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thomaspultz

Contractor Complaint Civil Suit (WA State)

Tom Pultz
11 years ago

Hi,

I'd like to hear from anyone on GW, especially someone in the Seattle area, that has filed a civil suit against their contractor.

Our local cabinet maker closed the manufacturing portion of his business at the end of 2010 and thus can no longer supply our kitchen cabinetry. He didn't bother to mention this little detail to us until I asked him a question about the design in February.

He freely admits he owes us a full refund of our 40% deposit, but he's been dragging his feet now for nearly two months with no resolution in sight.

Two weeks ago we sent him a demand for refund letter via certified mail, to which he sent a casual email reply saying "it would take time" to sell his equipment and/or rent his buildings.

Two days later I filed a complaint with the BBB. I don't expect that to solve anything but I wanted it on record.

If he doesn't propose a firm repayment schedule the next step will be to file what's called a "Contractor Complaint" form in Superior Court. One of the defendants would be the bond companay since each General Contractor must have on file a $12,000 bond to maintain their license.

If anyone has gone this route I'd be interested in how it turned out. It looks very cut and dry to me, and supposedly can be done without an attorney, although I would prefer to use one to at least help with the initial paperwork filing.

In the meantime we decided to avoid all small local cabinetry contractors and are currently working with Crown Point Cabinetry in Claremont, New Hampshire. They are wonderful to work with and are no more expensive than the local guys.

Thanks for any information that would help resolve this situation.

Comments (25)

  • lavender_lass
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Have you contacted the Attorney General? They're pretty tough in our state!

    I'm over on the east side :)

  • Sharon kilber
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You can contract the Washington State Dept of Labor, &Industries, and file a complaint.

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  • ideagirl2
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Even though you can do this without a lawyer, it would be invaluable for you to invest $200-$300 for an hour or so of a local lawyer's time to get advice on exactly what to do. One thing I would expect them to tell you is to file IMMEDIATELY because if this guy hasn't already filed for bankruptcy, you need to do everything you can to get your claim in and hopefully paid before he does. Once he does file, everything gets "stayed"--i.e. your suit against him would just grind to a screeching halt and go nowhere until after the bankruptcy case was through with, which could take years (and will almost invariably end with there being nothing left for you to get paid back from).

    But that's all something to discuss with the lawyer. Find someone who can meet with you or at least talk on the phone within the next week, to get the advice you need, and keep us updated on how things are going.

  • breezygirl
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm in WA also, but have never filed a civil suit. If I had the time, I'd take my former fireplace installer to court. Weasly litle slime ball.

    Member Pugrolls is in Seattle and she (or maybe it was DH) is a lawyer. She had trouble with her GC if I remember right. Maybe try emailing her through her member page to see if she can offer guidance. Or maybe she'll see this thread. You could post on her active thread about her backsplash if you need to get her attention.

    Good luck!

  • lascatx
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    COnsider that if he was forced to close shop and doesn't have the money, filing a suit may not generate any better results. I'd find out what the limitations period is for filing a suit (likely to be at least a year). Take some time to try to resolve things and then file as that time gets closer if needed. You can spend time and money on a suit, win and never collect a dime. Winning a suit doesn't give you money -- only a decision that you are entitled to it, and it doesn't sound like he's disputing that.

  • breezygirl
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Have you tried calling L&I to ask for the form? Odd that they state up front that they make the form hard to find.

    Another avenue to finding the form is to contact Gov. Gregoire's office. Once a constituent contact is made regarding a state agency, that agency is obligated to follow up. And when I worked for Gov. Locke, some of these complaints about agencies' constituent un-friendly practices were brought to the gov's attention.

    Agencies are given 2-3 weeks to respond to you and must report back to the governor's office that they did. The long timeline and the distinct possibility of a vague and wordy response from L&I might not be of real help, but you might try it.

    A lawyer sounds like the best start at this point.

  • natschultz
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but DON'T waste your money on a lawyer!

    Yes, file every complaint you can (BBB is pointless), but state / local agencies are worthwhile. The AG won't do much, but your local District Attorney may be a better option.

    My contractor royally SUCKED! They really screwed up the framing, installed the roof ridge caps backwards, and installed the cedar siding completely wrong. I tried desperately to get my mother to fire him when the framing was done wrong, but he kept saying "I'll fix it." So, being the trusting person she is, things kept trudging along. Well, after the cedar was done OBVIOUSLY wrong, they started on the Board-and-Batt siding on the back - and REFUSED to do it correctly (I had done the front B-n-B myself, and even showed them a photo from a book so they wouldn't screw up). We also had to argue about NOT putting white soffits on our house - before they even dug a hole in the ground we clearly stated the soffits MUST be dark brown (can't paint them because the holes will close up) because the house is green and the fascia is dark burgundy - white was NOT an option! The day he came to install them we had a huge argument and he kept saying he couldn't find brown, so we'll "have" to take white. 5 minutes later I found brown online, and threatened to get my brother's rifle and shoot him in the head if white even came near my house. Well, low and behold, the roofing supply place where we bought our copper flashing just "happened" to ALWAYS have BROWN soffits in stock. My mother drove out and bought them herself.

