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dealing with difficult contractor

Posted by PugetSoundjj (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 11, 13 at 14:18

I have totally had it with my contractor and have been for some time. We are doing a major kitchen remodel and no work has basically been done for the past 5 1/2 weeks. Both my husband and our architect (who suggested the contractor) have been loathe to deal with him so I have been addressing issues with him. Now he tells me that I am a bully for bringing things up more than once and that it is not productive. He is pretty young - early thirties - and acts very immature and unprofessional.

He has been working on texturing and priming (he refuses to paint so we are going to do it ourselves) for a total of just a couple of hours every week, but since he keeps missing spots or something goes wrong this just keeps going on and on. The fact that he only shows up a couple of hours a week to deal with it is really dragging it out.

The new floors are installed, the glass brick wall is in (somehow they missed centering it on the wall), the fireplace tile has been laid with flaws in it, the new 15' double sliding glass door has been installed but one of the parts is all cut up, so there is plenty to do if he would just show up.

We started this project 10 weeks ago and he was supposed to be done last week. He still has to install all the cabinets, countertops, backsplash, electrical and all the appliances. There is no clause in the contract for penalties is he does not finish on time.

We still owe him about a third of the bid cost but he still has about 2/3 of the work left to do.

Everyday he says he is coming and then he does not show. We were supposed to have a meeting today but now has postponed it until Friday. I am not sure if this is some kind of stalling tactic or if he is just stringing us along and plans to bail at this point.

We would lose a lot of money if we fired him now and would have an even longer wait to finish up our kitchen as he is custom building our cabinets and we would have to order them from somewhere else.

Should we fire him anyway, or are there any tips on how to get our needs better met - that he finishes quickly and does a quality job?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

A couple of questions;
Was the Arch. involved in plan preparation and/or any of the bldg. permits?
Was there any structural, elec. or plumbing alterations included and were they permitted and/or inspected?
Is the contractor the only person having performed any labor at your home?
Where are the "custom cabinets" being manufactured?
Does your state have a dept. of consumer affairs?
Are you aware that there exists a Business and Professional Code that applies to all businesses licensed within your state?


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Your husband and the architect (who suggested the contractor) should be at the meeting on Friday.

I would try and shock him right up front: ask him directly if he'd like to mutually terminate the contract. If so - you are free of this jerk who IMO is not going to get the job done the way you want.

It sounds like this guy has money problems, and has other jobs that are also in trouble - just like yours. I imagine he is a bad estimator, and has underbid other projects, and he can't get them done.

If he doesn't want to terminate, I would have him agree to work fixed hours - like 8:00 am - 5:00 pm - so many days a week. Not partial, not late, not leaving early.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Snoonyb:
The architect was involved in some plan preparation.

There was a new header installed to support the 15' sliding glass doors but no permit was obtained (iffy whether or not it should have been). One interior wall was removed but I doubt a permit was needed for that as it was not load bearing.

No plumbing alterations are really needed as we are going with a similar layout to our old kitchen, just lines moved a couple of feet for the sink and fridge.

The contractor has hired out for some subs - exterior masonry, flooring, electrical, door installation. Is your point that I should make sure that they have been paid since I am ultimately responsible?

The contractor is manufacturing the cabinets in his shop, along with the counter top. He is planning on painting the glass back splash himself as well. All done at his shop a short distance from my home. Normally he is a cabinet maker and stone fabricator but he is trying to branch out to general contracting.

I am sure my state has a dept. of consumer affairs. If I decide to terminate the guy, I would check with a lawyer first as I do think I would need to sue him to get some of the costs back so I can continue with the renovation. He probably doesn't have the money and I wouldn't get anything but a lawyer could probably advise me what to do. I am just not sure I need to escalate it to this point yet, or do I?

Geoffrey, my husband is planning on being at the meeting. Since the contractor will no longer communicate with me, it has now fallen on my husband to do so. The contractor is only keeping in touch with the architect by texting and rarely responds to her. I can see if she would be willing to attend the meeting as well. That's if he shows up since he keeps failing to do so.

I do agree that I don't have confidence that this guy will do an outstanding job on the rest of the construction based on what we have seen and now his unwillingness to show up. However, my husband and architect are not on board with my thinking.

