Small Claims Court for breach of contract with a contractor

83 Replies

@Justin K. Send me an inbox with this guys name that way i make sure i dont run into him wanting to do a job for me. 
i am fixing up a house right now, and the contractor im using is charging me about 4k for everything, All the framing, putting in doors, and sheetrock and texturing. I make sure he is advancing on my job before i pay him. Last week i gave him 800 and this week ill give like 600. But its coming together good. I think he'll be done in like two weeks prolly less at the point ill pay whatever is left i owe him. I ofcourse am providing all the materials he needs. He just using his guys and him for labor.

Originally posted by @Greg H. :
Originally posted by @Levi T.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Levi T.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Levi T.:

@Justin K.

Explain to him how your going to take him to court, he will owe you tens of thousand in legal fees, court cost, plus money owed, you will put a lean on his assets and freeze all his accounts, and vanish all his income, including any IRS returns.

 None of those options for collection are available in Texas.  Our laws do not allow liens to be put on non-exempt property which includes:

Homestead- One can own a $1 million dollar home free and clear and it cannot be touch

12 Cattle, 2 Horses and 120 chickens- LOL but true

Belongings and furnishings- Can't be touch up to $30,000(Not positive)

Guns- Don't even try to go after someone's gun in Texas

Bible

Farm equipment

One car per family member and so on

My guess is 95% of all people do not even have non-exempt property to begin with.  

That don't matter, your playing poker.. Most people are ignorant of the laws on what you can, or can't do. They do know you can take them to court, they may know you can garnish their accounts or not to some level, and they may assume to infinity that you can inflict all sorts of financial pain, if you spell it out to them. It's about if he wants to lose a little money today, or lose a lot of money tomorrow.. His choice, get it to the finish line, or visit the court room. 

 You actually think a contractor who is screwing over clients does not know he cannot be touched ?

 Ummm yes. I spend around $60,000 each month in vendors doing work for me. I’m no small landlord, and the game never changes. Just last week I had someone in AZ think they would pull that stunt on me.  One short call later, where I spelled out what I was going to do to them in a court room, fix the problem like abracadabra. When your at the end of the road where court, or do nothing is left, these things work.

 LOL.  Ok . I spend a few dollars as well and live in Texas and I am familiar with the law in Texas.  You can yell, scream, stomp you feet all you want.  You can even spend "thousands in legal fees and pass them on to the defendant" if throwing good money after bad is your thing.  However, the result in Texas will be the same as the threats have no teeth as upwards of 95% of judgments remain uncollected for the reason I outlined above

I am probably one of the few that have collected on a judgement.  A soldier skipped out on me but he was a member of the military deposit waiver program and was unable to clear post without paying me.  Otherwise, I would have never sniffed that money

No one said anyone was screaming, yelling, or mad.. very much the opposite. Successful or not, it’s a 5 minute phone call that cost nothing to resolve the issue vs tossing in the towel. It works, and it works very well. If it don’t work, then do what you may in court or walk away. 

Call it the cost of education. NEVER give money upfront...you give up any leverage. Small claims is inexpensive but you have to know the value of your time. I went one time and won, then got a judgement and I eventually collected about 80% of it. But the time invested still put me on the losing side of the equation. Move on and remember this lesson that you should never pay upfront....PERIOD!

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greer :

@Justin K. I’m not a fan of these stories! What you did goes against everything the BP community warns against; not paying a contractor in full before work. The contractor should finish the work, or if he literally can’t, you should be able to reason together about progress made and damages done. If you can’t get to this point, then help us consider your situation. The contractor has been “working” on the project since November and just quit mid January for $15000? No body could afford to hire guys and contract a job for that price. Did he buy materials too? How much positive construction did you get done? I know you said some of it needs to be redone, but do you think you got close to $15000 worth of labor and material out of this guy? That’s not very much money if they did some positive work over the last couple months. What specific work did he contractor complete? NO REAL CONTRACTOR SHOULD ASK FOR ALL MONEY UP FRONT. Sorry to hear about your situation. Very disappointing if that’s what you budgeted for.

