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Contractor quit, how to get money back

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  • Aug 24th, 2007 9:43 am
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Member
Jan 18, 2005
338 posts
19 upvotes

Contractor quit, how to get money back

So here is my situation. Based on our neighbour recommending this contractor for the addition they had put on their house, at the beginning of July we hire a contractor to renovate our basement bathroom and main bathroom. We agree on the price for both ($10,000), and sign a contract with specifics on what needs to be done, and a payment schedule based on completed work.
I paid him $1500 after signing the contract, and $1000 on the day he started the work. After about 1 week, we asked him if he could also do some additional finishing of our basement: frame a partition wall in the main room of the basement, and drywall the two rooms plus two doors for an additional $1500. This additional work did not include any electrical work, simply a framed 10'X8' wall with a door opening. He agreed to do this work, and we just verbally agreed on it, did not amend the original contract. I pay him another $1000 once he started on that. It took him about 2 hours to build the wall. When I saw the wall I was quite surprised at the crap job it was. He obviously measured the studs wrong, as most of them ended up 1-2 inches short at the top, so there were just the nails in the gaps. The studs were very loose. I pointed this out, and he got upset, and said the drywall would cover this up. :| After arguing some more, eventually agreed to put some metal plates to reinforce them. That was as far as that part progressed.

Over the next 3 weeks, work progresses extremely slowly on the basement bathroom. He shows up every 2-3 days, and does maybe 1-2 hours work each time. He and another guy demo'd the existing bathroom, and also had to put in a rough opening for an additional door through cinderblock (took about 8 hours for that). He had to get a plumber in to put in a new drain for the bathtub, and cap the supply lines. He also got in a duct guy to re-route some ceiling vents (about 4 hours).

He starts framing the new bathroom wall (expanding the existing bathroom), and the walls are very crooked. Over a 2 foot section of wall, it is out by 1 inch. The other wall section (about 4 feet) is not level at all. He had already nailed these walls into the concrete floor, and to the existing outside wall studs before we noticed.

So the next morning when he shows up, my wife points out that the walls aren't straight at all, and he gets angry and defensive. He tries to show her that it is straight (while measuring, he was very obviously putting the tape measure crooked). After some back and forth, he said he is done and walks out. I phone him and he said that he doesn't want to do anymore work and blames everything on my wife.

Over the next few days I phone him everyday to agree on the amount he owes us, since at this point we had already paid him $3500, and the work completed was not worth that much IMO.

Eventually (about 1 week later) we agree that for the demolition of the existing bathroom, putting in an opening for a new door, the plumbing and duct work, taking the garbage away, and framing the walls is worth $1500. He also had ordered 30 sheets of drywall, plaster and take, which were delivered. We agreed this was worth $500. So $2000 total, and he owed $1500.

Over the next two weeks I try to get him to tell me when he will pay me. Every excuse comes out, and still no money. Today I spoke with him, and he said he changed his mind. He doesn't owe me $1500. He needs to check his bills again, and will call me back in 30 mins. Of course no call, and he hasn't returned my voicemails yet.

So what are my options...I can sue him in small claims court. I would have paid him $2000, but now I'm thinking the work he did was so shoddy that I don't want to pay him for anything except the plumbing, duct, and the hole in the wall and materials.

Plumbing 4 hrs @ $60?
Duct 4 hrs @ $60?
demolition 8 hours @ $15?

Do these rates seem reasonable? How do I go about getting everything ready for court - get estimates of the work completed, or estimates for getting the bathroom renovated from here on. Get pictures of all work.


Any other ideas??? I won't mention the company name yet, and I do have pictures of the work.
27 replies
Banned
Jun 28, 2007
828 posts
Ottawa
It would be along hard battle to sue him.
Deal Addict
Sep 30, 2004
1420 posts
48 upvotes
Ottawa
Small claims, put on your reading glasses, lots to read up on, Consumer Protection Act.

Sue him for everything you paid, plus the work that a 2nd contractor will do to get your basement back proper.

Not only has he failed to complete the work, he's left your basement in worse shape. You've lost faith in his capacity as a contractor.

