Taking a contractor to small claims court

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11/18/2017 3:50 AM

Hey Guys,

I realize that a moto message board isn't the place to seek legal advice. I know that some of you are in construction and have dealt with a deadbeat sub before, so I'm seeking some direction on my situation.

I entered into a contract (poorly written by them and shame on me for accepting) with a contractor for a total of $10,000 of work. We broke it out into 4 draws, with defined milestones before payment was made. The work was being done about an hour away from where I live, so I wasn't able to be there the entire time to babysit adults. Their work was slow, but it was getting done.

Everything was paid up through 3 draws, with the 4th to be when all work was finished. He said he needed to get paid to pay his guys and keep them going (this should have been a red light), so I cut a check for a good portion of the 4th draw, but not all, and then as you can imagine, he disappeared.

There was a lot of work that was left unfinished and half assed, like most of them guys do. It's disappointing that people do business like that, and it's even more disapppointing that I gave this guy a dollar.

Anyway - I'm putting a civil warrant together to be served. The business was an LLC, with the only member being the name of this guys wife. I also learned that they dissolved the LLC 1 week after I gave the last check. I'm guessing that I have to have the sheriff serve this guy's wife and the business? Does anyone have any experience in this area and know my best route to proceed? Can I serve the wife directly for being the managing member of the business?

Thanks for any help and advice,
Jay

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11/18/2017 6:01 AM


I'm thinking you're just gonna waste your time and money.
She probably doesn't have anything to attach.
The guys, they were hiding behind her all along.

I'd take it as a learning experience. Tuition. You admit, you did not really watch what was going on.
And you knew you should have.
And when they wanted a piece of the 4th you felt uneasy.
But, you gave it to them anyway. Negligence on your part as far as protecting yourself.

You're pissed. Understandable. Throwing more resources down a bottomless pit might make you feel better, revenge wise.

But it will not further your goals to better your life or get ahead.

Be smart, not emotional.

I say suck it up, move on, and don't forget.
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11/18/2017 6:26 AM

I agree with motogrady. Absorb your losses and moves on. Sucks yes, but it'll more than likely be cheaper than hiring a lawyer and going after him.

Word of advice. It is not your responsibility to pay the other guy's employees. They're on his payroll not yours. He should have enough money in the bank to pay their salaries and in the event that money gets tight he could take a cash advance on his Visa/Mastercard or whatever to pay them or take it out of his business line of credit. If he's running a business and he doesn't have either of those things, again that's not your problem. He should take it up with his employees not you. His employees more than likely wouldn't be happy and who could blame them but that's their problem not yours. Those guys can either quit working for him or take him to court.

Whatever you decide to do good luck moving forward.

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"Sorry Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower."

11/18/2017 6:40 AM

No different than when I have to evict a deadbeat renter. I take them to court and win a judgement against them but they are free to walk out of court without paying me a single penny owed. Hell, the judge even gives them another ten days to move out. Half the time, they don't even show for court as they are busy moving out at the last minute but it is a process I have to follow to retake possession of my own property. You'll likely get a judgement in your favor, but no money. You'll be out of pocket court costs and time.

Like Grady said, suck it up as a lesson learned and move on.

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11/18/2017 9:33 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/18/2017 9:34 AM

Start by calling the police right now!!! What he has done is called "theft by contractor"...

I just went through this with a concrete guy. He was supposed to be at my house pouring a slab, when the cops stopped by his house he was at home drinking beer.

The police will give him "x" amount of time to complete the job, or face charges. They gave my guy a week to get it done and he got it done.

BTW: I did not even have a contract..but I had texts documenting the cash exchange..etc. Even if the contract is "poorly" written you are still protected.

For example, down payments can only be used for material..they got very strict on this stuff after the recession..

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11/18/2017 10:56 AM

Thanks for the help guys. I was thinking along the same lines - I'll never see the money it cost to repair the damage they did and the work they didn't complete. It also doesn't make financial sense to follow through with the court process and legal fees.

It is disturbing that deadbeats and dirtbags have more rights in this country than honest, hard working people.

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11/18/2017 11:35 AM

Brad460 wrote:

Start by calling the police right now!!! What he has done is called "theft by contractor"...

I just went through this with a concrete guy. He was supposed to be at my house pouring a slab, when the cops stopped by his house he was at home drinking beer.

