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Steve Payne   

Getting paid

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As a contractor, you work way, way too hard to let yourself get stiffed for money you have fairly earned. A primer on the ins and outs of collecting what you're due.

By Bruce MacKinnon

As a contractor, getting yourself paid on time starts at the beginning of your job, not at the end. It starts, in fact, with a tight contract. The first thing in that contract should be a stipulation of the basic structure of the agreement, laying out the work to be done and specifying that anything else is an extra that is subject to a contract on its own.

When you believe you are done, and ready to ask for payment, you have to be sure that, in fact, all of the basic work is done. The space has to be at least livable, says Shelby Whittick, a paralegal in Oshawa, Ont. who focuses her business on contracts, receivables and collections. It is a matter of liability. “Where the client cannot use the space, or the item, the contractor is going to have a problem collecting,” Whittick says. “For example, you can’t leave the living space with no electricity, or have the plumbing leaking, if the contractor dealt with these areas, even if the customer has been a pain or is abusive.”

Even if you are dealing with a clearly unreasonable client, you can’t just walk out on the job if you expect to be paid, Whittick says. “You, as the contractor, have to live with the terms of the agreement as well,” she says. “It is possible to walk away from the job if the place is livable, the electricity is on and the plumbing is done and the walls are painted. Only then do you have grounds to leave, even if you believe the customer is unreasonably and constantly unhappy with your work.”


Be proactive. Put language in the contract about late fees and collections and talk about it up front. Build a concrete foundation and rapport with your client which will in turn breed accountability. If you do wind up in court, you can then point to the agreement and the fact that the client was clearly aware of the terms.

And avoiding deadbeat clients means that you have to refuse to work for some prospective customers who give you a “sixth sense” that they may not be honest, creditworthy, or properly financed. “Not every potential client has to be your client,” Whittick says. “If you sense something isn’t right, in advance, run.” In almost all cases, deadbeat clients will trigger negative emotions
from your very first meeting with them.

Sending signals to prospective customers, up front, that you are running a serious business, is a good idea, Whittick counsels. You can start with documentation. “Try to get some identifying documents up front, like a photocopy of their driver’s licence and ensure you have a contractual clause stating this information may be used for credit purposes. It helps later if you need to go for collection help,” she says. If this feels uncomfortable, remember the last time you checked into a hotel. You were asked for ID, then, too. This simply lets the customer know that you have boundaries and that you will use their information to help you collect later if it comes to that. Good fences make good neighbors.”

Don’t be overconfident that the law is on your side. Because, if you do have to go to small claims court to enforce payment, be aware that the rules have changed in favour of deadbeats. The new maximum time limit to collect through the courts what is owing to you is two years since the last payment. It used to be six years. So if someone is determined not to pay, the best way to collect is to try to collect minimal amounts periodically to keep them on the hook. Even ten dollars here or there keeps resetting the clock and restarting the limitation period and it also nurtures your initial relationship by making that client feel accountable for the debt.

Another option, if the client refuses to pay, is to use a collection service. Here again, having identifying information on your customer is critical. Yes, it may cost you about one third of what you are owed, but is it better to have 100 percent of nothing or two thirds of something?

Going to court
Here is where you have to really decide, “Is this really worth it?” If you decide to go to small claims court, and represent yourself, you may feel that you can save yourself the costs of a lawyer ($250 per hour and up) or a paralegal (beginning at $100 per hour, on average, depending on location).  But be careful if you decide to do the legal work yourself.

“Small claims court is for the layman who doesn’t know the system,” Whittick says. “But if you do go to court by yourself, you run the risk of making errors, which sets you back and slows down the process and could lessen the chances of you collecting your money. Whereas, with professional counsel, you are always going forward. A good paralegal has the expertise and experience to weave through the process for you.”

And if you do decide to take your customer to small claims court, without legal counsel, you are the one responsible for serving the customer with the court papers, letting them know they are being sued. Or you could pay a process server to do this for you. Then, in many jurisdictions, you will have to wait 20 days to let them file a defense with the court.

Before going to trial, there will be a mandatory mediation meeting between you and your customer. It’s a chance for both parties to try to come to a resolution before appearing before the judge. The length of the legal process, the date of the trial, whether there will be delays, and your total investment of time, is very difficult to determine in advance. Only you can weigh the cost of all this – in terms of hours lost on other jobs and the stress and overall hassle – if you decide
to proceed.    