You're under no obligation to allow him to fix what he's messed up. You hired him to perform a job, he was incapable. Get an expert opinion (3rd party to this) who will back you up. This expert cannot be the contractor you hire in the future I believe.
Deal Addict
Sep 30, 2004
1420 posts
48 upvotes
Ottawa
Bytown wrote:
Aug 23rd, 2007 1:44 pm
It would be along hard battle to sue him.
It would be long (around 8 months) but it's a walk in the park.

60% chance when you file against him, he coughs up the money.

Otherwise he'd have to file a defense, and HE'D have to hire a 3rd party expert to go inspect your house to prove the work he did was fine. I'm assuming OP is competent and accurate in saying the walls weren't straight and the framing was ****** and too short.
Member
Nov 14, 2006
325 posts
24 upvotes
Check with your city/town that he didn't put a lean on your house.

and

Make sure he doesn't inform the city/town that you didn't have a permit (cuz you didn't mention that you had one)
Deal Addict
Nov 18, 2005
4037 posts
598 upvotes
Kitchener
was a permit required for any work? I think the only permit needed would be for cutting the cinder block wall if it was a structural support
Deal Addict
Aug 12, 2004
3420 posts
703 upvotes
Calgary
Take a lot of pictures. Get an estimate from a 3rd party for how much it would cost to repair the shoddy work that was done, and have the cost deducted from the 2000$ you agreed you owed him. If you can convince the judge that the work he performed was subpar to the point of being unprofessional, you will have a much easier case to get most of your money back.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Dec 3, 2003
14316 posts
91 upvotes
Mississauga
And if you win in small claims court, you still have to chase him for the money.

The court doesn't enforce collection.
Heatware 47-0

"Giving money to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
Banned
Jun 28, 2007
828 posts
Ottawa
Firebot wrote:
Aug 23rd, 2007 2:28 pm
Take a lot of pictures. Get an estimate from a 3rd party for how much it would cost to repair the shoddy work that was done, and have the cost deducted from the 2000$ you agreed you owed him. If you can convince the judge that the work he performed was subpar to the point of being unprofessional, you will have a much easier case to get most of your money back.
He would have a easer time of winning not getting the money.Even if you win that does not mean you will get the money that day.
Deal Addict
Nov 18, 2005
4037 posts
598 upvotes
Kitchener
wonder if he did a crap job on your neighbours house too? they probably didn't monitor his work like you did. post the company name and see if gets some action
Member
Nov 14, 2006
325 posts
24 upvotes
Drthorne wrote:
Aug 23rd, 2007 1:54 pm
was a permit required for any work? I think the only permit needed would be for cutting the cinder block wall if it was a structural support
City of Toronto permit information can be found here: http://www.toronto.ca/building/building_permits.htm
You need a building permit if you plan to:

* construct a new building
* renovate, repair or add to a building
* demolish or remove all or a portion of a building
* change a building's use
* install, change or remove partitions and load-bearing walls
* make new openings for, or change the size of, doors and windows
* build a garage, balcony or deck
* excavate a basement or construct a foundation
* install or modify heating, plumbing, air conditioning systems or fireplaces
* reconstruct a chimney.

You do not need a building permit to:

* replace existing, same-size doors and windows, subject to distance from property lines
* install siding on small residential buildings, subject to distance from property lines
* build a roofless deck under two feet (0.61 metres) that is not attached to a building
* build a utility shed under 100 ft2 (9.29 m2)
* reshingle a roof, provided there is no structural work
* install eavestroughs, provided that drainage is contained on your property
* replace or increase insulation, dry-wall or plaster
* damp-proof basements
* paint or decorate
* install kitchen or bathroom cupboards without plumbing
* erect a fence (except for swimming pools * outside pools require permits)
* electrical work (the Electrical Safety Authority, however, must inspect electrical installations)
Member
Nov 14, 2006
325 posts
24 upvotes
OP - I'd cut your losses and chalk it up to a lesson learned.

If you do get a new contractor, ask for references and then check those references. See some examples of their work if possible.

Also get multiple quotes from multiple contractors and get their references as well, etc.

Ask if permits are needed. If they say no, then they obviously are looking to cut corners. You need a permit if you're doing plumbing.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Dec 19, 2001
28262 posts
802 upvotes
This is why I tend to do all such work myself, with hired handimen. My brother-in-law got ripped off this way to the tune of almost $20k.
Hail Eris!
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