The police will give him "x" amount of time to complete the job, or face charges. They gave my guy a week to get it done and he got it done.

BTW: I did not even have a contract..but I had texts documenting the cash exchange..etc. Even if the contract is "poorly" written you are still protected.

For example, down payments can only be used for material..they got very strict on this stuff after the recession..

It's a civil.matter. Not criminal.

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11/18/2017 11:36 AM

jchek779 wrote:

Thanks for the help guys. I was thinking along the same lines - I'll never see the money it cost to repair the damage they did and the work they didn't complete. It also doesn't make financial sense to follow through with the court process and legal fees.

It is disturbing that deadbeats and dirtbags have more rights in this country than honest, hard working people.

Contracts,signed. Cover your ass.

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11/18/2017 2:27 PM

Brad460 wrote:

Start by calling the police right now!!! What he has done is called "theft by contractor"...

I just went through this with a concrete guy. He was supposed to be at my house pouring a slab, when the cops stopped by his house he was at home drinking beer.

The police will give him "x" amount of time to complete the job, or face charges. They gave my guy a week to get it done and he got it done.

BTW: I did not even have a contract..but I had texts documenting the cash exchange..etc. Even if the contract is "poorly" written you are still protected.

For example, down payments can only be used for material..they got very strict on this stuff after the recession..

mxb2 wrote:

It's a civil.matter. Not criminal.

Taking money and not finishing the job is theft by contractor...which is not a civil matter.

If he finished the job and the quality of the work was not acceptable I would consider that a civil matter.

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11/18/2017 2:38 PM

Brad460 wrote:

Start by calling the police right now!!! What he has done is called "theft by contractor"...

I just went through this with a concrete guy. He was supposed to be at my house pouring a slab, when the cops stopped by his house he was at home drinking beer.

The police will give him "x" amount of time to complete the job, or face charges. They gave my guy a week to get it done and he got it done.

BTW: I did not even have a contract..but I had texts documenting the cash exchange..etc. Even if the contract is "poorly" written you are still protected.

For example, down payments can only be used for material..they got very strict on this stuff after the recession..

mxb2 wrote:

It's a civil.matter. Not criminal.

Brad460 wrote:

Taking money and not finishing the job is theft by contractor...which is not a civil matter.

If he finished the job and the quality of the work was not acceptable I would consider that a civil matter.

Not honoring a contract is a civil matter in MD. State by state might be different.

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11/18/2017 2:41 PM

Don’t pay till the works done.

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GP740
Since 1987

11/18/2017 2:58 PM

I am guessing that this guy was a General Contractor not a Sub Contractor? And it was Residential work not Commercial? First of all the Residential world is rife with criminal contractors. If this guy had "guys" meaning employees you are free of them. If he hired a Sub Contractor that he did not pay you are sadly on the hook for that. They can lein the property. For a $10K job I ask for no money until it's done. Maximum allowable down payment is 10%.

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11/18/2017 3:43 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/18/2017 5:36 PM

Unfortunately we have to be"Ruthless" when we have this type of business dealings.My Mom and Dad got screwed out of 7K from a scum bag that had it down to a science. A separate escrow account setup for materials delivered to job site only can help . I'm with George,No one gets paid until the job is complete and I'm satisfied with what I see. Contractor asks to get paid. Of course your going to get paid,we have a contract that says when you're done and I'm satisfied you'll be paid in full. Reputable contractors should have no problems setting up a work escrow account and waiting till the job is done.

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Yeah, I have no clue !!!

11/18/2017 3:48 PM

GeorgiePorgie wrote:

Don’t pay till the works done.

Boom

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11/18/2017 3:58 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/19/2017 2:23 PM

never mind

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11/18/2017 4:13 PM

jchek779 wrote:

Thanks for the help guys. I was thinking along the same lines - I'll never see the money it cost to repair the damage they did and the work they didn't complete. It also doesn't make financial sense to follow through with the court process and legal fees.

It is disturbing that deadbeats and dirtbags have more rights in this country than honest, hard working people.

Was this a licensed contractor ? Were they bonded ? If so you should have recourse with the License Agency. If not your likely better off spending time and money getting your project done.

Not familiar with other states but CA requires licensed contractor for jobs over $500 and a license requires a $15,000 bond or cash deposit which can be used for claims of financial loss, unpaid employees, etc.

