Deadbeat Contractor wants his $
October 17, 2011 8:27 AM   Subscribe

General contractor is incommunicado and will not return to repair his worker's error. He now asks that I deduct what I think is right from what's owed. Not sure how much to pay.

I hired a general contractor to:

Install under cabinet lights
Fix two badly hung doors
Replace a section of flooring
Odds and ends

We agreed on a price and his worker finished the job two months ago. The GC was to come over after the work was completed to double check it and get paid. That has not occurred. In the interim, the lights are now not functioning and were, according to the manufacturer, installed so incorrectly that it would void the warranty. Additionally, one of the doors is still not hung correctly. I've had to do additional work myself to fix some of his errors. The GC is aware of the issues but is not reachable. He now asks that I figure out myself how much to take off his check and send him the balance.

Normally, I would simply hire someone else to do this work and then deduct that price from what he's owed. But, in this case, fixing the door correctly would cost considerably more than my GC's original quote.
posted by mizrachi to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
I'd send him a check for $0.02. He'll get the message.

Snark aside, what is stated in the contract? Pay on completion, pay x%, etc.? I surely wouldn't pay him out completely unless the job was completed fully, and it appears it isn't done right now. But to CYA, you need to start at whatever the contract stipulates.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:33 AM on October 17, 2011

The GC was to come over after the work was completed to double check it and get paid. That has not occurred.

How much do you owe him? The full amount? More than the work is worth?

I would simply say "I paid for a certain job to be done correctly. This has not occurred. I will be happy to pay you what I owe you once the job is completed."

Working with a contractor is a game of who owes what to whom. If you owe him money, the ball is in your court. If you've paid and he owes you work, the ball is in his court. In this case, he needs to be paid so that he can pay off people he owes so he can get materials and labor for other jobs he's working on. If he hires a sub to do a job, he is responsible for that sub.

He has not performed the job he was hired to do. Don't pay him anything until he does.
posted by bondcliff at 8:34 AM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: there was/is no contract.
posted by mizrachi at 8:41 AM on October 17, 2011

He didn't do what he was hired to do.

So don't pay.

I'd also take this up with your state's Attorney General/Consumer Affairs office. Do that before he makes any moves to try to collect payment.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:44 AM on October 17, 2011

there was/is no contract.

In most cases this would be a bad thing. In this case it might work in your favor since you have nothing that says you agreed to partial payment for various stages of work.

The fact that the lights are installed correctly is not a minor thing. There could be faulty wiring involved which could potentially be a Very Bad Thing. Did he pull a permit? Did he have it inspected by the electrical inspector?

Don't pay him a dime until he comes to fix it. In fact, I would just tell him you're going to have a competent electrician fix it and not pay him at all.
posted by bondcliff at 9:02 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The ball is in his court. You don't have to do anything else until the GC decides to engage with you (ie, request a cheque).

If you want to be fair, subtract the labour from the amount, and just pay the contractor for the materials (if and when the GC follows up with you). Figure the GC paid the worker $25/hr.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:08 AM on October 17, 2011

But, in this case, fixing the door correctly would cost considerably more than my GC's original quote.

Write up an invoice showing that not only will you being paying him $0, but that you will be charging him the amount for someone else to come and fix your door, buy new lights and do the work. Either he'll show up then or do just that, and then take him to small claims court if he ignores your bill. Worst case scenario, you don't collect from him, but don't pay him, and apply that money to the new contractor.
posted by mikepop at 10:29 AM on October 17, 2011

Be careful of liens. If the GC is registered with State or local authorities he may be able to claim a mechanic's lien. This puts huge obstacles in the way of future contract work from anyone else, and may reflect poorly on a credit report. I don't even think he needs a contract to put a lein on your property.
posted by Gungho at 10:54 AM on October 17, 2011

Take him to small claims court. NOW! Hims that gets to small claims usually wins in a case like this.

Get your ducks in a line, document, document, document, get estimates, written testimony, anything you can do to prove that you owe him for nothing for his labor because of the damage he's done. If he's ruined materials, document that.

Did he ever initial something, speak in front of a witness, purchase materials that you signed for? If so, that might constitute a contract.

This is bullshite. We've been on the dirty end of it where we've been nailed by an electrician that screwed up our well pump, and while we were trying to settle with him, he went to small claims. Judge sympathized (ha!) but had us pay in full because he had brought it to court first. On the other side, we learned from that, and when we were screwed by a contractor, rather than try to settle with someone who was obviously dragging their feet, we filed first, and won what we felt was fair, which meant he ate about half his bill. It didn't make up for the time and aggravation, but we were able to get the job done for what we didn't have to pay him.

Anyway, small claims.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:31 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

He's essentially saying he quits and if you were to pay anything he'd take it.

Take it as a lesson learned and follow the advice above and get a contract in writing in advance for any work in the future.

Also, get at least three bids.
posted by pianomover at 11:56 AM on October 17, 2011

You've gotten a lot of advice here, but most of it is no good. You need legal advice from an attorney who is familiar with the contracting, lien and warranty laws of your state. They differ from state to state. You need this advice now. In some states the fact that nothing was put in writing is a violation of law and could lose him his license (if he even has one). In other states not so much. The fact you have no written contract might eliminate your ability to sue him especially if he didn't do any of the actual work. Get competent legal advice. Get it now.
posted by Old Geezer at 2:23 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you decide to pay him anything, it sounds like you should cover the cost of the flooring install, and the "odds and ends" since those were the only things done correctly. You might need to figure out those costs by asking around other contractors. Or just tell him directly you'll pay for the floor install only, and ask him what that cost. If he gives you an overly steep figure, argue it.
posted by lollusc at 5:53 PM on October 17, 2011

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