I want to respond to a comment posted yesterday by a homeowner. Ron S. said:

“What about the other side of the coin – I had a contractor that would overcharge or charge for work that was never done. (His workers told me about it after the fact) When questioned about it and requesting copies of agreements and change orders showing we had agreed for him to change from the plans – he pulls out and puts a lien on my house. I think there are bad apples on both sides.”

While our blog is primarily for contractors, we do not mind having owners listen in and even comment as you have. We allow all comments except spam and flames.

You are absolutely correct that there are unethical contractors. There is no way on God’s green earth I could pretend there aren’t unethical contractors. I hear about them on the news, in the paper, on Angie’s list – everyone knows there are unethical contractors. We hear so much about unethical contractors that most people think all contractors are unethical.

That’s why one of my goals is to put them out of business. Our motto is “We Like to See The Good Guys Win!” Conversely, we like to see the bad guys lose. The 3% of contractors who operate unethically make the other 97% look bad.

One of the ways we help the good guys win is by warning them about dishonest clients. You don’t hear about dishonest clients on the news, or in the paper, or in Angie’s List, because no one really cares when a business gets cheated. Some clients even consider it a feather in their cap when they can cheat a contractor, because they are getting even for all the unethical contractors. Which is another reason I’d like to see the unethical contractors go out of business.

35 years ago I did a survey for one of the largest remodeling companies in the US at the time to find out how many home or building owners tried to beat their contractor out of his rightful payments. It turned out there was about 1 in 32 jobs where the contractor had trouble collecting. About 3 years ago I did an informal survey of contractors in Oregon, and I found that 1 contractor in 14 was having trouble getting paid for his/her work.

1973: 1 in 32 problem clients.

2005: 1 in 14 problem clients.

Times change.

Our website and our blog focus on contractors and helping them survive. That’s why many posts in our blog warn contractors about dishonest clients.

Now, to your problem. When I am called on to arbitrate complaints like yours, or when I serve as an expert witness in client/contractor tiffs, I often find that the owner selected the contractor based on price. “Who has the lowest price . . . that’s my guy”. I am not saying, nor did you imply you picked your contractor based on price, but that is my first question. Those that pick a contractor based on “low bid” or “the lowest price” get exactly what they bargained for as far as I am concerned. Would you pick the lowest priced doctor? Dentist? Don’t make price the only criteria for a contractor, either. If you didn’t choose this contractor because he quoted the lowest price, good for you.

Did you investigate the contractor before you hired him? Ask for references, look at his status with the state (if he’s licensed). Again, most owners do not do a good job of due diligence and end up paying for it later. Many think they know a lot more about construction than they actually do. I encourage all owners to thoroughly check their contractors before they sign any contract.

You did not tell us what state you live in, and every state has it’s own laws concerning contractors. It is possible you can bond around his lien. It is called a Release Bond. If the lien is still in effect on your property, call your insurance agent or broker and ask her/him how to obtain a Release Bond.

If you can prove this guy overcharged you by charging for work he didn’t do, you have a legitimate legal case against him and you should pursue it. As I said earlier, there is nothing that gives the rest of us in the construction world more fits and headaches than guys that call themselves contractors and pull stuff like this. Now I’m assuming you can prove what you are saying. Your contractor is giving the rest of us a bad name and he should be stopped.

If you live in a state where contractors must be licensed (and there are 31 or 32 now), go to the agency that regulates contractor licensing and ask how to file a complaint. Do it, don’t let this guy walk away free.

I would guess the large majority of our contractors would be willing to help you in any way they could to right this wrong. Drop me a note, tell me where you are, and if you want I’ll send you the name of one of our contractors to see if they can help get things straightened out or at least back on the right path.

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