Contractor Issues...Need legal advice

13 Replies

Hired a contractor to do a what was supposed to be a small renovation project.  Renovation was supposed to be $11,450.   Start to finish. 

Basically after 3 weeks, behind schedule & him not showing up to job for a full week and catching him in many lies, (saying he purchased flooring when it turns out he did not among others) we decided to part way leaving the job unfinished leaving me to find another contractor who could come and finish where he had left off.

I had paid him $7500 @ this point and in my numbers probably owed him about $600 or so more for materials ( lighting & tiles) in the house.  I told him to send me over a detailed invoice with receipts so I could pay him and be rid of him.  After 3 weeks he sends me what he calls an invoice,  more like numbers on paper, no description and way inflated prices.  Some work we never even discussed him doing.  To the tune of $1650.  About $1000 more than my numbers.    

He sent me a text that I had to today to pay.  I told him, your numbers are heavily inflated and you didn't provide any receipts?  

I never signed any form of agreement or contract with him.  It was supposed to be a quick simple reno.  I told him I'd pay up to $800 if he signed a lien waiver release form.  His response turned into a cursed filled uneducated email.  

Home is on the market and is getting great reviews.  Can he put a lien of the home?  Can I take any action before hand to prevent further waste of time and money? 

Any suggestion is welcomed since this is my first situation with a contractor.  This is in GA, I know every state has different laws.  Thanks in advance.

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't sign a contract or anything of the sort.  We agreed through the scope of work total would be $11,450   After he gave me the prices for certain jobs he turned around weeks later & said that he can't do it for those prices....  If he doesn't know the correct prices shouldn't be on me.   I put my offers  on what I expected the rehab budget to be.   Regardless, he sees what he charges and then sees asking price On the house for & he is jealous.    Not realizing HE gave me the pricing  upfront and I have multiple jobs to offer him going forward.  

Regardless it seems hes willing to make my life more difficult. & I want to be prepared to handle the situation

You have justified concerns and you are correct to plan ahead. An attorney in your area that works on construction litigation should be able to answer all your questions relatively quick.

A few notes based on experience in Florida. A contractor will have a limited time from the date that he delivers services or materials to place a mechanic's lien on the property. In my area it is 45 days. Then he will have a limited period of time to file a lawsuit or the lien falls off.

The benefit (for the contractor) in that case is that the lien comes before he proves his case so if you sell the house before a court rules his lien has to be satisfied and held in escrow until the case is resolved.

I bet your city/county, not the state, has specific and perhaps similar laws on point.

Beyond the preemptive lien he can just file a suit against you. He does not need a contract to file suit, only certain contracts (like the sale of real property) have to be in writing.

At that point, it becomes he said she said and the court or jury determines the truth. Based on the amount in dispute and the lack of sophistication of your contractor I doubt he will spend the money or have the knowledge to file suit.

Finally, keep in mind that you have an unoccupied property and people in his situation might result to self help. In other words he might go to the property and take back what he feels he paid for. So make sure your property is properly protected.

@Steven Tenaglia is this guy licensed? I would find that out first. I don't know procedures or remedies in your state. There are a lot of frauds operating without licenses and I doubt they would have ANY legal claim if that is the case. 

@John Thedford :

@Dick Maykel Ortega  

 He is a licensed contractor and I agree it's such a small amount I don't think he ll file suit.   It just a waste of time & money but he continues to show how incompetent he is which worries me. I already made sure crawl spaces is locked and new locks were installed on doors.  Hoping that it doesn't come down to that.   I told him I would pay what is rightfully owed but bc he felt he didn't charge enough to start he is inflating what I owed.    He actually trying to charge me 150$ for planning/ delivery & preparation.    I had to laugh at that.  

Home is on the market and I'm sure it will be in contract in 45 days time. 

@Steven Tenaglia You're both to blame for exercising such sloppy business procedures. Contracts exist for a reason.  Split the difference with him and be done with it.

I wonder though what you mean by, "I put my offers on what I expected the rehab budget to be."   What is your plan if [big] problems are discovered during the course of the renovation work?  Having very tight numbers is asking for trouble: You either risk losing money or face the temptation to do shoddy work.  Something to consider...

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Steven Tenaglia You're both to blame for exercising such sloppy business procedures. Contracts exist for a reason.  Split the difference with him and be done with it.

I wonder though what you mean by, "I put my offers on what I expected the rehab budget to be."   What is your plan if [big] problems are discovered during the course of the renovation work?  Having very tight numbers is asking for trouble: You either risk losing money or face the temptation to do shoddy work.  Something to consider...

Offered to pay him 800$ already.   His response was curse riddled email.   I'm trying to be done with it.  I know nothing good comes from altercations like this.    My numbers were great and budget came in lower than budgeted.  So I have no issues on my numbers.  My issue is he stopped showing up to the project & then inflates remaining balance & adding things that were never done or never Discussed.  I'm not a charity and not going to write a check that isn't deserved.   Regardless I should have put something into contract no matter how well they are recondmended.  Lesson learned. 

No contract , both parties are to blame .  Yes , he can lien the property , but  doubtful for that amount .  Now you are talking $ 1000  ,  sure you can go back and forth ,  but at the end of the day if you want the matter done pay the contractor and get a signed release . Some will say fight it , but how much is your insurance deductable ?  There is always the possibility an accident will happen , some vandalism , a bit of concrete down the sewer pipe , a few broken windows .  Possible ? Yes.  Probable ?   Depends of the attitude and demeanor of the contractor .   