    My mother spoke with a lawyer - for free - he represents her employer. He said, DO NOT bother trying to sue - you'll just waste your money. He told her to get the contractor to do as much of what he was contracted to do as possible. I argued that is STUPID because I HAD TO REFRAME A LOT OF THE WORK MYSELF!!! And undoing wrong work is harder than starting from scratch!

    My brother lives up in Vermont - he used to be in construction - he KNOWS what he is doing. So, as those idiots were starting the board-and-batt I was on the phone with my brother in tears, begging him to convince my mother to fire them. The next day he drove down (5 hours - I live on Long Island, NY) and saw the mess - and made them do some stuff over. So, for a few days things seemed to be better.

    Soon enough things got bad - they installed the batts BACKWARDS!!! I flipped out - the rain and water was going IN towards the house! How STUPID can ANYONE be!
    (The batts that go from the roofline to the ledgerboard separating the first and second floors - they REFUSED to bevel the ledgerboard (arguing the copper wouldn't sit flat over it - BULL), and then installed the bevels on the bottoms backwards so the water went in behind the batts and ledgerboard. There is a picture of a house in "New Rooms for Old Houses" that has the exact same siding, yet they STILL did it totally wrong.)

    Then, inside, where the old roof met the original back of the house, they had screwed-up the framing, and because it used to be an A-frame, it was a REAL PAIN for me to rig and cut and re-frame the new LOAD-BEARING wall / rafter that they simply REMOVED! I had already fixed the exterior portion so that the new / old roofs wouldn't collapse, but had not yet re-framed the new (non-loadbearing) section of wall. Well, while I was gone my mother and brother took the GC to see his crew's screw-up and he said "They'll fix it." When I got home and was informed of this I had a total SH-T FIT!" NO WAY!!! I had ALREADY FIXED THE HARDEST PART! I stood my ground, said they were not allowed to ever enter the house again and that the next time I see that guy I will have a gun pointed at his head!

    That was it - I finally won - the next day when they showed up my brother walked him all around the house, showed him every single screw up, said "You are an IDIOT! You have NO CLUE what you are doing! My sister was right - just because she is a girl you REFUSED to listen to her, yet she knows more about framing than you do! You are FIRED!!!"

    My mother had already spoken to the lawyer and filed a complaint with the local agency. But guess what? The lawyer was right! The contractor who used to have a website, registered phone numbers and brick-and-mortar address suddenly NO LONGER EXISTED!

    So yes, complaints were legally filed against a legitimate business, but CONTRACTORS are mobile (unlike a store), and they can simply de-register their business with the state and (most likely) re-open under a totally different name. Thank GOD we didn't waste money on a lawyer!

    We ended up having to spend more than $5,000 on a new (reliable) contractor to have all the top-of-the-line (from WA, btw) cedar shakes ripped down, a whole new batch ordered, and installed PROPERLY! That was only on the two narrow sides of the house! Thank God we heat with a wood stove - we have enough cedar (could not be re-used) kindling to last 5 years!

    Everything else we've been doing / fixing ourselves (mostly me).

    For example, the original GC PROMISED that his actual electrician would run the wiring, but his idiot crew did instead. I ended up having to re-wire all the outlets and run all new homeruns - because they NAILED THROUGH THE WIRES!!! Then we had to spend an extra $8,000 to have a new electrician inspect, map and install the breakers to power the addition. That was another BIG mistake - just take the highest bid - in the end the "low guy" ended up costing more than the electrician who was going to rip everything out and start from scratch.

    I always told myself that there were three things I would never do myself: roofing, plumbing and electric. So far, I have (unfortunately) HAD to learn how to wire - and it SUCKS! I will NEVER be able to do roofing (12/12 roof pitch), and thankfully, my plumber is the son of the plumber who worked for my Grandfather, and it's nice having OLD SCHOOL Irish and Italians on your side (even they couldn't convince my mother to fire the GC though)!

    As for cabinetmakers, there is a famous painted furniture shop in Maine - can't remember the name (Maine Cottage Furniture? Maine Country Furniture?) that up and went out of business last month - taking EVERYONE's money and downpayments with it. It was foreclosed on and the bank is arguing that all the customer's downpayments are going to pay down the debt of the business. Now, I think that is absolute BS - That cannot possibly win in court, but so far the customer's are up a creek without a paddle.

    Maybe, if you can find other customers in the same boat you will have a chance of getting your money back, otherwise I doubt it.

  • breezygirl
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The AG in our state, Washington, operates a little differently than in most states. We are known for being very pro-consumer here.

  • aliris19
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Natschulz, I absolutely *loved* reading your post! I know you're not in a jolly mood following it but it sure cheered me up. We've been experiencing almost if not all -- geez, maybe even more -- of this. Who wants to take stock? It's all so awful.... But I cannot tell you how enjoyable it is to read coming from someone else.

    Isn't it just amazing that this could happen even once much less in duplicate and then some, all across our lovely nation. I guess I am stuck with some weird, wrong image of the noble, brilliant Worker ... it's just not reality. I'm sure there are some wonderful, brilliant workers out there, but you don't encounter them ordinarily. I don't do construction for a living or even a hobby, but I think it is not idle self-flattery that suggests I am now likely as skilled as most I have encountered. It's ridiculous, really.