I started this reno just about the time I found BP. Yes I broke about every rule possible on this one including paying to much.

No I have bought all the materials which honestly some of it now has to be bought over again because he butchered it up and it looks like crap. Overall from what I have totaled I am about 40k+ on this renovation. Luckily my partners have deep pockets and have this kind of capital laying around. 

Did I get $15k worth of renovations labor out of it? Not sure and dont really care. If I were to have a breach of contract in my w-2 job, all retainer and courts would be going after me. 

Originally posted by @Levi T. :
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Levi T.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Levi T.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Levi T.:

@Justin K.

Explain to him how your going to take him to court, he will owe you tens of thousand in legal fees, court cost, plus money owed, you will put a lean on his assets and freeze all his accounts, and vanish all his income, including any IRS returns.

 None of those options for collection are available in Texas.  Our laws do not allow liens to be put on non-exempt property which includes:

Homestead- One can own a $1 million dollar home free and clear and it cannot be touch

12 Cattle, 2 Horses and 120 chickens- LOL but true

Belongings and furnishings- Can't be touch up to $30,000(Not positive)

Guns- Don't even try to go after someone's gun in Texas

Bible

Farm equipment

One car per family member and so on

My guess is 95% of all people do not even have non-exempt property to begin with.  

That don't matter, your playing poker.. Most people are ignorant of the laws on what you can, or can't do. They do know you can take them to court, they may know you can garnish their accounts or not to some level, and they may assume to infinity that you can inflict all sorts of financial pain, if you spell it out to them. It's about if he wants to lose a little money today, or lose a lot of money tomorrow.. His choice, get it to the finish line, or visit the court room. 

 You actually think a contractor who is screwing over clients does not know he cannot be touched ?

 Ummm yes. I spend around $60,000 each month in vendors doing work for me. I’m no small landlord, and the game never changes. Just last week I had someone in AZ think they would pull that stunt on me.  One short call later, where I spelled out what I was going to do to them in a court room, fix the problem like abracadabra. When your at the end of the road where court, or do nothing is left, these things work.

 LOL.  Ok . I spend a few dollars as well and live in Texas and I am familiar with the law in Texas.  You can yell, scream, stomp you feet all you want.  You can even spend "thousands in legal fees and pass them on to the defendant" if throwing good money after bad is your thing.  However, the result in Texas will be the same as the threats have no teeth as upwards of 95% of judgments remain uncollected for the reason I outlined above

I am probably one of the few that have collected on a judgement.  A soldier skipped out on me but he was a member of the military deposit waiver program and was unable to clear post without paying me.  Otherwise, I would have never sniffed that money

No one said anyone was screaming, yelling, or mad.. very much the opposite. Successful or not, it’s a 5 minute phone call that cost nothing to resolve the issue vs tossing in the towel. It works, and it works very well. If it don’t work, then do what you may in court or walk away. 

I cant get him to respond to a single text, call, or email. Getting in touch with him would require me knocking on his front door and I particularly dont feel like getting into a gunfight on someone elses front lawn and end up in jail for killing a man over $15k.

Originally posted by @Maugno M. :

@Justin K. Send me an inbox with this guys name that way i make sure i dont run into him wanting to do a job for me. 
i am fixing up a house right now, and the contractor im using is charging me about 4k for everything, All the framing, putting in doors, and sheetrock and texturing. I make sure he is advancing on my job before i pay him. Last week i gave him 800 and this week ill give like 600. But its coming together good. I think he'll be done in like two weeks prolly less at the point ill pay whatever is left i owe him. I ofcourse am providing all the materials he needs. He just using his guys and him for labor.

PM sent. 