Its easy to identify a contractor or so called contractor that might not perform the job right. They can do it for much less than everyone else.

If its any kind of sizeable dollar amount and you don't want any issues. Check the license status and history, require current certifications for general liability insurance, and workers comp insurance for the General and any subcontractor they hire. And require the General purchase a payment and performance bond. It will add 2 to 3% to the cost but will protect the owner from uncompleted work, and property liens from unpaid employees and suppliers. And lawsuits against homeowners insurance and personal assets if someone gets hurt on your property.


The owner always has control of the payments. Progress payments can be made directly to the subcontractors and suppliers. Third party fiduciary can be hired to control payments to General, subs, and suppliers. Lots of different ways. Smaller projects with a single contractor may not support some of this but at the end of the day the owner always has control. Good reliable quality contractors will cost more but wont have a problem qualifying for or doing these things.

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11/18/2017 4:58 PM

jchek779 wrote:

Thanks for the help guys. I was thinking along the same lines - I'll never see the money it cost to repair the damage they did and the work they didn't complete. It also doesn't make financial sense to follow through with the court process and legal fees.

It is disturbing that deadbeats and dirtbags have more rights in this country than honest, hard working people.

SCR wrote:

Was this a licensed contractor ? Were they bonded ? If so you should have recourse with the License Agency. If not your likely better off spending time and money getting your project done.

Not familiar with other states but CA requires licensed contractor for jobs over $500 and a license requires a $15,000 bond or cash deposit which can be used for claims of financial loss, unpaid employees, etc.

Its easy to identify a contractor or so called contractor that might not perform the job right. They can do it for much less than everyone else.

If its any kind of sizeable dollar amount and you don't want any issues. Check the license status and history, require current certifications for general liability insurance, and workers comp insurance for the General and any subcontractor they hire. And require the General purchase a payment and performance bond. It will add 2 to 3% to the cost but will protect the owner from uncompleted work, and property liens from unpaid employees and suppliers. And lawsuits against homeowners insurance and personal assets if someone gets hurt on your property.


The owner always has control of the payments. Progress payments can be made directly to the subcontractors and suppliers. Third party fiduciary can be hired to control payments to General, subs, and suppliers. Lots of different ways. Smaller projects with a single contractor may not support some of this but at the end of the day the owner always has control. Good reliable quality contractors will cost more but wont have a problem qualifying for or doing these things.

Great stuff right here. Thank you for that. I'm going to dig a little deeper into your suggestions to put them to use moving forward.

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11/18/2017 5:42 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/18/2017 5:44 PM

All this sounds good.

And it all could have been avoided, at the 1st draw.
If the work was shoddy, half assed, don't pay and kick the guy off the job.

But, if you make 3.5 payments out of 4, and all of a sudden you're not happy, something isn't right.
I mean, the 2nd and 3rd draw payments, to some, would mean the work was ok.


I just went thru it, and I'm a licensed contractor.
Storm ripped off a good bit of my metal roof.
Insurance paid, a nice sum.
The roofer was good.

But the drywall/ painters, Fuck.
Went thru 3 sets of nightmares,
First guy worked 2 days, had 2 workers with him. Estimated 10 days. Didn't come back for 2 weeks. Avoided my calls. Got me for $800 on a $3,600 contract. In the contract, finish in 10 days. By the time he came back, had another guy going. Got belligerent with me. Got in his face, got him off the property, and kept all his shit. Scaffolding, paint sprayer, ladders, hand tools. Fuck you asshole. 2 way street here. Had to give it all back when he went to the State Police.

2nd guy, just as bad. Yeah, he was licensed too. One State away, I found out later. State of West Vitginia does not reciprocate with Maryland. Got me for $600, then another $600 on a $2,400 contract. Wasnt supposed to get anything till he was half done. Tried going behind my back to Donna, said I told him to tell her it was okay for her to give him another $1,000. 2 hours after I had told him no more money till he was done, as he was behind as it was.
She called me, I went ballistic, raced home, threw that asshole and his tools out the front door,
And this guy we got off Angie's List.

Then tried some local young guys that help me sometimes when I need labor, maybe keep on budget I thought.
They tried, but boy, that was a mistake. More effing paint on the cabinets, carpets, even tracked it outside onto the decks,

Ended up finishing up myself, and it still isn't really done like some would want/expect.