    You don't mean Maine Country Furniture that was/is run by someone who got elected to the State house? I can't remember his name..... drat -- but that can't be the guy, right? I'm thinking of a place up on 27 near Wiscasset, but I think there are several stores? That would be really rich if it's the same guy....

  • natschultz
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Aliris19,

    Have you ever seen Holmes on Homes (HGTV)? It was LITERALLY THAT BAD!

    Luckily I already knew a good deal about building, but never actually imagined I would NEED to re-frame a house! I also have two good books on wiring - the Home Depot one and one other (can't remember) - they were SO helpful!

    Honestly, it just does not pay to try and save money by going with a lower bid. The company we chose to re-do the siding was actually a high-end builder who has done some AMAZING waterfront mansions - never thought to get a bid from him before construction. But, the original crew royally screwed up the roofline - was supposed to be a hip roof over the addition in back with the front left looking like an ordinary Cape Cod - instead, the GC decided to make a gabled roof with a big peak sitting above the original ridge beam (new roof along back going opposite direction of old (lower) roof). Well, that is actually what I had wanted - a peak facing the street, but the architect designed it with a hip. I was curious as to why - UNTIL it turned out that a hip roof would have transfered all the load from the old roof to the sides and new back of the house, thus allowing the removal of the old A-Frame back rafters without any structural issues - the ONLY way to create a normal stand-up height closet in the old bedroom. The old closet was under the eaves, so it was only 4' high. Well, because the GC decided that it would look better with a peak, he did his own thing, and that framing went up SO FAST, that by the time we said "HEY - where's the closet?" He replied "What closet?" We showed him the plans and said "You were supposed to frame a HIP ROOF - NOT leave the old A-Frame rafters INSIDE the house between the old bedroom and new master bedroom!" "Oh, well, I cannot cut those rafters now - you'll have to hire a structural engineer first because if I cut those rafters and the roof collapses you'll sue me!" "WHAT?!?!?! YOU DIDN"T FOLLOW THE BLUEPRINTS!"

    To make a long story short, the inspector said that although it was the most bizarre thing he'd ever seen that he would pass the framing - WITHOUT the closet.

    Fine. I knew exactly how to transfer the load - I'd do it myself later. Well, I removed the old ship-lap sheathing from those rafters and I was planning to put in two big headers - one at the front of the old closet and one above the old exterior wall below where the addition's 2nd floor ceiling joists start - then I would hang all new collar ties carrying the weight of the front of the original roof across to the back of the original house (at 8 ft high) and the load would tranfer down to the foundation, and then I'd cut off the rafters at the back where they meet the new collar ties. Oh, wait, there's a problem - I cannot put a header at the front of the closet to carry any load - there is no bearing wall below it - the original house has a giant non-loadbearing archway there (right below where I would cut the rafters) - all the weight from the original roof went down to only the exterior foundation walls. Well, I didn't want the living room ceiling to come crashing down, so I had to also transfer some load to the side walls - but only the exterior side wall is load bearing, the other wall isn't a normal wall at all! (note - old houses used really good, strong wood that spanned much longer distances and relied on basic physics to stay up). So, I came up with a design that relied on old-fashioned timber frame physics - I would leave the rafters on each edge, sister them up and turn them into a feature of the old bedroom, then I would remove all the rafters in between for the closet and transfer that load to the new header so all the weight goes down to the original foundation. First I had to sister-up and reframe where an old window was on the first floor below this to carry this extra load.

    Well, nobody liked my idea - why lose two feet on each side of the closet? Just remove all the rafters! But, you cannot do it - it's too much work - only a GUY can do that!

    So one of my brother's friends came and said he could do it - but he INSISTED on putting a header exactly where it could not go - right over the non-loadbearing living room archway. No way!

    So, one day I was driving past a house a few blocks away - it had a new addition put on, and low-and-behold, it had the same (albeit deliberate) roof intersecting siding as we ended up with - and it looked GREAT! You see, on the other side of the house, when they removed the old mini bump-in to straighten out the old back wall (this is what I mentioned in my first post that I had to fix), they left the one exterior rafter that ran from the ridge beam to the first floor ceiling. The problem was that the original house was a classic Cape Cod - the side was like a big triangle sitting on top of a square. But, when the back addition went on, ALL the back rafters were supposed to be removed and replaced with the new hip roof. BUT, because they put a new gable roof running the opposite direction of the original gable roof, and left that one exterior rafter (we forced them to fix the old bump-in, and their "solution" was ripping out the two interior rafters WITHOUT transfering the load to straighten out the wall (was sloped at the back of the other original bedroom) - that's what I had to fix right away), that one rafter was now bisecting the house - over the old and under / in front of the new 8' tall master bedroom wall. Because of the way they framed the new roof this meant that it HAD to have roof shingles cutting the cedar siding into two sections.