@Justin K. Well if you don’t care to be specific about what renovations your contractor completed, then there is no way to tell how just you are in trying to sue him for the full amount you paid him, for not completing the entire project and clean up and screwing some things up. He’s wrong for not finishing, but he might have been really wrong about his bid price and got to the point where he was beyond zero profit and starting to pay for your project by keeping his workers there. This does happen often with inexperienced construction guys that don’t know how to estimate. You paid him $15000 apparently but said you bought materials and in relation to him you’re $40,000 into it. So there were $25,000 in materials possibly and two months of work possibly. Sounds like a lot of work going on there, but without specifics, no one on BP can know the full picture, which I’m sure would be presented in court. Do you expect this guy to give you all the money back? Or even pay you on top of that? If his work was so bad, why did you let it continue for 2 months? You’ve presented a broad problem without important details that would be relevant to your case. I am not personally convinced your contractor should give you $15k and eat all his laborers payments and gas + overhead especially when he says he under bid the job. Move on.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greer :

@Justin K. Well if you don’t care to be specific about what renovations your contractor completed, then there is no way to tell how just you are in trying to sue him for the full amount you paid him, for not completing the entire project and clean up and screwing some things up. He’s wrong for not finishing, but he might have been really wrong about his bid price and got to the point where he was beyond zero profit and starting to pay for your project by keeping his workers there. This does happen often with inexperienced construction guys that don’t know how to estimate. You paid him $15000 apparently but said you bought materials and in relation to him you’re $40,000 into it. So there were $25,000 in materials possibly and two months of work possibly. Sounds like a lot of work going on there, but without specifics, no one on BP can know the full picture, which I’m sure would be presented in court. Do you expect this guy to give you all the money back? Or even pay you on top of that? If his work was so bad, why did you let it continue for 2 months? You’ve presented a broad problem without important details that would be relevant to your case. I am not personally convinced your contractor should give you $15k and eat all his laborers payments and gas + overhead especially when he says he under bid the job. Move on.

I'm not suing him for that amount as law in Texas is maximum 10k. What I am suing him for is the cost of another contractor coming in and what he's charging me to finish the punch list plus 10% plus 3 months of lost revenue. It's nowhere near 15 and more around 7k. Those are rough numbers as I don't have the estimate in front of me.

All materials are on site and the new contractor is providing labor only.

@Justin K. Somewhere else in this post, you said you knew he under bid the job and couldn’t finish. You also mentioned that you paid him most the money upfront, but first you said all the money, so that’s unclear too. You want him to pay you like 7k plus 3 months rent etc so he gets absolutely zero, plus pays out of his own pocket for trying and failing on your job. Ok, he screwed up and sucks. But you said he does clean work on jobs you have seen. And you did let him continue for over 2 months for only 15k laborers included, and I’m starting to think you might owe him $. This doesn’t sound right.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greer :

@Justin K. Somewhere else in this post, you said you knew he under bid the job and couldn’t finish. You also mentioned that you paid him most the money upfront, but first you said all the money, so that’s unclear too. You want him to pay you like 7k plus 3 months rent etc so he gets absolutely zero, plus pays out of his own pocket for trying and failing on your job. Ok, he screwed up and sucks. But you said he does clean work on jobs you have seen. And you did let him continue for over 2 months for only 15k laborers included, and I’m starting to think you might owe him $. This doesn’t sound right.

I guess I dont understand the miscommunication you're having. I paid him in the neighborhood of $15 plus change to provide labor only to do a job he bid. If he under bid that's his issue not mine and it's not my job to know the cost of every little detail. The bid was a laid out in writing scope of work we needed and he bid accordingly. His timeline has been extended over and over because he has only had one man on site for at minimum 2-3 weeks of the project which is costing me lost revenue from rent. 

I have a bid from another contractor to complete or fix his mess ups. Most of those mess ups where from him saying he had not put on the finishing touches. ( ie Trim not having 2nd coat, crown not being caulked or painted, ect)

I went and visited two jobs he did and they looked good. His performance on mine started great and then lacking towards the end. Cabinets 1/2" out of level front to back,  installing cabinets 1" to far to the left resulting in having to remove material from another cabinet and remove sheetrock to finish out.