Bruce MacKinnon is the editor of PRO PAINTER magazine and a frequent contributor to CANADIAN CONTRACTOR


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40 Comments » for Getting paid
  1. norm richter says:

    After almost ten years in this field I would like to add that their are habitual offenders out there that mean you can never lower your guard. They make it a practice to pray on unprepared contractors. These offenders look for weaknesses in your methods of doing business. They use tactics like adding, removing, changing their expectations or their requests. They confuse workers to a point where the original instructions that define the jobs in the agreement become blurred. As well, they will use tactics like false complaints about “shoddy work ” or they find other picky excuses for not paying, until everything is delivered. One day, you arrive at the job site only to find your tools on the sidewalk, and a police cruiser nearby, should you protest your eviction. Usually, but not always an uneasiness begins to exist early on with this type of client (that’s the time for you to act) .Unfortunately, and deliberately so, they will eventually question your skills, integrity. etc. Once they they provoke emotional reactions from you and your workers they use this excuse to have you removed from the job. These offenders use websites like Yelp, HandyCanadian, etc. and other web sites as a form of extortion, until the end game is revealed. In the end, you (beaten down contractor) is forced to settle for a fraction of what is owed to you. Once you have settled they will remove (but not always) their lies and negative comments from these web sites. I’ve been there and done that. As a result, I am extremely careful and picky about who I deal with or provide estimates. During my initial meetings, with prospects I search for common values (i.e. BBB Accreditation requirement, past history with contractors etc.) etc.. If their histories, experiences and personal values are in agreement with my own, I will stick with this client. If they are not, I’ll ask more questions and try to quantify their budget. In the end I always ask for 80% of the money up front, until I get to know them. They either agree to my terms of payment, or I move on. Their are no exceptions to this policy other than work for seniors, disabled or sick.

    • Robert Koci says:

      I think your point about their effort to confuse is a good one. Where there are a lot of changes to the plan; where there are too many communications flying around; where there is confusion; it can be a conscience effort on the part of the client to hide an intention to get something for nothing.
      It’s not worth the aggravation, the time or effort to sort it out. You as a contractor are by nature a straight shooting person and you should always return to that very conservative, straight shooting thinking. And trust you gut. Get out early. There are plenty of good customers around. Go find them. Let you competition have the headaches.

      I never thought of consumers using bad reviews as a source of extortion. Hmmm. Got to get the guys at Homestars to comment on that one.

    • Robert Koci says:

      80 per cent of your money up front!! Wow!

  2. Jim Gaffney says:

    Incredible, I didn’t know tha this was widespread method, we have had the same, customers who confuse the guy on site, we even use the term ‘blurry’ we do try to make them sign a change of workorm but it alsways difficult to justify.

    We had another guy who refused to pay, we stopped work over non-payment, he claimed there was all this shoddy workmanship, we told him that if we recieved partial payment we would addres all of his issues. He paid a partial on day 45 from last day worked, we put a lien on his property anyway, there were multiple lawyers notices and offers to address all concerns, but we were always denied access and not allowed to see a written list of defects, we finally beat him down with the legal process and got our money minus legal fees. He did rip off other contractors on the job by delaying past the 45 days. He always played dumb and pretended to be a victim, but he knew what he was doing.

  3. Paul Halonen says:

    Strengthening accountability within the contractor industry
    Showing the consumer the bad from the good contractors by doing the screening and background checks for them
    A contractor registry showing a list of mug shots of convicted fraudulent contractors throughout Canada and the US
    A paid registry of certified licenced professionals that shows the consumer that these groups of contractors are trusted, honest and accountable and can start working for you today. We have taken the due diligence to hire a private investigator to do an extensive investigative background check on all contractors wanting to list their services on our site.
    All contractors must agree to the screening process and pay a fee of $1,500- per year. A onetime fee of $500- non-refundable and non-negotiable which covers the cost of the background check. Every company will fall into a rating system as well as a separate rating system created for customer feedback and reliability.
    We deal with:
    – Home Renovators
    – The Handy Man
    – Painters
    – Construction Companies
    – Any company dealing in Windows, floors, counters, Doors, Electrical, Plumbing, Heating, Drywall
    – All contractors within the construction and restoration business.