    Well, the house I drove past just had it's cedar shakes installed. That house was also originally a Cape, but it had a big shed-roof addition done at the back - AND they left the original edge rafter and covered it in roof shingles. It looked great with the white fascia outlining the big triangle between the natural cedar shakes. So, we got out the local directory, looked up their address and called them up to get the name of their contractor. They said he was the highest bid they got, but it was SO WORTH IT! Turns out the new GC lives right around the corner - and he told us that he was wondering why our guys were taking so long. Well, we wanted him to replace our cedar disaster, so he sent us to see some of his work - OH MY GOD! HOLY CEDAR ARTISTRY!!! Of course, ours is boring, but his guys sure did know what they were doing - mostly waterfront, so no chance they would install it so the water would go in behind the shakes (FYI- cedar shakes must have a double-course at the bottom and they must OVERLAP - you should never see Tyvek behind them!). So, we hired him to rip off the old shakes, remove the Tyvek (NEVER put that behind real wood siding), install tar paper and install the new shakes.

    So, my mother decided to have him look at the closet disaster, and he said his guy could fix it - but I could not be involved (he saw everything I had fixed - said it was all done correctly, but way "overbuilt")! Well, let's just say that his cedar guys are geniuses, and his Framer does awesome work - IF he has a blueprint to follow. Well, the Framer and his cute helper came in, and ripped everything out faster than the blink of an eye - and re-built it without a header! NO HEADER AT ALL! So, I was like "You need to put in a header to carry the load" He replied "NO, it's only holding up the old ceiling - that won't fall down." "WHAT? You just cut off all the rafters that connected to the old ridge beam - now there is NOTHING holding up the front of the old roof!" He says "That's ok, the back is no longer needed because you have a new roof above it!" HELLO!?!?! That STUPID new roof peak is LITERALLY sitting right on top of the old ridge beam - the original roof was an A-Frame - A-Frames only stay together by GRAVITY - the front and back rafters both connect to the ridge beam keeping EACH OTHER UP, and the collar ties prevent them from pulling apart! YOU CANNOT JUST REMOVE THE BACK RAFTERS and expect the front of the roof to not collapse in on itself!

    Whatever! Yet ANOTHER BIG Frame job for me! Seriously, I knew how to fix it and I was SO SICK of arguing with guys who think they are God's Gift! So, we paid them, said we loved it, and breathed in a great sigh of relief when they left! So, of course I immediately had to build and put in a big header to transfer the load. First I had to put in some temporary supports to hold up the new ceiling so I could remove the studs (load-bearing - then only carrying the weight of the new addition, NOT the original roof)between the old and new sections. OH MY! Can you get any less level / plumb? I had to remove the plywood subfloor to install the new studs down to the first-floor top-plate. Well, well, guess what? That LOAD-BEARING WALL was FLOATING on NOTHING!!! Normally the bottom plate sits on top of the ceiling joists, but because there were no ceiling joists there - it was the 12/12 pitch of the old roof, so the rafters and ceiling joists were (obviously)cut at 45 degrees and the old roof decking floated over the first floor wall. The original crew sat the bottom plate only on the addition's ceiling joists - but they were practically collapsing! So I had to adjust my plans and on each end of the new closet I had to install taller studs running from the second floor top-plate all the way down to the first-floor top-plate - the same way all the load-bearing walls in the original house were built. THEN I had to build the header and sandwich it in between these new king studs. I think I ended up with 2-3 king studs on each side and four jacks holding up the header. That closet was supposed to be a 7'x8' walk-in, but I think I will make it 7'x4' and turn the back half into a tub or shower niche for the Master bath and make the header into an arch because the header is a bit shy of 6' long because of the extra kings I had to add at the corners of the closet. Yes, so the weight of the front roof now is carried across by collar-ties connecting the front rafters and top (attic portion) of the old back rafters to the new header and down to the original foundation.

    Oh yeah, that stupid gable peak was floating as well - apparently they were too lazy to remove the original tongue-and-groove roof decking (only a few pieces were removed), so they just laid a 2x4 across it and put in the studs that form the gable from there. And only about 5 nails in TOTAL were actually holding that new roof to the ridge of the old roof. I found that out when I went to frame out for the attic fan. That was a total mess - I had to rip on a bevel a whole bunch of 2x8's and sandwich them between the old roof rafters at the ridge (the new plate is just offset the old ridge), then (because it was "floating" above where they removed the original decking, I had to rip down 1x3s to level it out, then I was able to screw the bottom plate of the peak into the new "beam" I created and use hurricane straps to tie the studs down as well (and up to the top edge rafter as well- still confused as to how no strapping of the rafters passed inspection).

    So, yeah, we probably spent at least $2,000 on new lumber, screws, nails and tie-downs just to fix all that. And I'm still not done with all the fixing - just got all the really imperative stuff done so far.

    And the house has not collapsed yet!

  • natschultz
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    It was Maine Cottage Furniture (in Yarmouth - owned by the Bass family) that went out of business - but apparently not "bankrupt."

    Here are some articles about it:
    http://www.theforecaster.net/content/n-yarmouth-mainecottagefurniture-closes

    "Demeritt also said customers who have made deposits for furniture that hasn't been built will not get their furniture and are not likely to get their money back."

