Contractor Disupute, Help!

mark_oOctober 20, 2009

We are at the end of our Addition/Remodel of our Home. We had an informal agreement (not a formal contract) that was initialed at the beginning. This is a >$200,000 job, and has taken longer than anybody thought.

At the beginning of the project, the contractor begin excavating BEFORE the permit was issued. He then had to wait 6-8 weeks before proceeding, but during that time it rained, and his forms collapsed. I didn't see him do anything to protect from rain. In my opinion he was negiligent. He asked for additional money, at that time (beginning of project), but I told him I thought it was his fault, and I wouldn't pay such a large sum extra at the beginning of the project (We almost fired him then). I told him he could possibly take an advance on upcoming work to help, but I wouldn't pay for his mistakes.

Now we are near the end of the project, and he has created a few more financial problems along the way. He left for three weeks, and had a sub-contractor supervise. On his return he told me that the sub-contractor spent way over his alloted budget, etc.... Mismanagement on his part.

Now we are at the end of the project. I am witholding $2000 until he completes all tasks.. He hasn't done anything in 2 weeks, and is acting strange. Today he called me and told me I needed to pay for the collapse of the forms at the BEGINNING of the project. He says it cost him $9000 and I should pay at least half.

It feels like he is trying to make up for many mismanagement issues that he caused on the way. I'd just want this project to wrap up quickly, but it doesn't seem like thats going to happen.

Any tips, or words of advice?

Should I just fire him now, and try to finish using this $2000 overhead that I keep?

Should I just tell him to finish it, without any additional money?

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Whatever you do, start doing it in writing. A contractor's means, methods, scheduling, management of subs, etc are his responsibility alone. Any contract would have stipulated that so it is always a good idea to sign one. You must at least send him a demand letter requesting that he finish as originally contracted before hiring someone else to finish the work.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 7:16PM
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I would consult with a lawyer - I know, I know... but in this case, you may be facing a messy ending with subcontractor liens etc. and unfortunately the result of not coming to an agreement may be litigation.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 7:24PM
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I wouldn't pay him anything more until the job is done to your satisfaction. The small amount that is owed would indicate it's only minor details that remain.
I wouldn't expect this guy to come back and finish with such a small amount he is owed.
The payout structure should have held at least 10% of the contract back until the job was done.
The lack of a contract on this size job is puzzling to me.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 7:25PM
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An informal contract on a $200,000+ job is scary.
I was nervous (and later regretted) having only a basic contract for an $8500 2nd floor remodel. I walked away with a decent 2nd floor and two really nice bathrooms, but also saying "never again".

Now it's time to start gutting the 1st floor bath.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2009 at 10:13AM
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You should consider yourself very, very lucky that the only thing in dispute is about $6,500.

I wouldn't fire him or do anything else without speaking to an attorney. An initialed agreement may be a legal contract where you are. The contractor may have certain rights under state law. Some states give a contractor the right to correct defects, you cannot just refuse to pay and have someone else correct it (that would apply to the $2000 amount only) unless he is given a certain number of attempts (not all states have this). Depending on the type of contract you have you may be responsible for the additional costs attributable to the issue with the forms. I don't see how forms collapsing could cost $9000, didn't they just have to set them back up?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 12:31AM
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