How to deal with potentially l
August 23, 2010 7:17 PM Subscribe
My contractor hasn't completed my renovations in the required time. I've given him notice that he's in default of our contract, and he had 7 days to get it together. He's now AWOL. Do I need a lawyer? If so, how much will that cost? If not, what do I do? If so, what do I do until I get one?
posted by anonymous to law & government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I hired a contractor to do renovations on a condo. I had reason to believe he would do good work and be reliable, but it seems I was wrong.
I think he is used to working without a written contract, but I was not comfortable with that, so when we met to finalize arrangements I had ready a contract based on the CMHC's sample contract. Basically it is their contract (http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/renoho/refash/refash_019.cfm) with the blanks filled in. In addition the contract includes a document with the breakdown of the budget (e.g. this much for tile, this much for labour and other materials required to install the tile; this much for shower doors, this much for labour and other materials to install shower doors, etc.) and a detailed description of the work to be completed.
"Substantial completion" was to be done by the end of July and "full completion" by mid-August. There were no penalties for late completion except that if the place wasn't ready for me to move in by the end of July (When he had promised me that it would be completely done), he would pay storage and added moving expenses. He had six weeks before the end of July to do the work (basically put in a new kitchen, hardwood floor throughout, paint, and assorted small fixes here and there)
The contract states that in the event of a disagreement about interpreting the contract we would go to arbitration.
It wasn't done when I moved in, but he said it would just be a few more days, so fine. For two weeks I got "Today we'll finish" pretty much every morning and "Tomorrow we'll finish and if not the next day for sure" in the evening. This despite the fact that often they didn't even have the materials to do things that weren't yet done.
The contract requires that he repair any damage done to the condo or replace damaged things if they can't be repaired and obviously to provide an appropriate standard of workmanship. The kitchen floor is not up to snuff. After the first installation tiles were uneven with large differences in height from one to the next. I pointed this out and he apologized, agreed that it was terrible and replaced some of the tiles. Of course now those tiles were uneven with the original installation. So he redid some more tiles. The upshot is that they're still dramatically uneven and I'm not happy with this.
And of course lots of other stuff still isn't done. I was constantly asking him when he would finish and eventually he tried to tell me that my rushing (2 months!) to finish was slowing him down. Whatever. I left town and told him I wanted it all done when I got back (after the final completion deadline) or I would have someone else do it. WHen I came back it was clear they hadn't even entered the condo when I was gone let alone done any work.
So when I got back I checked the contract and saw that I have to give him 7 days notice. So I wrote him the required letter saying he was in default of the contract and had 7 days to finish. That day he showed up (he had not showed up for several days previous) after calling me several times. He made no mention of the 7 days but did get one of the important missing tasks almost done (still not actually done).
At this point I need the kitchen floor fixed, and a bunch of smaller things completed. I have not seen him since the day I sent the letter.
I suspect that perhaps he rushed to do the work once I got the letter but he's since been advised by a lawyer to cease all contact. Our contract says when the 7 days are up I can hire someone else and basically deduct the cost of that from what I owe him. This is what I want to do, but I'm scared he has something up his sleeve and I don't know what that could be.
1. Our original contracted included a typo in which something was listed as costing 10x as much as we had agreed. (i..e the typo was an added 0). I pointed this out to him (orally) 2 days later and he agreed it was a typo. This portion of the work is done. I have no proof that he agreed it was a typo, other than that it would be ludicrous if it wasn't a typo.
2. He invoiced me for a payment about a week and a half before I sent the letter. Payment is due 7 days after invoice. I did not pay this because it would leave me owing him very little and I did not want to owe him so little until the work was done. He seemed to acknowledge this by saying he was in a hurry to finish since he wasn't going to be paid until he finished. This I can prove. However, the contract includes an interest stipulation for late payments. I'm worried I'll be on the hook for interest until this is all resolved (instead of until I sent him a letter saying he's in default).
3. Delays due to materials not available are excusable delays and so not subject to the "penalties" described above. Some materials were delayed: Nothing was delayed beyond the day for full completion. One thing was substantially delayed. Some other important things were "delayed" considerably, but I have reason to believe that he just didn't order them until very late. One more late thing (still not bought) he says he knows where to get but doesn't want to get that one because it's more work to install than the thing he wants but can't find. Many things that could easily have been done were delayed and so other jobs were not done as soon as materials were available (e.g. the flooring was delayed a week, but the condo sat empty with no one doing any work until the flooring showed up. THEN they finished ripping up the old floor and sweeping it out.) Based on this and the fact that materials were not delayed beyond the final completion date and the fact that many things for which materials are available are still not done: material delays do not account for the late completion. I could see him arguing that they do, however.
I believe the amount of money I still owe him will be enough to cover the cost of completing the renovation. I would like to do as our contract says: Hire someone else and when they're done give him whatever money is leftover. The fact that he has ceased all contact worries, me however.
1. Could have had something up his sleeve and if so, what?
2. Do I need a lawyer ASAP or should I wait and see what happens?
3. What should I be doing in the meantime? When the 7 days are up should I give him notice (and ask him to return my key!!) or just forget about him until it comes time to figure out how much I still owe him. and pay him.
I'm doing my best to document everything and will take a tonne of pictures of the incomplete or inadequate work before having anyone fix it.
4. How much would a lawyer typically run me for something like this? would it be likely that I could ask him to pay for legal expenses?
I am in Ontario.
TL;DR: My contractor hasn't completed the work we contracted for. Some completed work is not up to reasonable standards. I want to hire someone else to finish the work (essentially at his expense) without being burned. What should I worry about? What should I do?