    "The customers are probably not going to see any money," she said. "The bank comes first, then secured creditors. Unfortunately, there is no recourse for customers in these situations."


    http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/mar/24/maine-cottage-shuttered-goods-to-be-sold/

    http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/malled/2011/03/09/the-mysterious-closure-of-maine-cottage-stores/

  • jerzeegirl
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    natschultz: I am totally fascinated by your "adventure". Aren't their inspectors where you live? How do the permits get closed out if these guys are doing such incompetent work? What in the world is going on?

  • dreamgarden
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "We also had to argue about NOT putting white soffits on our house - before they even dug a hole in the ground we clearly stated the soffits MUST be dark brown (can't paint them because the holes will close up) because the house is green and the fascia is dark burgundy - white was NOT an option! The day he came to install them we had a huge argument and he kept saying he couldn't find brown, so we'll "have" to take white. 5 minutes later I found brown online, and threatened to get my brother's rifle and shoot him in the head if white even came near my house."

    Wow. Can't blame you for feeling this way. Sounds like this contractor needs to be out of business or have something like this done to this own house......

  • TxMarti
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This is exactly why dh & I want to GC our own addition, but the city seems to think only a registered GC is capable of doing it. Fil was a builder, dh knows what he is doing. We hired a contractor to build our garage/shop, and dh had to redo the trusses after they left because they weren't even, and finally we had to fire him and finish it ourselves. I don't want to go through that again.

  • lascatx
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Reading natschultz's posts reminds you that things could be a lot worse than losing a deposit. I've watched Holmes on Home,and it's scary.

    I'm sorry you're having the problem and I'm not insensitive to it, but I doubt that hiring a lawyer (at least right now) is going to help him find money if he really doesn't have it. If anything, it may force him to spend what he's trying to scrape together to pay customers on a lawyer for himself and make it more likely that you will not get paid. And if you do get paid and he goes into bankruptcy soon after, you might have to give the money back (used to practice in that area years ago). Lawsuits work best to determine rights to something disputed and sometimes to force companies to admit and pay their obligations, but you're dealing with a solo guy who had made mistakes and run out of money or the ability to keep his business going. He's not denying that he owes you money.

    Focus on moving forward. Watch the limitations period. Collect what you can, but don't make your situation worse by investing too much of yourself or your money into something than may offer no return. I'm glad you are able to keep moving forward with another source. Things could be a lot worse. Good luck!

  • Tom Pultz
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think most people are missing the point of this potential civil suit. While is may not result in the contractor paying what he owes, it should force the bond company to pay the $12,000 as they will be named as one of the defendants.

    The story I've gotten from the cabinet maker is this: as the end of the year approached he needed to work out something for him to stay in the cabinetry business. When he finally told us in February that he had closed the MANUFACTURING PORTION of his business, he said at that time that he had "merged" with another full service kitchen remodeling shop.

    By closing only the manufacturing portion of his business he is technically "still in business" as he still has his license, insurance, and to this date his old website is still up and running... possibly to help funnel business to the new shop. He also thought that by keeping his license it would help him sell some of his equipment and lease out his buildings, which are on the same property as his home.

    I asked him what "merge" meant and what was to become of our deposit and contract. He said they would transfer to the other shop. Well, as it turns out he didn't really merge in the sense that the other shop bought him out. They did buy some of his equipment and he is now working for them as their designer.

    We think he must have cut a deal with the new shop that if he brought a few of his old customers to them that they would build the cabinets and possibly do it at their cost or near to it so he would not have to come up with as much money to finish our job. We don't know this for a fact, it's just speculation on our part since he told us this would be the "easiest" solution for him.

    After seeing the new business we decided we did NOT want them building our cabinets as they really were only experienced in frameless design and we wanted inset. Our ex-cabinet maker said this was fine and he wanted us to be happy. This was about the 1st of March.

    We were told that since our ex had paid sales tax on our deposit to the state it would take a couple of weeks to find out how to get that refunded. Until we sent him the certified letter on April 7 that was the last we heard from him.

    We do feel our ex-cabinet maker will try to do the right thing and has always come across as honorable, but possibly not the best businessman. Like many small businesses they apparently run them on a pyramid scheme where they fund current projects with new business.

    As an aside... when we told him about the frameless vs inset he sent pictures of a kitchen he had completed in December. It was inset and very pretty. We actually visited with the owner to see it in person. Although we felt he would have done an excellent job for us we just were not impressed with the new business he was working for, so decided to move on.

    I did manage to get two law referrals from a law firm one of my coworkers has used for real estate deals. One of those spends most of her time going after contractor bond money, so I will probably give her a call next week. Even if I spend $300-400 to acquire and fill out the forms correctly that could be well worth it.

    While I would like to give our ex the time to make this right, we are worried that others are probably in the same boat as he did suggest we were not the only ones left hanging. If that's the case I do not want THEM going after the bond money before us, so time may be of the essence.

    In my complaint with the BBB I complained that our contractor apparently had a lackadaisical attitude about the money he owed us and that by filing the complaint it would show him we were not willing to just sit around and wait. In his response to our certified letter he said he was surprised we fealt the need to respond as we did. Well, what did he expect us to do, just wait around forever?

  • ideagirl2
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think most people are missing the point of this potential civil suit. While is may not result in the contractor paying what he owes, it should force the bond company to pay the $12,000 as they will be named as one of the defendants.