If I take him to court, 7k includes bids of contractor to complete, my markup because you've been a pain in my ***, and lost revenue from deadline not being met. 

Again,  I dont understand the miscommunication. 

ETA

If I were to do a bid on mass earthwork and do a single calculation wrong resulting in me losing money, I would still have to complete the project. I've seen guys miss a single line items costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars on large commercial construction projects and they were not able to walk away. They took it in the pants and marched on.

This is just a smaller less complicated version not involving scrappers, d6 dozers, 336 trackhoes, and a bunch of men.

@Justin K. Sounds like you are trying to steal from him if you are suing him for near the full amount you paid him, especially after he paid laborers to do your work and worked himself for 2, maybe 2 1/2 months. This is a detail oriented business with progress payments so both parties don’t get taken advantage of. As you read on here, people have way worse things happen to them by contractors than missing a coat of paint or a cabinet being off by 1”, or an outlet that needs to be slipped into the wall. He worked for a long time, when the real con artists take the money and never show up, or make a bunch of extra charges for you. I’d be surprised if nothing was added to the scope in the process and needed to be paid additionally for per an agreement also. You’re going to sue him for 10k plus? Hope you get good at it, because you’re going to be in a lot of lawsuits, especially if you are taking low ball bidding contractors that don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know how you sleep, especially after talking about killing the guy on here in a gun fight if you were going to go “talk” with him. I hope you can start doing things better with contractors, because paying them upfront is not motivating for them anyways, and they’re not going to refuse to do you’re job if you don’t pay it all upfront.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greer :

@Justin K. Sounds like you are trying to steal from him if you are suing him for near the full amount you paid him, especially after he paid laborers to do your work and worked himself for 2, maybe 2 1/2 months. This is a detail oriented business with progress payments so both parties don’t get taken advantage of. As you read on here, people have way worse things happen to them by contractors than missing a coat of paint or a cabinet being off by 1”, or an outlet that needs to be slipped into the wall. He worked for a long time, when the real con artists take the money and never show up, or make a bunch of extra charges for you. I’d be surprised if nothing was added to the scope in the process and needed to be paid additionally for per an agreement also. You’re going to sue him for 10k plus? Hope you get good at it, because you’re going to be in a lot of lawsuits, especially if you are taking low ball bidding contractors that don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know how you sleep, especially after talking about killing the guy on here in a gun fight if you were going to go “talk” with him. I hope you can start doing things better with contractors, because paying them upfront is not motivating for them anyways, and they’re not going to refuse to do you’re job if you don’t pay it all upfront.

Your reading comprehension is a huge fail. 

Please go troll elsewhere. 

@Justin K. I don’t have much compassion for people like you. Go make your 15k yourself instead of stealing it from people you oversaw for 2.5 months

Originally posted by @Guy Gimenez :

Call it the cost of education. NEVER give money upfront...you give up any leverage. Small claims is inexpensive but you have to know the value of ryour time. I went one time and won, then got a judgement and I eventually collected about 80% of it. But the time invested still put me on the losing side of the equation. Move on and remember this lesson that you should never pay upfront....PERIOD!

 I've learned that lesson now. Before this all went down and he started not showing up, I asked him to bid another house for me. He wanted 50 percent up front just to get on the books and the rest when starting the work. That's when my wtf meter started going off.

Any vendor who doesn't have the funds to start a job isn't running a business...they're running a hobby. These types of "contractors" are a dime a dozen. They make their living off their upfront payments. 

As Paul Harvey used to say, "Now you know the rest of the story."

Even if you do not think that you can  collect, I think you should take him to small claims court.  

1.  It lets him learn that there are consequences for not following a contract.

2.  It lets others see his record and know it could happen to them if they use him.

3.  You may luck out and find an asset, maybe he has extra vehicles like work trucks.  Even if you seize one of them to sell at auction and only net $100 for your efforts, he does not have it, and you can take another asset later, and now he knows you will.  So maybe he will settle, or live in fear.