I do like your suggestions about being up front at the beginning of the meeting about mutually terminating the contract. I think he probably doesn't but it would give us some leverage to have him sign a new addendum stating that he will have the project done by such and such a date or there will be a financial penalty.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Puget Sound JJ--
are you in Washington state? If so, did you check that your GC was licensed on the L&I website?
In WA, you will be on the hook for any subs he didn't pay, even if you paid him, to pay them. I would immediately get lein releases from every one of them that acknowledges that they have, in fact, been paid. The WA laws around construction are not homeowner friendly... They can come back and put a lien on your house for several months after you thought your project was all done and paid for.

The L&I site has information on how to protect yourself from contractor fraud and bankruptcy (even the best contractors sometimes went "under").

After that, yes, I think you terminate this guy. There are several good ones in our area for you to be dinking around with a bad one, frankly. But, your $ is your $ and you have to figure out how much time/stress it is worth to you to try to recover any $ you gave him that he did not complete... And, what did your contract say regarding the payments? (have you been paying along the way as things were completed, or some other way?)

The link is the L&I link. On the left is the listing with how to lookup a contractor; how to protect yourself; etc.
In Washington, I am not sure you'll get a lot of help from consumer affairs as much as you will from reporting him to L&I.

Here is a link that might be useful: L&I protect from contractors website.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Oh, and if he was licensed and bonded, you may be able to go after his bond to get some of your money "back".

Info on that on the L&I site as well.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Thanks kirkhall. I will check this information/link out.

Yes, I am in WA state so this information helps a lot.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

An added thought: If he persists in wanting to complete the contract - have him give you milestones (in his case inch stones) of what will be completed, and an estimated date. This way, if he get's way off course, everyone will be aware of it.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

"There was a new header installed to support the 15' sliding glass doors but no permit was obtained "

There are specific requirements for door headers and additional for those over 8."
Not to mention replacing the shear value, of the wall, affected by the wall removal, Not to mention re-establishing the weather-ability of the dwelling.

"One interior wall was removed but I doubt a permit was needed for that as it was not load bearing."

Hopefully the person who determined this, was not the same person that did not think that opening up an exterior load bearing wall might (Iffy) not require a permit.

None of which is true.

"No plumbing alterations are really needed as we are going with a similar layout to our old kitchen, just lines moved a couple of feet for the sink and fridge."

You say "NO", however, all require permits.

"The contractor has hired out for some subs - exterior masonry, flooring, electrical, door installation."

All of which require a business license, insurance and permits.

"Is your point that I should make sure that they have been paid since I am ultimately responsible?"

NO! Do you have their names both personal and business?

"he is trying to branch out to general contracting."

So, do you even know if he's a licensed general contractor?

"I am sure my state has a dept. of consumer affairs. If I decide to terminate the guy,"

Call them, before the meeting, and ask them the process of declaring abandonment for a contractor who has accomplished, non-permited and non-inspected, structural, elec. and plumbing alterations at your dwelling.

"I need to escalate it to this point yet, or do I?"

Depending upon the tempure of your discussion, he doesn't run to his truck and bring back cash, you might.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

"Call them, before the meeting, and ask them the process of declaring abandonment for a contractor who has accomplished, non-permited and non-inspected, structural, elec. and plumbing alterations at your dwelling."

Of course this begs the question, how did the contractor come to "elect" not to obtain permits.
Was he/they induced.
Was it discussed.
Was it pooh-poohed as a time waster.
Were they petitioned.

HHHhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmm!


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Any money given him at this point is probably lost. Getting blood from a stone isn't possible. It will cost you attorney fees, and he probably doesn't have any assets to be able to repay you.

Focus on terminating the contract without getting a lien(s) put on your house or winding up with huge fines because of no permitting. You need to involve your local codes office and throw yourself on their mercy as being ignorant of what needed to be done. If the contractor does refund you some money, look at that as "found" money. Don't expect that to happen.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

I too am in the Puget Sound area and you've got several types of work going on that would require permits in Seattle - the new header, the plumbing, the electrical, the wall removal... We had an exterior wall opening enlarged for our remodel to about 15' for doors, and it required a pretty chunky glulam beam which was designed by a structural engineer. Did your architect work with a structural engineer on sizing the header and confirming that the removed wall was not load bearing?

I think your guy is in over his head, and he's dragging you under the water with him. Might be best to cut him loose now.


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RE: dealing with difficult contractor

Again, L&I can help you with this. I would talk to them.
In many, but not all, W WA locales, L&I actually does the inspections. For some other areas, my city included, the local city government (city inspectors) do the inspections.

Again, L&I can help you determine what needed permits and what did not. And, if he is not licensed in WA as a contractor, they will go after him with fines, etc.

Explain the situation to L&I and see what they recommend.


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