September 22, 2008 6:22 PM   Subscribe

A company did additional work they were not authorized by us to do to our house, and now our house is broken.

We had a company come out to do some work on the foundation (pier-and-beam). They were supposed to simply replace some sub-par materials that had been noted in the inspection. However, they leveled the foundation several inches without asking our permission to do the work, and now the house has multiple issues, some only superficial, but others are very major repairs that must be done by professionals.

The company came out to inspect the foundation before we bought the house and did not find that such extensive work would need to be done.

A licensed home inspector also inspected the house, and found only one area that might be questionable, but even that was within the acceptable range for deflection.

The company owner is now claiming that he saved us a great deal of money by doing this work, which would have had to be done eventually anyway, and this may in fact be true, but we are not financially prepared to pay for immediate repairs made necessary by the unauthorized work.

What do we do? Who, if anyone, should cover this? What is the next step?

We bought the house less than one month ago and we live in Texas.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Get an attorney.
posted by sanko at 6:29 PM on September 22, 2008

You're posting anonymously for some reason, so I don't really expect an answer, but did the leveling occur as a by-product of the work you hired them to do, or did they throw that in as a lagniappe? It's easy to imagine that, say, they replaced a warped beam with a straight one (and then shimmed around it to transmit the load), which was the cause of your troubles, or some of them.

If this is the case, then I don't think you have a strong case against them. It would be unreasonable to expect them to replace one warped beam with another equally warped one. Without more information, it's hard to know what's really going on.
posted by adamrice at 6:36 PM on September 22, 2008

Mod note: This is a follow-up from anonymous.

The work was done while they were in there repairing some other stuff. They said that they got in there and saw it, they knew it would need to be leveled that much and that they just went ahead and did it, and that it would save us some money.

That they did it gratis is supposed to make up for not asking us, I think.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:08 PM on September 22, 2008

I have been in the remodeling business for a little while and I have never done what sounds like ALOT of extra work that needed to be done for free. (Unless it was fixing a mistake on my part, of course.) I definitely wouldn't do it with out written authority, especially, if it had the potential to cause a lot of problems. There is just too much risk. Maybe they are thinking that since the work was done for free, it frees them from liability.

IANAL, but you should contact the original home inspector and have him give you his thoughts on it. Then find out how much the extra work is going to cost. If after you get some estimates the cost is large enough you should go to the foundation contractor and see if you guys can work something out. If not then you could either suck up it and take the loss or lawyer up.

Good luck.
posted by MiggySawdust at 7:42 PM on September 22, 2008

What kind of company is it: a big operation or a two-person thing?

Are they bonded or licensed?

What is certain is that you need a lawyer.
posted by jayder at 7:55 PM on September 22, 2008

That they did it gratis is supposed to make up for not asking us, I think.

This doesn't make sense. In my line of work, I try to avoid doing any work I am not paid for. I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would perform work, and then, to "make up" for the fact that I did not ask the beneficiary for permission to do the work, I give it to them for free.

Did they do the work without asking you, assuming you would pay for it, then when you raised hell about them doing it without asking, they said it was free? That was the only way I could think this makes sense.

As a general rule, contractors do not do work they are not paid for. In fact, it's often hard to get contractors to do work they were paid for.
posted by jayder at 8:00 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have never done what sounds like ALOT of extra work that needed to be done for free. (Unless it was fixing a mistake on my part, of course.)

this looks like it could be your answer. Is it possible that while they were in the midst of doing the minor repairs they made a mistake and had to fix it by doing a major repair "for free"
posted by any major dude at 8:56 PM on September 22, 2008

I think that any is right. The only reason they would do anything major for free is if they were fixing some other way they messed up.
Get photos, get it inspected, get some estimates. Then go to the company and show the old inspection and then new. Tell them they are going to pay for SOMEONE ELSE to fix it and then if they say no take photos inspections any paperwork they gave you and the easements all to a lawyer. But, what ever you do don't give up any paperwork to them that is the only proof you have of what you told them to do verses what they did which is the key.
posted by CollegeNelson at 9:34 PM on September 22, 2008

ditto on the first guy, get an attorney.
posted by docmccoy at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2008

I've had similar shit pulled with me too...things installed which I had made clear I didn't want and being overcharged in addition to the askme question. I have a lawyer, but she wants to wait until the work is finished before she starts proceedings.
posted by brujita at 9:44 PM on September 22, 2008

I Nthing the keeping of any and all paperwork. A wise old contractor buddy gave me this advice when I first started and was not that thorough with paper work..." What we are doing here is preparing for a lawsuit and getting some carpentry done on the side." Meaning, he who has the paper work taken care of will have the advantage of copius written, and hopefully signed, documentation in case there are problems.

Again, good luck.
posted by MiggySawdust at 10:26 PM on September 22, 2008

I work for a contractor, my advice might not be pertinent in your situation so take it for what it is worth. You want to avoid litigation if at all possible. The contractor you used wants to avoid litigation if at all possible. Make sure you do not just see a lawyer but a lawyer who is familiar with contracting / construction law. Why do I issue these warnings? Following quick reasons:

- If your contractor is not bonded or is a one man shop who runs it with his kids, there are numerous ways in which they can go into bankruptcy and you end up spending a load of money and end up behind a lot of other people. This happens a lot more than you would think and does not guarantee your problem gets resolved no matter how much in the right you are. Someone familiar with contracting methods and laws will be able to guide you as to the best advice, which very well may be litigation.

- Document, document, document. Luckily courts (or an arbitration panel) will usually rule in the owner's favor for something like this. You still want the contractor to know that this is the case and that you know what you are doing. The key phrase is "enough lawyering to make you dangerous." If the contractor has a bit of smart, and your lawyer has you send them a carefully crafted e-mail that raises legal terms that the contractor will be aware of it will get them moving.

- You probably are going to want another contractor to fix this correctly, eventually. Unless you fear the house collapsing or there is a chance of substantial damage (water, etc.), take your time and go through the proper process. There's a good chance that (in my experience with non-home commercial contracting) that a settlement will be offered and the lawyers will haggle over that. This is good, you want to take this and go to someone else. Even if you really, really like the guys. This may seem obvious to you but for whatever reason, this is how it works in contracting. People don't like fixing mistakes with their own money.

- Pictures, pictures, pictures. And document, document, document. Sit down right now and remember times, dates, names, words used. Go to lawyer. Lawyer may advise you what to say but not to say you're speaking with a lawyer (as I detailed above). Do not be surprised.

- Don't get greedy. This pisses off the contractor. I've seen people come back with a legitimate claim and then decide they'll play "hardball" with the contractor and bring up all kinds of things. Good contractors will usually be well aware of their liabilities and will want to work with you to achieve the most cost effective solution. In the end it will just end up enriching lawyers.

In summary, you really need to drop everything and get yourself to a lawyer. The "aesthetic repairs" and "repairs we were going to do eventually when we are ready" is dangerous language that you should probably not be using unless you know 100% what you are talking about. You seem like in a good place. If you're lucky you'll receive a large cash settlement that will make you whole again, and this can take place out of court.
posted by geoff. at 4:42 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

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