A Contractor I Would Not Recommend

10 Replies | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

As RE developers we all know how important it is to hire good, reliable residential contractors.  Because we are dependant, for the most part, on word of mouth recommendations it is vital that our recommendations are valid.  This is true for me anyway.  I am still living in the past, where your word is your reputation and your reputation is your character.  Therefore, I want to let the community here know about a residential contractor I would never recommend.

Let me start by saying I did my homework...checked him out thoroughly. Handy Pro Connection, LLC (Cyrus Gordon) came to me via a recommendation. The company is based out of Sicklerville, NJ but also works in Philadelphia, where he was born and raised. I checked the Better Business Bureau for complaints, I checked the NJ State Attorney General consumer division to ensure he was licensed, I checked every reference he gave by visiting sites and speaking with the homeowners. All good, he got the job and started on May, 10, 2018.

To make a long story short.  On Thursday, July 12 my contractor stopped communicating with me.  Now, we are 11 weeks into an 8 week job and he has abandoned the job with 75% of the money and only 50% of the work done.  HOW Did That Happen?  A week into the job he was still demoing an 1100 square foot row home in Philly.  This was not a complete rehab, we were keeping the main bath, moulding, and original dooors.  New windows, kitchen, basement bath and adding a storage room/pantry in the basement.  At that point my project manager (and partner) started pushing him.  He made promises and progress, albeit, slowly.  June rolls in and the work was still not where we needed it to be. At that time we started looking for a new contractor.  But this is Philly and contractors are hard to come by.  We found two contractors and the bid we received to finish the work were higher than the bid we contracted to complete the entire rehab!  So, we felt we had no choice but to stick with this guy.

Move on to the end of June.  Progress is still not acceptable.  I had a heart-to-heart with the contractor and made it clear what our expectations were and no more money (he was asking for a second payment of a three payment contract) would come his way.  He claimed if he didn't get the money he could not buy supplies to complete the job, which would be done in a week(I knew this wasn't true).  I was going on vacation, so I arranged for my partner to give him half the second payment for supplies only.  When I returned from vacation I learned my partner gave him the full second payment!  I immediately went to the project and took the contractor to the store to buy all of our supplies.  Two days later my partner went to the house, no supplies, no workers.  Our countertop people are there looking for their payment. 

Cyrus Gordon, made promises he did not keep.  He took money and spent it on God knows what.  He abandoned the job. Most of the work he has done so far needs to be redone.  Some of the materials we choose and asked him to pick up (such as flooring) he replaced with low quality materials, I assume to keep more of our money for himself. I have filled a complaint against him with the Better Business Bureau and the NJ State Attorney General.  I have also filed a claim against his insurance company with hope of getting at least our monies from the contract back.    

Please beware if you run into Handy Pro Connection, LLC. This guy is a liar, a cheat...very untrustworthy.

@Paulette Midgette - thank you for sharing your full story. Especially that you vetted him by going to other job sites. Do you go to SJREIA or DIG? I have had my share of difficulties hiring contractors myself.

I’m not sure how you could have done it any better. I hope you don’t have friction with your partner because the money got ahead of the work.

I’ve had some success hiring workers for the day at the prices the gcs pay them $100-200 but have had my fair share of misses here too.

You need to make progress so your holding costs don’t eat you up, but so many of the “good” people are busy.

I’ve had the most success with quality for lower cost by hiring guys who have full time jobs doing the same or similar for extra cash during the evenings, but then progress is slow.

its most unfortunate that you had to go through this deception and theft from someone who is considered a professional in this business. we definitely appreciate you putting the warning out about this character. as hard as it is to find a reliable experienced contractor nowadays its even harder to find one that's not a crook and a liar and that's truly pathetic.   

kudos,

Mary

@Steve Babiak , unless he registered with Pennsylvania as a contractor, he would not show up on there, the company as the OP stated is from NJ where he would be registered. he should be registered in PA if he is doing work there, so i agree, he should have shown up on those sites, i am a contractor in NJ but do not do work in PA, not even my own properties, so i do not show up on those sites. It is good to know those sites though when vetting for a contractor in PA. Paulette, it is good to call out these bad contractors and unfortunately you are caught in a bad situation on what to do, start by a small threat that you will contact the BBB and report a claim if he does not show some progress, or if you know an attorney, maybe a simple letter from one may get him worried and he may start showing up. A lot of times these threats do not matter much to Contractors, but they may help. Now that Steve has provided you with the right places to look, you will be even more prepared in your vetting the next time.

@Paulette Midgette 

I haven't looked at that statute in a while but I would check to see if the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act ("HICPA") applies to this situation. If he's doing work in Pennsylvania and not complying with that statute, you may want to reach out to the PA Attorney General as well. There are some teeth to HICPA since it works in tandem with the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"). And if we assume that Mr. Gordon is the owner, I doubt whether he could completely hide behind his LLC to protect personal liability.

Some thoughts on your situation overall:

  • In terms of vetting, I personally there is a limit to how much you can mitigate risks when working with a smaller contractor. I've seen smaller guys do a good job on 49 projects in a row than totally blow it on the last project. Many of them might be skilled folks but they are not always the best estimator and business person. 
  • Based on what you wrote, it sounds like your project partner lost control and got pushed over by the contractors. Not sure how close you are to the partner but you may want to work with someone else for these kinds of rehab projects in the future. 
  • One important item to note about bids: most smaller contractors are terrible at estimating. I've seen estimates that are off by 300% when all said and done (e.g. the original bid was $10k but the final cost was closer to $30k). So when I get multiple bids and one is significantly lower, I don't think of them as a deal. I instead look at it as a potential red flag. In construction, there is only so much you can do to reduce your margins while staying profitable. So in most cases, I've found that very low bids are not an opportunity but a warning sign.   

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

Thank you BP family for your support, sentiments, and suggestions.  These things happen, the world is imperfect and the world if full of us things called human.  I have learned a lot from this situation which I will take into not only my investing business but my life overall.  

Paulette,

Thanks for sharing that awful experience. I came across your post just as I'm interviewing contractors for our first flip. So scary. Please let there be good people out there!  

I absolutely agree with posting a review about the experience! Maybe he'll learn a valuable lesson. And best of luck to you. 

Felicia