But hey, it is what it is. Life is short, I really don't have the time, no, I really don't want to spend the time, chasing
a couple of ghosts that have nothing to give anyway,

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11/18/2017 5:42 PM

motogrady wrote:
I'm thinking you're just gonna waste your time and money.
She probably doesn't have anything to attach.
The guys, they were hiding behind her all along.

I'd take it as a learning experience. Tuition. You admit, you did not really watch what was going on.
And you knew you should have.
And when they wanted a piece of the 4th you felt uneasy.
But, you gave it to them anyway. Negligence on your part as far as protecting yourself.

You're pissed. Understandable. Throwing more resources down a bottomless pit might make you feel better, revenge wise.

But it will not further your goals to better your life or get ahead.

Be smart, not emotional.

I say suck it up, move on, and don't forget.

Well said and agree.

Learn your lesson. No use throwing good money after bad.

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11/18/2017 5:56 PM

I am frequently embarrassed by many in my profession. How do these people sleep at night?

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11/18/2017 6:36 PM

borg wrote:

I am frequently embarrassed by many in my profession. How do these people sleep at night?


I hate hearing this stuff also.

But, lately, I've come to loath a few other professions also.
The greed in the medical/pharma fields, They act like Little Gods we should bow to, while they rape our pocket.
The deception, the fine print artists that hide behind being an Insurer practice.
The non profits, that prey on your feelings. Look up what the CEO of UNICEF and the Red Cross pull in pay.
Don't even get me started on government.

Yeah, I hate hearing about these low life scoundrels, but when u look around, they aren't alone,
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11/18/2017 6:41 PM

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11/18/2017 6:58 PM

Brad460 wrote:

Start by calling the police right now!!! What he has done is called "theft by contractor"...

I just went through this with a concrete guy. He was supposed to be at my house pouring a slab, when the cops stopped by his house he was at home drinking beer.

The police will give him "x" amount of time to complete the job, or face charges. They gave my guy a week to get it done and he got it done.

BTW: I did not even have a contract..but I had texts documenting the cash exchange..etc. Even if the contract is "poorly" written you are still protected.

For example, down payments can only be used for material..they got very strict on this stuff after the recession..

mxb2 wrote:

It's a civil.matter. Not criminal.

Brad460 wrote:

Taking money and not finishing the job is theft by contractor...which is not a civil matter.

If he finished the job and the quality of the work was not acceptable I would consider that a civil matter.

Not sure what state you’re in, but if you called that in here, it would most definitely be civil. Law enforcement would have zero involvement other than pointing you to the appropriate legal channels. A sheriff’s office civil unit MIGHT assist in recovery once you had a court order requiring asset forfeiture, but it’s definitely not a crime where I’m at. Out of curiosity (if you’re ok with answering-privacy and all) what state is this?

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11/18/2017 7:32 PM

mxb2 wrote:

It's a civil.matter. Not criminal.

Brad460 wrote:

Taking money and not finishing the job is theft by contractor...which is not a civil matter.

If he finished the job and the quality of the work was not acceptable I would consider that a civil matter.

omalley wrote:

Not sure what state you’re in, but if you called that in here, it would most definitely be civil. Law enforcement would have zero involvement other than pointing you to the appropriate legal channels. A sheriff’s office civil unit MIGHT assist in recovery once you had a court order requiring asset forfeiture, but it’s definitely not a crime where I’m at. Out of curiosity (if you’re ok with answering-privacy and all) what state is this?

I was thinking same thing. We live in a small town even and no way police care if you get your concrete poured on schedule. Nor should they.

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11/18/2017 7:50 PM

omalley wrote:

Not sure what state you’re in, but if you called that in here, it would most definitely be civil. Law enforcement would have zero involvement other than pointing you to the appropriate legal channels. A sheriff’s office civil unit MIGHT assist in recovery once you had a court order requiring asset forfeiture, but it’s definitely not a crime where I’m at. Out of curiosity (if you’re ok with answering-privacy and all) what state is this?

I am in WI and the police came right over to our house and we explained the situation. The cop drove straight to the guys house and talked with him. They gave him 7 days to get the job done or charges would be filed. If he would have never showed I guess we would have had to take him to court to get a judgement...Keep in mind I live in a very low crime conservative town and so the cops don’t have as much going on...laughing

By law Here in WI a contractor can face criminal penalties and civil claims due to misappropriation of funds..