4.  BEST of all, you can get the settlement on his credit record, renew it through the courts and keep it current.  My parents did this to a renter: they had the judgement renewed for 20 years, until my dad passed away.  As the judgement was renewed his credit record updated the judgement as new and he carried that for 20 years.  New landlords knew it and he had hugh deposits.  It even followed him out of state. Ruined his credit score.   He asked once if my parents would settle for about ten percent of the debt as he wanted to buy a house.  My dad declined and said the judgement gives him interest and new court costs, its going up not down.  

And before anyone says anything, understand this was the renter from hell.  When he was evicted for non-payment of rent in a rent controlled area of CA, which took FOREVER with him getting free rent, he trashed the place on purpose.  Pulled the cabinet doors off all cabinets, ripping the frame.  Every window smashed and every screen ripped.  Threw the old couches, mattresses, dressers, general trash, diapers, etc into the swimming pool, ruining the plaster, smashed all the water turn off valves under the sinks and washing machine with a hammer, tub full of **** and urine, clogged with a towel, toilet pulled from the floor, stove and oven smashed with a hammer, etc.  And the house was inspected with new filters put on the heater just 2 weeks before the police came and all was good then.   That renter deserved what he got!

Originally posted by @Justin K. :
Originally posted by @Greg H.:

Who mounts an exterior stove plug to an inside wall and does not inset it into the wall? The stove will stick 5in into the kitchen and look horrible!

Sorry to be dumb, but what is an exterior stove plug?  Most of my SFHs have the range receptacles mounted (not inset) to an interior wall.  The receptacle is center mounted near the floor so that the range slides over it.  Maybe a picture would help me understand.  
Originally posted by @Lynnette E. :

Even if you do not think that you can  collect, I think you should take him to small claims court.  

1.  It lets him learn that there are consequences for not following a contract.

2.  It lets others see his record and know it could happen to them if they use him.

3.  You may luck out and find an asset, maybe he has extra vehicles like work trucks.  Even if you seize one of them to sell at auction and only net $100 for your efforts, he does not have it, and you can take another asset later, and now he knows you will.  So maybe he will settle, or live in fear.

4.  BEST of all, you can get the settlement on his credit record, renew it through the courts and keep it current.  My parents did this to a renter: they had the judgement renewed for 20 years, until my dad passed away.  As the judgement was renewed his credit record updated the judgement as new and he carried that for 20 years.  New landlords knew it and he had hugh deposits.  It even followed him out of state. Ruined his credit score.   He asked once if my parents would settle for about ten percent of the debt as he wanted to buy a house.  My dad declined and said the judgement gives him interest and new court costs, its going up not down.  

And before anyone says anything, understand this was the renter from hell.  When he was evicted for non-payment of rent in a rent controlled area of CA, which took FOREVER with him getting free rent, he trashed the place on purpose.  Pulled the cabinet doors off all cabinets, ripping the frame.  Every window smashed and every screen ripped.  Threw the old couches, mattresses, dressers, general trash, diapers, etc into the swimming pool, ruining the plaster, smashed all the water turn off valves under the sinks and washing machine with a hammer, tub full of **** and urine, clogged with a towel, toilet pulled from the floor, stove and oven smashed with a hammer, etc.  And the house was inspected with new filters put on the heater just 2 weeks before the police came and all was good then.   That renter deserved what he got!

 That is dang near a situation of demolish the property and start over. How did that situation other than it going on his credit turn out?

Originally posted by @Terrell Garren :
Originally posted by @Justin K.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:

Who mounts an exterior stove plug to an inside wall and does not inset it into the wall? The stove will stick 5in into the kitchen and look horrible!

Sorry to be dumb, but what is an exterior stove plug?  Most of my SFHs have the range receptacles mounted (not inset) to an interior wall.  The receptacle is center mounted near the floor so that the range slides over it.  Maybe a picture would help me understand.  

 The plug was mounted dead center of the wall not allowing for the stove to be pushed all the way in due to the thickness of the plug. It would result in a massive gap between the back of the stove and the wall and the stove would protrude into the room and not line of with the  countertop. 

