Problem with a contractor

8 Replies

So I recently bought a SFH to rent out and just had it remodeled. The guy I hired I asked to do a laundry list of tasks which included painting the exterior. That same day I contact him for the job I had told him I wanted white trim, a yellow door and black shutters. I don't hear from him for a couple days and am assuming he should be getting close to finished on remodeling the inside of my house and starting on the painting of the exterior so I send him a text detailing what I wanted with the colors of the outside of the house. Just to make sure he remembers. ( This is the second time I told him what colors I wanted) The following day he tells me he already painted the house back to the original colors. I told him that is not what I had asked for and he says that I had never told him what I wanted so he just painted it back to the original colors. Of course he is wanting me to pay him but its not what I had asked for. I'm new to this so is it normal to hire a contractor and he just decide on what colors to paint the house for you? Even if I hadn't told him what colors to paint the house shouldn't he not have just decided on his own to paint it the original colors of the house? That completely defeats the purpose! What would you think or do in this situation?

Hi @Kendall Mercer , sorry to hear that. It is always a good idea to have everything in writing, including the scope of work and any details relevant to the project before any work even starts especially if you are working with a new contractor. That way it would be very clear who is at fault.

Painting exterior of a property is not a cheap few hundred dollar job so im very surprised this would happen unless both you and the person you hired is not experienced enough / licensed.

I don't want to make any assumptions or point fingers, but it sounds like it just your word against his. You might just have to pay for the new paint and take it as a learning lesson. And maybe next time, higher someone more experienced / professional and make sure everything is in writing.

Yeah I think you're right. I have been thinking about it and I definitely should have gotten it in writing. I thought by telling him over the phone would be enough and if nothing else wouldn't decide on his own to paint it whatever he wanted without even asking. I will never assume anything again and always get every detail in writing. Let that be a lesson to me and I guess I'll just have to eat that one. It cost me about $1000 so it was a costly mistake. Thank you for your input though. I'm new to investing and this was my first property so I'll just chalk it up to a learning experience and yeah won't make the same mistake again. Anyone reading this don't make the same mistake I did. Be very clear, don't assume anything and get every detail in writing when dealing with contractors. 

Hey there @Kendall Mercer .  I agree completely with Jiri.  You need to have this in writing.  Regardless of what you are doing, you need to have a contract with an agreed upon scope of work document (pending on size of project) with every contractor that you work with so that this does not happen in the future.  

At the end of the day, it sounds like this was not completed and as @Jiri B. mentioned, it is your word against the contractors.  One of the worst situations that could result is that the contractor does not get paid and they go to the courthouse to place a lien on your property.  That is a mess because now you have to get the rectified.  If they try and place a lien on the property and you have a signed contract by both parties documenting the scope of work in it's entirety, then you are in the right (as long as you paid them).  

I hope this helps and feel free to reach out with anything else.

Well the more I think about it, to me it seems that if you hire someone to paint your house they cannot paint it whatever color they want and that they are supposed to paint the house to the color that you tell them. If no paint color has been specified in writting then it is not up to the painter to decide what color as if it his own property. I believe he painted it to the original color so as to only use one coat and to save time and mistakes wouldn't show. Im not sure how a judge would look at this case if it does go to court. I have since found out that they have added additional materials for the flooring job which I wasn't told about and in the contract it says the price is labor and materials included so I don't know how they can add materials and more labor to the job later on. Also Im being billed for a garage door panel replacement and I found the panel laying next to the house with the old panel still on the garage door. Yet I am being billed for it. Im not sure how he could have the Judge make me pay for this when it is becoming apparent that his intention is to make me pay for work obviously not performed such as the garage door panel, and for work that he decided to do on his own without asking if I wanted it and 

(sorry my post got cut short somehow) . So basically to conclude I'll say that I feel as if he is trying to get me to pay for stuff I didn't ask for such as the extra labor and materials for flooring when the contract had material and labor included already. I also don't feel like that it is right of him to assume what color to paint my house without knowing what color I want. It is not something for him to decide and I never asked for the original color. I shouldn't have to pay for the garage panel replacement either obviously. I am withholding payment until they make this right and yes they may take me to court. Do you think I'm doing the right thing? 