    I think you're probably right (I'm only saying "probably" because I don't know your state's law and don't have the contracts in front of me), and the ones saying not to "waste money" on a lawyer also seem to have overlooked the fact that you would be filling out and filing these forms yourself, and what I was suggesting was that you hire a lawyer FOR ONE HOUR or so to help explain the options you have, how the process works, and what you should do/not do as you fill out and file the forms.

    In law as in the rest of life, "measure twice, cut once" is a good rule; it's FAR easier (and ultimately less expensive) to get good advice from the outset and start things off right than to inadvertently start things off wrong and then have to pay a lawyer to fix them.

    The other thing a lawyer might be able to do for you, if you think it's a good tactic once they've explained the law, is send the contractor what we lawyers call A Lawyer Letter. (Haha). You would be surprised how effective A Lawyer Letter can be in making things happen where there was no progress before. The recipients often react as if to say, "Omigod, you mean you actually MEANT it when you said you wanted your money back?! OH!!! Well in THAT case..."

  • lascatx
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I didn't remember seeing the bond company mentioned -- I do tend to scan over long posts sometimes. Good thing to have on your side. I do understand that point -- if a suit is needed. All the complaints you can file and a demand letter from a lawyer won't do that. I would make sure the bond company will not pay on an admission of indebtedness, a confession of judgement, and affidavit in which the contractor states that he owes the money to you and is unable to pay it -- if he is willing to give you that. If you do need a court judgment, I'd try to get it as simply as possible. Again, good luck.

  • Circus Peanut
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The remainder stock from the bankrupted Maine Cottage Furniture was purchased by the Marden's chain, a large surplus discounters formerly run by Paul LePage, Maine's current governor, about whom the less said the better.

    It's amazing, isn't it, how we homeowners (and women to boot!) have to educate ourselves in construction matters we never thought we'd have to know, just as protection from the many well-meaning, overly confident but completely unqualified hacks out there.

    I had to dig through 6" of sprayed foam insulation along both sides of my 30' long, 4' high hip-roofed attic crawl space in order to insulate between every single danged floor joist on the second floor -- because the expert, well-recommended spray foam installer insisted that installing the foam on top of the finished floor was sufficient. Unfortunately he entirely ignored the fact that these joist bays are basically open on both sides, and thus we have 10" of free outside air blowing merrily along the entire underside of our bedroom floors. In Maine. In the winter. *sigh*

    OP, I wish you the best of luck with your remediation and hope you get your money back as quickly and painlessly as possible.

  • pugrolls
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Tom, I'm a lawyer in Washington (Seattle, specifically), but I don't have any particular experience with this type of action. Accordingly, I won't offer any legal advice.

    For what it's worth, however, you are right that you should be able to collect against the contractor's bond. You may have already seen this on L&I's website. http://www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/625-088-000.pdf
    It's important to file suit sooner rather than later, because once the bond is exhausted, you'll have a much harder time collecting directly from the contractor. (Chances are that, if he's done this to you, he's also done this to others who will also seek to recover against his bond. You should be able to search the L&I website for his company's name to see if there are any claims filed against him).

    There isn't anything magical about the Summons and Complaint you have to file (in King County Superior Court) and serve (through L&I as directed in the link I posted above). The Summons simply notifies the contractor that a lawsuit has been filed against him, and the Complaint needs only to lay out the basic facts (i.e. you gave him money for services, and he kept the money without providing the services). Once you file the action, however, timelines become very important because specific statutes govern how and when you must follow up with your lawsuit to foreclose on the contractor's bond. For that reason, I think your instinct is absolutely right to consult a lawyer who can: (1) send you sample forms; (2) review your forms; (3) make sure you follow the proper filing and service processes; and (4) advise you on the appropriate next steps.

    Sorry I can't provide any specific referrals or more helpful advice.

    Good luck!

  • melissastar
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Tom, I feel for you. I'm in a similar situation. My GC and his associated cabinet maker have for all practical purposes abandoned my job at about 90% done. They SAY they intend to finish, but the job was supposed to take 3 months and it's been a year and they haven't done any work in nearly 3 months. There are also some quality issues which need to be addressed. Between the unfinished work and redressing the quality issues, we're probably talking about having to lay out $10,000. I only owe him $2,500. AND he agreed three months ago to a $100 a day late penalty. So far, he's racked up $7,000 in late fees, none of which I will ever see.

    So, a month ago I filed a case with my state's home improvement commmission, in the hopes of either prodding him to finish and make corrections as needed or to get the $7,500 difference from the bond company. And get his license revoked, for good measure.

    As you say, he has been operating his business like a pyramid scheme. Worse, with the recession, I think I was his ONLY business at one point, and he was living off his draws from me, while stinting on the purchase of material and slow-paying his subs. I ended up paying subs directly to get them to come to work (yes, deducting it from what he is owed).

    In my case, he has till this Friday to have a response letter at the Home Improvment commission. If he doesn't he can be fined $5,000 and lose his license. ONce he responds, an investigator is assigned and they encourage us to work it out. But it could take a year they said to get the money, if we do end up going to the bond company.

    I wish you the best of luck. Yours seems a straightforward case and I hope it works out.