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11/19/2017 2:52 AM

Good to hear this. Contractors should hold up their end of the bargain. I mis-bid a job in Laguna Beach. Ended up making less that $1 per hour on that job but I got it done. It was my responsibility to get it done. The entire field needs to be held to a respectable level.

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11/19/2017 8:21 AM

Just curious, how did you go about hiring this guy???Did he come with excellent references?Did you see any of his work before hiring him?Did you verify his license,insurance,workmans comp,etc? My guess is his bid was the lowest.
It sucks you got hosed, but a little research goes along ways.

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11/19/2017 10:58 AM

racin mason wrote:

Just curious, how did you go about hiring this guy???Did he come with excellent references?Did you see any of his work before hiring him?Did you verify his license,insurance,workmans comp,etc? My guess is his bid was the lowest.
It sucks you got hosed, but a little research goes along ways.

X2,

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11/19/2017 11:53 AM

motogrady wrote:

All this sounds good.

And it all could have been avoided, at the 1st draw.
If the work was shoddy, half assed, don't pay and kick the guy off the job.

But, if you make 3.5 payments out of 4, and all of a sudden you're not happy, something isn't right.
I mean, the 2nd and 3rd draw payments, to some, would mean the work was ok.


I just went thru it, and I'm a licensed contractor.
Storm ripped off a good bit of my metal roof.
Insurance paid, a nice sum.
The roofer was good.

But the drywall/ painters, Fuck.
Went thru 3 sets of nightmares,
First guy worked 2 days, had 2 workers with him. Estimated 10 days. Didn't come back for 2 weeks. Avoided my calls. Got me for $800 on a $3,600 contract. In the contract, finish in 10 days. By the time he came back, had another guy going. Got belligerent with me. Got in his face, got him off the property, and kept all his shit. Scaffolding, paint sprayer, ladders, hand tools. Fuck you asshole. 2 way street here. Had to give it all back when he went to the State Police.

2nd guy, just as bad. Yeah, he was licensed too. One State away, I found out later. State of West Vitginia does not reciprocate with Maryland. Got me for $600, then another $600 on a $2,400 contract. Wasnt supposed to get anything till he was half done. Tried going behind my back to Donna, said I told him to tell her it was okay for her to give him another $1,000. 2 hours after I had told him no more money till he was done, as he was behind as it was.
She called me, I went ballistic, raced home, threw that asshole and his tools out the front door,
And this guy we got off Angie's List.

Then tried some local young guys that help me sometimes when I need labor, maybe keep on budget I thought.
They tried, but boy, that was a mistake. More effing paint on the cabinets, carpets, even tracked it outside onto the decks,

Ended up finishing up myself, and it still isn't really done like some would want/expect.

But hey, it is what it is. Life is short, I really don't have the time, no, I really don't want to spend the time, chasing
a couple of ghosts that have nothing to give anyway,

The project was to move a manufactured house from 1 property I bought to a second vacant property I had bought. I came to work with these guys because they were 1 of 2 people that actually returned my calls. This was my first MH move, and first time dealing with a MH mover (never again....). He was licensed/insured.

The draw structure was as follows:
Draw 1: $1500 to get started (mistake 1)
Draw 2: House on wheels and ready to move
Draw 3: House at destination property and both halves tied together
Draw 4: Job complete

This jack leg dragged out the entire job over 5 months. Seemed like his phone only worked when he needed to get paid. Another of my mistakes was thinking that paying him meant that he was actually going to show back up and do the work he said he was going to do.

I obviously have a lot to learn, and took some licks on this one. Fortunately, this lesson only wound up costing me about $5k-$6k in repairing shitty work, the damage to the yard that they did, and paying people to go in behind this guy to finish the work that he didn't do.

Thanks to everyone that has shared insight. I'm used to dealing with mainly respectable GC and contractors, but this guy was a professional scum. I'm sure I wasn't the first and won't be the last that this guy doops.

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11/19/2017 11:54 AM

racin mason wrote:

Just curious, how did you go about hiring this guy???Did he come with excellent references?Did you see any of his work before hiring him?Did you verify his license,insurance,workmans comp,etc? My guess is his bid was the lowest.
It sucks you got hosed, but a little research goes along ways.

mxb2 wrote:

X2,

Unfortunately, it came down to who I could get to actually call me back and commit to doing the work.

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