Phony Plumber, Ran Off With My Money! What To Do?

7 Replies

I hired a plumber to replace a non-functional boiler with TWO boilers for a two family property I just bought to separate utilities. With the cold weather approaching, I couldn't leave tenants without heat so I was desperate to get the job done sooner than later. He did the job, but zone valves for some reason kept burning out and had to replace 3 of them. Out of curiosity, I brought in another plumber, close friend of my dad's, and told me the job was done awfully and not up to code. Up to code? I NEEDED PERMITS! The first plumber did not notify me, did the work, offered 1 year of warranty on the work. Heat would not work with thermostats (all new), and I told him about it (nicely) and he said that if I was not happy with his work, he would simply return me the labor costs the next Saturday. A week later, the guy blocked my number, text messages, and is no where to be found. I had to pay more than double for the job to be done correctly. I looked up the guy's license, it's active. I researched the information on his business card and everything was legit, except his work. Is there anything I can do?

P.S. - First lesson learned for a first time landlord ... Do my homework first!

learning to deal with contractors is a talent all by itself. I'll provide some tips that work well for me:

zero tolerance for late/no show. Also, zero tolerance means ZERO

Don't roll the dice. If you don't feel SURE this contractor will solve problems rather than create them= PASS

Find someone who's goals are aligned. My main contractor is also an investor who rehabs similar properties and wants to grow with me long term. If you have a long term vision, find a long term teammate.

Looks like you got burned here. I personally wouldn't spend much time trying to fix the past and just move towards future solutions. You'll be fine. Good luck!

new jersey is getting very tough on unlicensed contractors, first off, you need a permit to do almost anything in nj, especially to replace a furnace, water heater etc. contact the office of consumer affairs, they will open an investigation and go after the guy, fines are heavy and in some cases jail time for operating without a license. They should be able to track the guy down, most likely you will be refunded, they will force him to. new jersey is not an area to screw around in

I am so sorry to hear this. Ugh. But yes, I totally agree with @Alexander Felice on the tips given especially the one regarding finding someone whose goals are aligned with yours. The best of luck to you on finding a more long term teammate!

You mentioned that he was licensed.  I would contact the authority in your area that holds licensed contractors accountable and lodge a complaint.  Once they validate your complaint, they can threaten the contractor with pulling their license.

Next, file a small claims suit at your local court.  This will not only provide you with your day in court, but also affect his credit once a judgment is given in your favor.

Best of luck to you!

"I NEEDED PERMITS! The first plumber did not notify me, did the work, offered 1 year of warranty on the work."-

- a trades person's job is to do the job. If you own the property it's YOUR job to know what needs to be done to protect yourself. If you think it's the trades person's job to tell you if permits are required or not, than you're way more trusting than I am. Simply look at your city/county building codes. Most are now either on line or can be found by a 5 minute phone call or e-mail. Due your own due diligence. 

If the plumber offered a 1 year contract on the work I assume that you wrote up some type of contract detailing the work that was to be done, the cost and all things that were to be covered. 

If you have a contract and proof that it was his work that was an issue, you can easily get your money back with a day in court. At worst case scenario there will now be a paper trail behind this individual so anyone else that does their own research would realize this job ended poorly.

No contract, then you're S.O.L.  - if a person who's doing a "contract" work with out doing a proper contract is a red flag. Don't work with them. 

It drives me a little crazy when people are surprised that permits are needed to perform work on their property. As @Michael Gessner mentioned, just about everything outside of simple cosmetic work on a property requires permits. The only reason people have work done, or contractors do work, without pulling permits, is to save money. You will read a lot of complaints about substandard contractors or people complaining that they can't find a good contractor. When your highest priority is that the contractor has to come in with the lowest price, you are more than likely going to find one who is avoiding the permit process. No permits + no inspections = cut corners. The contractor can not pull the permit unless he is properly licensed and he has to do the job right because it's going to be inspected. Expect to pay more because it's going to take more of his time. The "pay me now or pay me later" rule applies here.

How'd you pay.... you can charge back if it was a credit card. If it was check you could try to do a stop payment....

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