Nashville Contractor Nightmare

13 Replies

Hi All,

A couple of friends and myself are just getting started in the Nashville REI community and are in the process of building a network of reliable contractors. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

While asking around for referrals, a friend of ours had a great example of what we are looking to avoid. I figured this is a great opportunity to alert others in the Nashville REI community, as well as get some feedback as to what one might do in this kind of situation. Here is her story below,

"Our realtor referred Jeff to us, he power washed and stained his fence and said he did a great job so we decided to use him as well to stain our deck and fence. He came to our house, quoted us $1200 and a few days later, they started the job. 

They ran out of time and needed to come back to finish, we paid them the $1200 upfront. They came back and a different day and did more stain however, the job was about 1/2 done. This was 2 months ago and they are still not finished. 

Jeff sent out a different guy 2 weeks ago to finish the deck/fence and the job looks horrible, paint running down in areas, some wood still showing, and there is stain from their sprayer all over my house, our neighbors house, our AC unit, etc. 

Jeff has told me on 2 different occasions that his paint guy, Brad Watson would be at our house to color match the paint and fix the stain on our homes, both days he never showed to paint our homes. Jeff's business name is Baja Construction and it appears he does not have a license, but he said that he uses his partner's license, which turns out to be another business that he subcontracts for. 

How do we go about making sure the job that we paid for gets completed, and what they ruined gets fixed to our standards? Is it worth taking them to small claims court?"

Has anyone else run into a similar problem? How did you resolve it?

From what I've gathered already is to always look for;

-3 years experience

-3 referrals minimum

-proper licensing 

-contractor carries good insurance

Any other things to look for in the future?

Thanks!!!

Yes, that's a mess for sure. 

  • Get bids from a few contractors, and make sure they break out materials and labor (you want to always compare apples to apples)
  • NEVER pay the full amount of the job upfront. A resonable deposit is ok. 
  • If possible, agree to buy the materials yourself and have the contractor pick them up. 
  • Check licenses
  • Call references
  • Get everything in writing, including the start and end date, and what happens if things don't go as planned. 

Never never never never pay 100% up front. One a small job like this there is no reason they need more than a couple hundred for materials. Also, when they are "almost done" and they ask for the balance, don't pay them the balance, hold back a significant chunk until you have inspected and are satisfied. 

@Mitchell Klein I would get some paint stain, and finish it myself, and consider it a lesson learned. The colorlooks pretty standard, go to the paint store, and look at the stains, they usually have a wood chip with color on them. 

Good luck trying to get money out of contractors. Even if you took them to small claims court and won collecting is a whole other ball game.

This is why as mentioned they get draws for various steps of completion. Why do you think a bank on a construction loan or rehab loan gives draws? It's because they have been around the block many times. They do not want to pay the money until they know the work is completed properly and the quality is to standards. Contractors that balk at getting paid in draws is very telling on the type of business they run. Contractors who are experienced and in the business awhile should know they are NOT getting all the money upfront period end of comment.

If you pay all upfront even if they are a decent contractor and will come back to finish the job eventually they tend to put it off. That is because they have been paid in full and are now coming back to finish a job with DEAD TIME - no more money earned. So when they get calls for new jobs with more money yours goes on the back burner. I have also seen this with smaller projects. During lulls contractors take smaller jobs but while working on yours when a big job lands in their lap yours getting finished suddenly gets pushed back. Holding back the money helps motivate them to stay honest and complete the job or never start it once you see their true intentions.

Some say they need the money to buy materials. You could buy the materials yourself and get rid of that excuse. I have also seen contractors take your leftover materials to another job site or switch the high quality materials you wanted used on your property for leftover inferior stuff they already had. 

@Devan Mcclish Sadly most contractors suck at running a business . Most of them blow the cash they just get on the other job they have going on across town so they play catch up . They are carpenters not business men and most of them can’t organize the time and resources to pick their own nose

@Mitchell Klein

Lesson learned. Don't bother with court over this project. It's going to cost you more in time, money and life energy than you would want. Take the lesson and move on.

The way I would do it in future, like everyone else said-pay in draws. 

As for up front payments, I wouldn't do that. A contractor needs an upfront payment for materials. I will buy the materials on their list myself. Too many times I've heard folks say they paid the deposit up front, or worse yet, the full price and never heard from the contractor again. 

Originally posted by @Dennis M. :
@Devan Mcclish

Sadly most contractors suck at running a business . Most of them blow the cash they just get on the other job they have going on across town so they play catch up . They are carpenters not business men and most of them can’t organize the time and resources to pick their own nose

I will have to strongly disagree with this .  First , the guy you get off craigs list isnt a contractor , the guy swinging the hammer isnt generally the contractor .  A contractor is a licensed and insured business , they provide you with a written estimate and scope of work .  You have general contractors and sub contractors . The General sells the job , orginizes the job and prices the job . He then calls in his licensed and insured subcontractors that specialize in their respective trade . the contractor supplies the customer with a contract , establishing pay schedules and an exact scope of work . He has also vetted his subs .

Real contractors are not cheap , they ARE businessmen or women . They stand behind their work , its their reputation .

Now , Chuck in a Truck who charges by the hour and does power washing , painting , bush trimming etc . Is NOT a contractor . 

When I read posts that say this contractor ripped me off , 99% of the time , the customer didnt hire a Contractor , they hired

" Chuck " 

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :
Originally posted by @Dennis M.:
@Devan Mcclish

Sadly most contractors suck at running a business . Most of them blow the cash they just get on the other job they have going on across town so they play catch up . They are carpenters not business men and most of them can’t organize the time and resources to pick their own nose

I will have to strongly disagree with this .  First , the guy you get off craigs list isnt a contractor , the guy swinging the hammer isnt generally the contractor .  A contractor is a licensed and insured business , they provide you with a written estimate and scope of work .  You have general contractors and sub contractors . The General sells the job , orginizes the job and prices the job . He then calls in his licensed and insured subcontractors that specialize in their respective trade . the contractor supplies the customer with a contract , establishing pay schedules and an exact scope of work . He has also vetted his subs .

Real contractors are not cheap , they ARE businessmen or women . They stand behind their work , its their reputation .

Now , Chuck in a Truck who charges by the hour and does power washing , painting , bush trimming etc . Is NOT a contractor . 

When I read posts that say this contractor ripped me off , 99% of the time , the customer didnt hire a Contractor , they hired

" Chuck " 

That’s great for you but I’ve seen better work from handymen and the local Amish than a lot of licensed so called contractors in my area .  I have an addition I’m having done in my personal residence by one of the best contractors around and he’s on month ten now and still not done . This isn’t some  Craigslist flyby night outfit .its a million dollar company with a 5 man crew . When I went to get quotes I called a dozen licensed contractors in the yellow pages to come out and only three even showed up ! It’s a 107k job too!  Maybe it’s a regional thing I don’t know . Sorry to hijack 

This may help you 

https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/wp-content/uploads...

I did some quick reading about Pa contractor requirements , looks like its just fill out some papers pay some money and you are a contractor .

In Maryland you have to take a test , be financally solvent and there are requirements as to what the contractor has to state in the contract .