What kind of lawyer do I need to go after a deadbeat contractor?

5 Replies

Contractor company had two subs do my siding and my roofing, no problems. They had a different sub do my windows and as I watched they broke half of them. Now it's been six months after the expected end result and they're not budging on getting this completed. They're costing me money. I've tried talking to them and they're just completely ineffectual, I can barely get a response from them (much less an actual end date).

What kind of lawyer should be involved? How do I even start?

You need: original contract with an agreed upon time line, photographs, documentation of daily activity, emails, letters, printed texts, cost of each window. Once you have this in pdf files find an attorney in the location where this occurred. Is the loss larger than $20000? If less than $20000 file in small claims. Texas has online instructions, free help, and the hearing may be on zoom if you file ASAP. You can hire a contract or real estate attorney but they will want $5000 up front, and the cost to dog this down all the way to judgment will be $30000-100000. Once you serve him, he will worry about his license. Post some reviews, see if that gets you a return call.   

What have you paid for to date?  Are they costing you money because they're holding you hostage on finishing the job - or are you under contract and they have been paid for work not performed?  And, do you really trust them to do the job and do it right at this point.  First, photograph the job site and document work performed completely, that partially performed, and that which is totally unacceptable.  Do you have a contract?  If so, how does it say disputes and remedies are to be handled?  I would also get a few bids to finish the work.

You can get an attorney and demand performance but make sure that's what you want first; and know that they may not comply with that either.  You can also send a termination for cause letter and file a Small Claim's Suit for any damages.

Other things you can do:

1.  File A Better Business Bureau Complaint.  The BBB will ask the company to respond within 10 business days.  Credible companies will attempt to resolve issues; those who are not, will most likely ignore it.

2.  File a Small Claims Lawsuit. It's cheap and inexpensive; if you're out money and the amount is within your court's jurisdiction, it's fast and easy.

The first step here is to decide what you want.  Continuing on with this contractor just would not be an option for me.  Thoughts?

I do not think you are going to like my answer from a Texas perspective:

First, I would cut ties with a contractor that is 6 months behind.  Personally, I would have done this months ago.  Like you said, this is costing you money.  I would focus 100% of my efforts on finding another contractor and getting the property sold

How much money are you out ? If it is less than $20,000 then you can take him to Small Claims(JP Court) and represent yourself.  Hopefully, you had timelines in your contract.  You can get a judgement which is the most a Lawyer can do and save yourself thousands in legal fees

Now, the bad part.  Contractors do not have to be licensed in Texas so that route is out.  Additionally, collecting on your judgement is difficult at best.  No garnishment of wages is permitted in Texas and the list of non attachable assets is long.  One can own a $1 million homestead in Texas and it cannot be touched

Again, getting the property finished and sold should be priority number 1

Time to move on. Most "deadbeat" contractors;  (1) are fly by night handymen who claim to be contractors; (2) have no money to pursue in litigation. Time to cut and run before you lose more money. Chalk it up to education and realizing this ain't HGTV...real money and real problems that require real action real quick. 

Originally posted by @Greg H. :

I do not think you are going to like my answer from a Texas perspective:

First, I would cut ties with a contractor that is 6 months behind.  Personally, I would have done this months ago.  Like you said, this is costing you money.  I would focus 100% of my efforts on finding another contractor and getting the property sold

How much money are you out ? If it is less than $20,000 then you can take him to Small Claims(JP Court) and represent yourself.  Hopefully, you had timelines in your contract.  You can get a judgement which is the most a Lawyer can do and save yourself thousands in legal fees

Now, the bad part.  Contractors do not have to be licensed in Texas so that route is out.  Additionally, collecting on your judgement is difficult at best.  No garnishment of wages is permitted in Texas and the list of non attachable assets is long.  One can own a $1 million homestead in Texas and it cannot be touched

Again, getting the property finished and sold should be priority number 1

 Agreed with Greg. To clarify, general contractors don't have to be licensed, but specific trades do. Plumbing, electricians, HVAC, etc.

It will be hard to collect on an entity that can shut down and restart again, much less on an individual with no non-exempt assets. It can be done, just costs more than most people are willing to spend. I've done it for some clients, spent $8k to collect a $15k judgment with no real guarantee of return.