Am I Stuck Paying a scamming Contractor

34 Replies

Originally posted by @Curtis Mears :
Originally posted by @Max T.:

Uggh. How much is he owed at this point? How much have you paid? Maybe just pay him what is owed and fire him. Then find someone else (or him) to do the rest for a fixed amount.

i paid him $3,350 plus $500 for supplies to roof 180 sq ft. i paid him that and then fired him.  there is soffit work and siding which i will do myself.

I don't know what's included in all that but it seems expensive even for a total tear off.  I don't pay subs hourly unless I know them and have worked with them before and even then I'm careful to manage expectations.  I tell them up front my budget is X and not to exceed it without approval as otherwise I'm not paying for it.  I would be very hesitant to pay a sub hourly on an open ended deal especially if they were someone I hadn't worked with before.  Not criticizing you, just commenting on the facts as you presented them.  

@Curtis Mears

In defense of the contractor (I have owned a contracting business), we dont know how hard the work was or how far from supply houses or how high the roof,etc. But it seems like you may have overpaid. (But cheaper than a college degree and probably worth more.)

Most contractors love T&M (time and materials) projects because you take all the risk. They can send their worst guys and no matter how long it takes or how many materials are wasted, the get their markup. The contractor may not be "scamming" you or even trying to profit at your expense, but that's just the way T&M tends. You should always write a contract (even a simple one) and try to get a firm price and a specific completion date.

The more that is in writing or drawn on paper, the better. And please consider letting the contractor make money. I prefer not to do residential work because most homeowners think all contractors are out to rip them off, the owner doesn't adequately understand or describe the scope of work, they change their minds halfway through, they pay begrudgingly and then talk badly about the job to friends and family.

If you become bitter instead of taking responsibility for your part of this mistake, you run the risk of alienating good contractors in the future. From the contractors' perspective, there are bad owners (or at least owners to be avoided). Based on your post, I would think twice before working for you.

Since I'm on my soapbox, let me share a brief story about one of my contractor friends who got hurt by an owner. My friend built a custom home and shop for a Doctor that moved to Alaska. It was several million dollars worth of work. The design was not suited to Alaska conditions or the specific challenges of the site. The owner refused to pay for an Alaskan design team and insisted on paying my friend by the hour. After 3 years of work with constant design changes, the owner stopped paying and started bringing in "experts" to criticize the workmanship. My friend is conscientious and spent another year "fixing problems" at his own expense which were mostly due to design deficiencies. Then the owner sued the my friend for the full value of the property. My friend had neglected to document all the changes and instead focused on "getting things done." My friend ended up liquidating all his equipment and going bankrupt because he couldn't afford to pay his defense attorney any more. In the process of trying to defend him, the attorney discovered that the owner had built similar "dude ranches" in 4 other states and paid for them by suing contractors each time.

That sort of thing is partly why I quit contracting and retrained as a home inspector. And I've had to deal with litigious people and cheap time wasters doing home inspections.

I prefer being the owner or investor, but since I've been on the bottom, I understand that contractors deserve respect and the chance to make a living. I also have seen how contractors treat "bad" owners and I go out of my way to communicate clearly and pay on time so my subcontractors don't retaliate.

I do understand contractors needing to earn a living. I have other contractors at my other properties who I work very well with. It was definitely my fault for not getting a contract written, but I generally do not do this with my other properties when the job is small. I also have enough experience in construction to know when the contractor is scamming me. Especially when the answer to what 4 guys on the job were doing for 8 hours is picking up shingles. Thanks for the post, as it is important to look at an issue form both sides.

@Curtis Mears definitely just a lack of oversight on your behalf but nonetheless a lesson learned. Technically since you probably don’t have a contract, you could get away with not paying him at all or at least try to negotiate with him a fair price. A good contractor would never do this, they would provide a quote with line items for “extras” and even estimated costs for those. Always get a contract signed that you agree upon and you’ll be in the clear!

As a professional, a contractor should have a reasonable idea on how long a job will take and the cost of materials..... not exact, but a reasonably accurate idea. Now things come up, other needed work is found once the job starts that wasn't obvious before...... so BOTH parties need to be aware of that factor and keep that in mind for overall cost....... so I don't see ANY reason to accept a pure "time and materials" quote from a contractor unless you REALLY trust them.... that's blank check......

In most areas no contract means judge cant enforce payment. It also means they cant put a lien on a property. So you could have at least used that as leverage and negotiated him down to a fair price. His point of view would have been getting something is better then nothing

That seems crazy expensive even with adding on a percentage for a small job.

I would have laughed at him when he said 4 guys were picking up shingles for 8 hours. He should be embarrassed even saying that.

400 per square = $800

Fascia 38' +/- $500

Small job fee. $500

Total 1800.

I think that's a fair number based off the info. Even at $2500 still much better than $3850 you spent.

So a quick update, I did pay the bill. Again, I felt I had to as I was leaving the property for several weeks and feared the contractor removing what little work they had done. I posted what happened on a private facebook page for owners in the neighborhood (property owners only), but I did not give the contractor name. On that day and the next, I received around 30+ replies to the post expressing support, and many requesting I divulge the name of the contractor. Once I did this, nothing. There was one more post saying she had used this contractor and loved the contractor, but nothing more was said by any of the other homeowners. It has been radio silence fromm the other owners. I think maybe the contractor is dialed into the political crowd in the neighborhood. Lucky me. Heading back this weekend to finish the work myself. 

@Curtis Mears

Not quoting a job is classic contractor BS, that is the biggest red flag IMO. A roofer should know approximately how much it costs to do a specific square footage. He may give a range, like $750 to $1000 depending on what needs to be done, but just quoting a dollar amount per man hour is pretty asinine.

I've been there. I paid $3000 on a change order for something similar (covered patio on a house I was flipping) that in hindsight should only have costed half as much. You live and you learn.

As soon as I hear the him and haw I move on. If I can't get an approximate quote over the phone it means they are going to try and overcharge. I've even asked things like "So on your last 5 jobs that were roofs for 1500 square feet what did you charge?" and a shady contractor hates questions like that. If I get something like "$5000 on the cheap end for a roof that only needed shingles to $8000 on the high end for a full redo with fascia work" then I know I'm good.