  • natschultz
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    He owes you $12,000? In that case I would hire a lawyer - not chump change! Especially if you ordered face-frame cabs and now he only does frameless - that is a total breach of contract. All I can say about lawyers is you DEFINITELY get what you pay for! Pay more for a really GOOD lawyer with experience in this area - trust me - a bad lawyer is the WORST thing in the world! At least a good vs. bad divorce lawyer, that is ;)

    --

    Melissastar,
    Along with all the quality problems, we did have trouble getting them to "finish" up (before we fired them). They "disappeared" for a few weeks - and we kept harrassing them about putting in the windows - the ENTIRE project was estimated to be FINISHED by Labor Day (September - broke ground beginning of July) but in late October it was already getting really cold and we had NO WINDOWS! This was why the lawyer advised us not to fire them at the time - we PAID for the windows and siding! So, my mother called up the window place, and it turns out the windows were sitting there for over a month - they would NOT allow them to leave the shop until the GC paid for them! So, my mother was like, "But WE paid HIM for THOSE windows." Sorry, the GC never paid us! The GC had been LYING the whole time - he kept saying "The Anderson Factory is months behind." They finally installed the windows in November - that was when the SH-T hit the fan - they caught me taking photographs of their trucks and license plates! And got really p-ssed! The windows were already on my property, so I really didn't care at that point, but they removed all their tools from the premises (big deal - one of the guys saw my Dewalt jigsaw and was like "What are YOU doing with that nice saw?" And I replied "I KNOW how to build!")

    --

    Marti8A,

    Do you NEED a GC? Good question! I know that in order to get the permit they required a licensed CONTRACTOR, but not sure if that means GC. We were originally planning to GC it ourselves, and we found our excavator through a reference - he was the guy who recommended our GC. The excavation / foundation guy was cool AT FIRST - all that went well. But once the framers started, it all went downhill. The excavator guy was around in the beginning of that, but we kept complaining, and he even saw the screw-ups, and after the whole roof / closet fiasco he simply DISAPPEARED - and DISCONNECTED his phone!

    Seriously, the problem here is that we are both FEMALE! There is NO WAY all this would EVER happen if a guy was on the premises everyday. The proof is that as soon as my brother came down from Vermont they actually listened to him - and corrected some of the mistakes. But, when I pointed out the exact same mistakes they told me "You don't know what you are talking about!"

    --

    Funny story:

    We added on to the back of the house, but I REALLY wanted a Portico over the front door (I HATE the snow blocking the door in winter). I had already designed it to fit between the two different roofs (front is L-shaped with main roof 12/12 pitch and smaller roof 8/12 pitch - front door is in the corner on the short side). That was not in the plans, but during the initial consult I asked the GC if he could build it "Of COURSE!" he said. Well, we checked with the code / inspector guy and he said that as long as it was only over the door / stoop - not a full porch or going beyond the existing front of the house, that he would allow it without a permit.

    So, one day they show up (hadn't been around in like a week) at 7am and say "We're here to frame the Portico - $2,000 cash upfront" (we had already agreed to that cost). Yeah, they ALWAYS want more money BEFORE they FINISH ANYTHING. But, the portico was separate from the addition, and we were just glad they showed up at that point.

    We had already thoroughly discussed the design - the bottom was only one freestanding post holding up a hip roof that ties into the valley of the two existing gable roofs. It was supposed to have exposed rafter tails, but they would have come down too low, so I agreed to just squaring out the eaves with fascia trim. Fine, right? WRONG!

    Well, all of a sudden the guys start arguing amongst themselves in Spanish (OK, this is another whole problem - do yourself a favor and meet the ENTIRE CREW before you sign a contract - just because the GC seems like a normal Italian and the excavator is Irish does NOT mean the guys actually doing the work are Americans - when my brother found this out he flipped!). So, I'm like "What's the problem?" And the GC is like, well, those two roofs are different pitches - we cannot do it! WHAT?!?!? You've been working here all these months and you JUST NOTICED that the two roofs are not the same pitch? What the bleeping Hell does that have to do with anything anyway?

    So, he's like, "A hip roof is always a square - the same on both sides." No, actually NOT if it's a rectangle like the house RIGHT NEXT DOOR!!! So, as the guys are fooling around with some wood up on the roof, trying to figure out what to do, I say "Give me that wood!" I took the wood, climbed up on the ladder, put the wood in the valley and showed them that the ridge goes from the top of the valley and slopes down to the post on the outside corner. Then, the short hip rafters connect from one roof to the ridge beam and the other roof to the ridge beam, and then ledger boards are carried across from below the eaves of each original roof forming the "square" that surrounds the stoop and attaches at the top of the post.

    Oh, well "That would be called a "B-stard Hip" because the rafters would be different on each side - it will look weird!" the GC said. What? I replied "I DON"T CARE WHAT YOU CALL IT! OF COURSE the rafters must be two different pitches - the CURRENT two roofs are TWO DIFFERENT PITCHES!"

    Are you sure that's what you want? YES! THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT!

    Well, that's strange, so I'll have to call your mother to make sure a "B-stard Hip" is OK. Fine, on the phone we go, and I had to explain WHY it has to be a "B-stard Hip" because of the different pitches. I assure her that I know exactly what I'm talking about and that it is EXACTLY what it SHOULD look like.