@Kendall Mercer I honestly don't even know where to start. If you are having so much trouble with this contractor, then don't use him again or just pay him for what he has already completed and hire someone else.

I don't know what exactly what you had him painted and why, but if say for example you are only replacing part of siding, etc then repainting those parts to the original color is very common. If he only charged you $1000 for the exterior pain and trim, that seem extremely low unless its a tiny townhome. In most areas, you also have restrictive covenants (HOA) so any time you want to paint a property different color, you have to submit that paint color for architecture review. So i'm not sure how those things would get missed unless there was a complete misunderstanding on what you wanted to do and what he quoted you for.

I'm not picking anyone's side, but having those things in writing is important especially for those type of issues. I don't like when people start through lawsuits and courts around. It is not as simple as you might thing and if you have nothing in writing, you might get really hard time with that.

Personally, I think most of those issues for new investors  comes from watching HGTV shows. They see investor walking though the property for 5 minutes, pointing fingers on items and then show up 2 weeks later and everything is done exactly as they wanted. That is simple not that case and that is probably why the first property is usually the most expensive to flip because you learn those things.

When choosing a new contractor, i ask other investors or realtors for references and i make sure the contractor is licensed and insured. Getting someone on craigslist with the cheapest bid is not always the best idea. I also stay very involved and hands on when working with new contractors to make sure everything gets completed as intended and on time. Even if you have everything in writing, you still will miss few things.

Also estimates for work are just estimates. Usually getting large items done for that exact price does not happen and its not the contractor fault. For example you might get a new roof big and its 9k. If the contractor is good, they will also specify stuff like "includes 4 sheets of plywood, any additional is $50".. etc. So that you know what to expect and they don't really know until they get started. But if you go though the process you will learn those things.

Or higher GC and they do that for you but its really up to you. I personally like to stay very involved but i also have the time for that.

Sorry if this is not what you wanted or hoped to hear. I had issues with contractors as well, but that was usually because i did not know better when i started and just went for the cheapest quote.

UPDATE:

If you are very unhappy with his work, just pay him for what he has already finished and what you agreed on and then higher someone else. The chances are that if you pay him fair for the work he has already done, he will just move on as well as you and learn from that experience. If nothing was in writing, neither of you have good grounds to go to a court. Also i would not go to a court over small amounts, it would just take me more time and money and the outcome would not even be guaranteed.

Originally posted by @Kendall Mercer :

(sorry my post got cut short somehow) . So basically to conclude I'll say that I feel as if he is trying to get me to pay for stuff I didn't ask for such as the extra labor and materials for flooring when the contract had material and labor included already. I also don't feel like that it is right of him to assume what color to paint my house without knowing what color I want. It is not something for him to decide and I never asked for the original color. I shouldn't have to pay for the garage panel replacement either obviously. I am withholding payment until they make this right and yes they may take me to court. Do you think I'm doing the right thing

 No. You never specified in writing what the paint colors would be. The contractor sounds like a dunce for not getting it in writing, but it is going to be your word ("I never wanted it to be repainted pink!") vs. his word ("She said to freshen up the house, I took that to mean keep the colors the same."). If he painted the entire house, then he used materials and labor. 

If it were me, I would make the best of the newly painted same-color house. If it's for renting out, and the house is not some obnoxious color that doesn't work for the neighborhood or the house, what difference does it make? Have the trim and door color go with the house and run with it. 

Everything you do in real estate contains a lesson somewhere. Your lesson is a pretty cheap one. You're expending too much energy on something that's not that important. 

Thanks for the replies and taking the time to give your thoughts on this. It's nice to be able to have someone else's opinion on this that is in this field. I have my property manager dealing with him and going over my concerns and I'm supposed to hear something back today. Just hope this all works out. We will see. Thanks again