Originally posted by @Justin K. :
Originally posted by @Terrell Garren:
Originally posted by @Justin K.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:

Who mounts an exterior stove plug to an inside wall and does not inset it into the wall? The stove will stick 5in into the kitchen and look horrible!

Sorry to be dumb, but what is an exterior stove plug?  Most of my SFHs have the range receptacles mounted (not inset) to an interior wall.  The receptacle is center mounted near the floor so that the range slides over it.  Maybe a picture would help me understand.  

 The plug was mounted dead center of the wall not allowing for the stove to be pushed all the way in due to the thickness of the plug. It would result in a massive gap between the back of the stove and the wall and the stove would protrude into the room and not line of with the  countertop. 

If you mean higher than an inch or so off the floor, you have to post a picture of that.  I feel your pain, but that is too funny not to share. 

Originally posted by @Terrell Garren :
Originally posted by @Justin K.:
Originally posted by @Terrell Garren:
Originally posted by @Justin K.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:

Who mounts an exterior stove plug to an inside wall and does not inset it into the wall? The stove will stick 5in into the kitchen and look horrible!

Sorry to be dumb, but what is an exterior stove plug?  Most of my SFHs have the range receptacles mounted (not inset) to an interior wall.  The receptacle is center mounted near the floor so that the range slides over it.  Maybe a picture would help me understand.  

 The plug was mounted dead center of the wall not allowing for the stove to be pushed all the way in due to the thickness of the plug. It would result in a massive gap between the back of the stove and the wall and the stove would protrude into the room and not line of with the  countertop. 

If you mean higher than an inch or so off the floor, you have to post a picture of that.  I feel your pain, but that is too funny not to share. 

 I'm talking 24" off the floor. 

You are in Texas. 

Sue him, go to court and get a judgement . 

File that judgment document with the county clerk in the county/counties that he owns real property in. 

Also, If he owns real property that is not his homestead, you may ask the judge to put it up for auction. 

I know that works if a painter paints an apartment, and the apartment does not pay the painter. 

Either way, he will not be able to sell those properties without paying up, unless of course he keeps them or they foreclose. 

Originally posted by @Justin K. :
Originally posted by @Terrell Garren:
Originally posted by @Justin K.:
Originally posted by @Terrell Garren:
Originally posted by @Justin K.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:

Who mounts an exterior stove plug to an inside wall and does not inset it into the wall? The stove will stick 5in into the kitchen and look horrible!

Sorry to be dumb, but what is an exterior stove plug?  Most of my SFHs have the range receptacles mounted (not inset) to an interior wall.  The receptacle is center mounted near the floor so that the range slides over it.  Maybe a picture would help me understand.  

 The plug was mounted dead center of the wall not allowing for the stove to be pushed all the way in due to the thickness of the plug. It would result in a massive gap between the back of the stove and the wall and the stove would protrude into the room and not line of with the  countertop. 

If you mean higher than an inch or so off the floor, you have to post a picture of that.  I feel your pain, but that is too funny not to share. 

 I'm talking 24" off the floor. 

 That's hilarious.  Forget small claims court.  You need to see the DA and move to criminal court.  That's gotta be worth 3 to 5 years and no chance of probation.

You have a good case. Don't involve an attorney or even more money will be eaten up in fees ($5K minimum in my estimation). You will get a judgement in your favor but then you have to collect and you will have to go back to court to get him to pay. The court win will give you emotional satisfaction and may return some of your lost cash. It may also stop him from doing it to someone else in the future. 

The law and attorneys are notoriously poor at collecting money owed. This is why collection agencies and credit ratings exist. 

He may have expensive tools, a truck and maybe a house you can put a lien on. If he ever tries the sell the house, he can not do so without paying you off. 10 years may go by and he wants to sell the house. Not so fast! He has to pay your lien off first.

You can also sell your debt to a collection agency when you have a judgement. 

This contractor pulled a fast one on you - don't let him get away with it. 

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