed into an apartment. It's a zoning violation prohibited by zoning codes in R-1 areas.

Second, Building codes require a lot of stringent criteria to which you must conform in order to create habitable space.

Since you have neither a zoning permit, building permit, or any other approval from your municipality, it is likley your case will be dismissed because you cannot be compensated when conspiring with another to do something illegal.

You can certainly sue, but expect to lose your court costs and attorney fees on top of what you have already lost by so doing.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 5:37PM
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This sounds like the kind of case you see on "Judge Judy"!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 11:04AM
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Well for what its worth.
If he is a preacher. You can have a chat with the pastor of his church, and let him know one of his ministers swindled you out your hard earned money.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 2:33PM
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I would show up at this guys church and request prayer for a contractor/preacher that you dealt with that cheated and mislead you. Pray that God will have mercy on him in the day of judgement.
Really my experience tells me that if an individual has to tell you that he is something, then he is using that as a smokescreen to what he really is.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 8:56AM
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Sorry to hear you are in this situation. Did you have a written contract? Where I am in Ct I honestly don't think they will let you file in small claims if you don't have a contract but they might. I had a contractor pull the same kind of thing, but he had signed a contract and was licensed. We won in court, but he never paid us back, even though we garnished wages, etc. He kept changing jobs and avoiding the payments. Now we are stuck with about half the judgement unpaid, attorney's fees, and nothing else. Another contractor had to finish the work and it cost more because we had to undo what was done improperly. It was an expensive nightmare. The work you were going to do might and might not have been allowed, depending on your zoning for your area. Here, an auxillary apartment is allowed, but it depends on quite few factors, such as your water and sewer tie ins or septic etc. Here, I don't believe the Dept. of Health allows for a tie in to an existing septic, but I could be wrong. (The ones I've seen had to have their own separate septic if not say an inlaw apartment in the basement say) If it wasn't legal and you had no contract, I think you might be throwing your money away. Just my opinion though. You can find out what is needed for the local small claims court in your area, including the cost to file and the amount you can sue for. It might just be an expensive lesson learned though. I hope it works out for you.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 12:41PM
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Check if your state has some kind of "Bad Contractor" mediation program (try the Office of Consumer Affairs, State Attorney General's Office, etc.)

We won a judgement against a guy here in MA, by going through the program. Took awhile, required diligent paperwork, and there is not an automatic collection or payout. However, if we make an effort to collect (which we are working on now through a lawyer - again, more paperwork), the state will likely eventually reimburse us out of a fund (of course, the lawyer will be need to paid for the work he has done.)

That said, at least in MA, you would most likely be out of gas. To even get into the mediation program, we needed to be dealing with a LICENSED liar and thief (;o), and I believe that my husband needed to show that we had lived up to our end of things be having the required permits, etc.

So sorry for your pain, it s*cks to be ripped off like this.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 1:16PM
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First of all, you absolutely can take your case to court. The comment above referring to it being thrown out because the subject of the contract is illegal is not relevant to this case. That applies to activities that are inherently illegal such as a lawsuit for illegal gambling debts. Building construction is not such an activity and even where permits aren't obtained, the law will not prevent a lawsuit. Breach of an oral contract is also a legitimate cause of action, so don't worry if you don't have a written contract. However, with the amount involved here the only place you should consider taking it is to Small Claims. Many states have between 3 and 10 thousand dollar limits. Even if your state has a smaller limit than your claim you can still go to Small Claims so long as you are willing to accept the Court's maximum limit. collecting on the judgment is another issue - this guy is probably "non-collectible", if he did it to you he's probably doing it to other also

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 5:26PM
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What would you like to have happen as a result of taking this man to court? The only thing that will happen is you spend more time, money and stress to be in the same boat 2 years from now. Take your lumps, find a reputable contractor and pay him to finish the job rather than pay a lawyer, (unless your lawyer does remodeling).

You have every right to be upset, but with yourself. You say he is a contractor but doesn't have a company, a license, or apparently a place of business since you can't contact him. These are all issues you should have dealt with before you jumped into a deal without knowing he was reputable.

Yep, I'm a contractor of 30 years. Just thank your lucky stars it wasn't worse, he could have fallen off a ladder and sued you! He obviously doesn't have insurance either.

Seriously, decide if you want more stress or just want results now. Your pain can be over in a few weeks.
A contractor will get you where you want to be a lot faster than an attorney. Best of luck to you!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 11:17PM
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Just thank your lucky stars it wasn't worse

They just had a segment on (I forget) either 60 minutes or 48 Hours about two weeks ago, about remodeling contractor rip offs, and there was one couple in California who'd been ripped off to the tune of 1.5 MILLION dollars. But that wasn't good enough-- this jerk had the cahones to go BACK to this homeowner and ask to BORROW ANOTHER 1/4 MILLION!! (No, he didn't get the loan).

When the program's producers caught up with the contractor, he was across town, getting started on someone else's home.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 8:11AM
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I recently had a terrible experience with a dishonest person who also said he was a preacher. He well may have been, but he has gone astray! Here's a link to his wonderful work. It may cost me a pretty penny, but he won't be getting away with his shoddy work with me.

Here is a link that might be useful: J and S Improvements Fort Worth

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 2:28AM
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