    "Fine, I'll do it, but it will cost an extra $700 because we'll have to calculate two different pitches to cut." WHATEVER - JUST DO IT!

    So, finally they are going to start the work. They had to remove the fascia, trim and two batts to install the ledger boards into the old house. When he removed the 3" long screws holding in the batt, he said "You were serious? You really DID use 3" long stainless screws?" with a really scared look on his face. "Yes," I said, "I had to go through the 3/4" thick batt, the 3/4" space between the boards, the 3/4" firring strips and then into the sheathing." "I TOLD you I wasn't going overboard." (This was in reference to how to install REAL board-and-batt siding - he'd only ever done the fake plywood with strips of wood for decoration.)

    So, from the time that they arrived at 7am and spent HOURS arguing with me, it was 10:30am by the time they even started removing the old roofing to build the portico. My internet had gone down the day before and Verizon was supposed to come fix it - the guy arrived at 1pm and the whole portico roof was already framed out. After he left I went out there and OH MY GOSH - IT WAS PERFECT!!! It fit between the valley perfectly!
    But, they spent more time ARGUING with me over how to build the bloody thing than it did to actually BUILD it!

    At the end of the day as they were putting up the new felt paper on the roof we went out to look at it and I was SO HAPPY! I was jumping up and down for joy and hugging them! And they were like, well, that was a lot of work, calculating all those different cuts. Yeah? "But it looks like it has been there since the house was built - EXACTLY what it SHOULD look like!"

    They only installed a few temporary 2x4's, not the actual post to hold up the portico. That would take ANOTHER WHOLE MONTH to get to!

    So, when they removed the old copper flashing that was inside that valley, they left it in front of the garage and I took it. It was a huge 24" wide and very long piece of copper. The guys were like "Where did the copper go?" I said I took it to make flower boxes out of.

    The next day when the roofers came to do the rest of the roof, I went out to get the copper from the other valley and it was GONE! They STOLE MY COPPER and immediately drove it off! I was P-SSED! They probably got $50 for that copper at the scrap yard, when in reality it was worth at least $2,000. THIEVES! We were really mad because we actually wanted them to leave that copper in the valley, but they claimed that you cannot install Ice and Water Shield on top of it. BTW: Copper is MUCH better than Ice and Water Shield.

    So, the portico looked awesome, and we finally FORCED them to get the cedar post and put in the concrete pillar and post bracket, and the beadboard for the ceiling. They wanted to put another post on the one side of the house with ground underneath it, but since they couldn't do that on the walkway side I said no (the roof would settle crooked then over time). The Ledger was made of double 2x12's and I was going to install the fascia myself, but the GC insisted that it be made of 2x10's (not normal 5/4 board), so I quickly ran to Lowes, found the nicest 2x10's they had, brought them home, sanded them smooth and primed all sides before they were installed. Also, while waiting for them to show up to install the post, I realized the ledgers were just installed using nails, so I installed a whole bunch of stainless lag screws into the house framing and heavy-duty brackets where the ledgers meet the house.

    Well, they dug and poured the concrete for the post, but it couldn't be installed until the concrete set. When they left the guys said to me "Don't go priming that post while we're gone!" Yeah, I'm OBSESSED with priming all wood before it's installed!

    Of course, I did prime it, and after waiting a few weeks they never showed up and I installed the post myself. I still have to finish the trim (tried making giant curved brackets by hand - NOT a good idea!), so I'm planning on making an arched valance below the fascia instead with stepped corbels along the posts (I installed floating 2x4 posts with really long lag screws under the ledger boards).

    I don't think they ever even noticed that I installed that post without them!


    Note: GW won't let me submit the word B-stard Hip, but yes, it was that profanity that he used to describe a hip with two different angles on each side. It actually looks NORMAL (each side above the portico - over the stoop - is the same) - only the edges of the hip rafters where they meet the two different roof pitches are cut differently.

    Oh yeah, my mother loved it when she got home - she agreed that it looks likes it's always been there, but she was REALLY MAD that the GC kept calling her up at work to argue about it. Also, everyone who sees it cannot even believe it's not original to the house. Now, I cannot even imagine the house without it!

    As for snow, well, it works quite well, EXCEPT with blowing snow drifts! I'm going to build a half-wall between the posts along the side without steps to keep the snow from blowing in from the side of the house.

  • weedmeister
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "(FYI- cedar shakes must have a double-course at the bottom and they must OVERLAP - you should never see Tyvek behind them!)"

    My first thought was, 'DUH!'

  • aliris19
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh my. That's just about all I have to say: Oh My.

    But I would like to repeat how much misery just loves company! Though I think I must say that you have pulled out way in front of me by now. I'll get back to you if our house falls down though... :)

    BTW, there are inspectors in our city, big time. They seem to prinicipally give a hard time about trivial stuff and let *so much other stuff through* -- it's bizarre. And I'm quite certain there's not graft involved; I think it's hit or miss, though why that should be the case in situations of safety, I just cannot fathom.

    Should we run a little contest? Worst GC experience? I challenge anyone to top/bottom natschultz

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