@Dick Maykel Ortega is correct, in Florida a contractor or supplier has 90 days to file a lien from their last day of work/supply of materials.  45 days is the time limit for a sub/supplier (someone not in direct contract with the owner) to file a Notice To Owner, and that 45 days is from the First day they perform work/supply materials OR until the GC is paid in full, whichever occurs first. Many aren't aren't aware of the second part to that.

Originally posted by @Steven Tenaglia :
Originally posted by @Art Allen:

@Steven Tenaglia You're both to blame for exercising such sloppy business procedures. Contracts exist for a reason.  Split the difference with him and be done with it.

I wonder though what you mean by, "I put my offers on what I expected the rehab budget to be."   What is your plan if [big] problems are discovered during the course of the renovation work?  Having very tight numbers is asking for trouble: You either risk losing money or face the temptation to do shoddy work.  Something to consider...

Offered to pay him 800$ already.   His response was curse riddled email.   I'm trying to be done with it.  I know nothing good comes from altercations like this.    My numbers were great and budget came in lower than budgeted.  So I have no issues on my numbers.  My issue is he stopped showing up to the project & then inflates remaining balance & adding things that were never done or never Discussed.  I'm not a charity and not going to write a check that isn't deserved.   Regardless I should have put something into contract no matter how well they are recondmended.  Lesson learned. 

You're so fixated on this dispute with your contractor that you're not seeing my larger point. You wrote that you buy based on what you expect the rehab cost to be.  You then said the budget was ~$11K.  That's not very much to rehab a house. So, if you buy based on such a small expected (unrealistic) rehab price, I think you're taking a big risk.  It wouldn't take much to exceed that amount and I asked your plan in that event. 

Originally posted by @Account Closed :
Originally posted by @Steven Tenaglia:
Originally posted by Account Closed:

@Steven Tenaglia You're both to blame for exercising such sloppy business procedures. Contracts exist for a reason.  Split the difference with him and be done with it.

I wonder though what you mean by, "I put my offers on what I expected the rehab budget to be."   What is your plan if [big] problems are discovered during the course of the renovation work?  Having very tight numbers is asking for trouble: You either risk losing money or face the temptation to do shoddy work.  Something to consider...

Offered to pay him 800$ already.   His response was curse riddled email.   I'm trying to be done with it.  I know nothing good comes from altercations like this.    My numbers were great and budget came in lower than budgeted.  So I have no issues on my numbers.  My issue is he stopped showing up to the project & then inflates remaining balance & adding things that were never done or never Discussed.  I'm not a charity and not going to write a check that isn't deserved.   Regardless I should have put something into contract no matter how well they are recondmended.  Lesson learned. 

You're so fixated on this dispute with your contractor that you're not seeing my larger point. You wrote that you buy based on what you expect the rehab cost to be.  You then said the budget was ~$11K.  That's not very much to rehab a house. So, if you buy based on such a small expected (unrealistic) rehab price, I think you're taking a big risk.  It wouldn't take much to exceed that amount and I asked your plan in that event. 

Only his part was 11k.   I bring in my own kitchen/bathroom cabinets company that do all my kitchens.  As well I supply all appliances, lighting, etc.    purchased for 63k. Spent 20 selling for 129.   Your fixated on numbers , i started this conversation to get help resolving a problem before it escalated any further.  Not my numbers.   I'll be sure to run my #s by you on my next project. 

Originally posted by @Steven Tenaglia :
Originally posted by @Art Allen:
Originally posted by @Steven Tenaglia:
Originally posted by @Art Allen:

@Steven Tenaglia You're both to blame for exercising such sloppy business procedures. Contracts exist for a reason.  Split the difference with him and be done with it.

I wonder though what you mean by, "I put my offers on what I expected the rehab budget to be."   What is your plan if [big] problems are discovered during the course of the renovation work?  Having very tight numbers is asking for trouble: You either risk losing money or face the temptation to do shoddy work.  Something to consider...

Offered to pay him 800$ already.   His response was curse riddled email.   I'm trying to be done with it.  I know nothing good comes from altercations like this.    My numbers were great and budget came in lower than budgeted.  So I have no issues on my numbers.  My issue is he stopped showing up to the project & then inflates remaining balance & adding things that were never done or never Discussed.  I'm not a charity and not going to write a check that isn't deserved.   Regardless I should have put something into contract no matter how well they are recondmended.  Lesson learned. 

You're so fixated on this dispute with your contractor that you're not seeing my larger point. You wrote that you buy based on what you expect the rehab cost to be.  You then said the budget was ~$11K.  That's not very much to rehab a house. So, if you buy based on such a small expected (unrealistic) rehab price, I think you're taking a big risk.  It wouldn't take much to exceed that amount and I asked your plan in that event. 

Only his part was 11k.   I bring in my own kitchen/bathroom cabinets company that do all my kitchens.  As well I supply all appliances, lighting, etc.    purchased for 63k. Spent 20 selling for 129.   Your fixated on numbers , i started this conversation to get help resolving a problem before it escalated any further.  Not my numbers.   I'll be sure to run my #s by you on my next project. 

 Well now I understand why you don't bother with contracts: your reading comprehension and writing skills are truly lacking.  Touchy, thin-skinned people tend not to do well on public forums nor in business so,  I wish you luck.