    • Sean V says:

      Well, I think a one-sided solution is really a part of the problem in fact since it not only ignores, but rewards dishonest greedy employers seeking free work or slavery just as much as the when the same kind of people are the ones posing as contractors. Therefore (as much as you may not like this due to naturally inherent human self-centeredness), inspired by the Turkish Ottoman Emperor, I think the best solution is to take injustice very seriously- AND NOT JUST FOR OUTRIGHT BRAGGING CRIMINALS WHO TEMPORARILY LYE AND ARE TREATED LIKE THE SMOOTH SLICK GENIUSES THAT They’re NOT- meaning instead of attracting resentment of those victimized by police members, and courts (ie. justice system), there should be broadened enforcement from MInistry of Labour on payments for confirmed good work for example by dedicated and often licensed people who often get shafted especially if w/o support from allies- like a parallel police force that can arrest any who commit slavery. Nothing could be better- instead of overdoing the safety thing as if they don’t know what to do with themselves or the idiots who embody danger, laziness, and abusiveness who are allowed or used by higher powers to point the fingers and make problems for others always, usually after most of the work(and hardest work) is done. The problem here is there would have to be yet another police force like a D.A. to monitor the first two. And the money for this could come from better utilizing the regular police to solve problems and distinguish who needs what level of consequence accordingly at the phone-call level before millions and billions more loss/damage/waste occurs to the system and innocent people usually without account. I think most the countries problems would be addressed this way, but unfortunately, those currently well off or wealthy with more to lose from change will probably fear & resist ANY unpredictable big changes. Good luck to all.

  4. patrick dann says:

    I have a customer claiming that they shouldn’t have to pay for the unforseen charges and extras based on a ruff price and drawing which was done months before actual drawings and contract. It is a substantial amount of money’s. The job is complete minus a generac that is set to go in but I am reluctant to do so because I know I won’t get paid. I have been lenient with the customer because they where friends. From day one the contract has not been met by them and was curious what my best course of action is. I am not a big company and have a young family which has created a financial strain on my family causing more depth that we can handle do to the fact I am unable to pay the sub trades that did the work for me.
    Appreciate your time,
    Patrick Dann

  5. Jen says:

    On June 2, 2015, I entered into an agreement with a highly recommended contractor to renovate my existing basement apartment. start date June 2, completion date June 30. The contract basically involved changing a 1 bedrm to a 2 bedrm and updating the bathroom, move the kitchen. He was also to repair the outside walkway leading to the basement apartment. The details were outlined, and we understood each other clearly, or so I thought. The value of materials and labour was $18K. He requested $9k upfront to purchase all materials for the entire job. After 1 week had passed, I called him and asked when he will start, he made an excuse saying that he was sourcing materials. The following week, he delivered a monster sized bin on the driveway and did the appropriate demolition which only took a small part of the bin. He did nothing else all of June and by the completion date June 30, he said that he had been ill and needed another month August 1. He had not even purchased any materials. early July, he came and asked for more money saying that he had used up the money on something else. I said no and our relationship deteriorated by the minute. He worked at a snail’s pace not showing up for a week at a time. He asked for money 4 times in July and each time I refused to give him. he was belligerent when I asked him why he was not working or when I asked about some worked he had done, he yelled at me. He would hang up on me or just not return calls. August 1 came and went and around middle August, I sent him a letter stating that he has two weeks to finish the job or return $5k of my initial deposit. In two days, the two weeks will be finished and I will change the locks and hire another person. I would like to go to small claims court but I am afraid that my contract is not very tight. It was on an estimate sheet with a start date and an end date and not spelled out really well. Myself and him understand the contract but I am not sure that the judge will. I will still try to give the court a shot and see what I can get back.

  6. Questo says:

    These are getting paid by doing nothing in all shapes and forms, by selling to us demise destruction, disease, dead, ect, using peoples unwilling consent.
    How large should be the law suite? Can they be allowed to operate, on and on? What are we the people doing to get these scam bags out of business and out of our lives. I want what is belong to me back, what about you?

  7. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really good contractors in Halifax, but I’ve also run into at least one full-blown disaster. A website has been set up to warn homeowners – at least in Nova Scotia – who seem to get ripped off with some regularity.
    Filing bogus liens is a favorite, and it’s become so common in the US that they have a name for it – “Paper Terrorism”.

  8. DJ says:

    what if the contractor screws up the client ever think of stating this part ?

  9. Deborah says:

    I am helping another person here and writing it as she tells here :
    I hired a Contractor to do my Mobile Home skirting here , He wanted paid Cash up front . He gave me a Quote of $2000. for all of it If only half needed to be done Then half amount quoted .
    After getting paid and starting the job the Contractor tell me . Oh all it did not need to be done I checked around back its all good . I checked out the the side where the door is to my main water is . I am sight impaired and live on a Disability . I need the door where the Water Shut Off is or I cannot find it . He also knows this since he knows me but threw his dad . It’s not their . I called I wrote him . No reply , I live on a very low fixed income . So the person that helped me pay the contractor contacted him also. Neither of us got a reply back from him
    Earlier to I took my hand all the wat down the side where he and his men replaced the skirting . Its not all where it should be .
    So now if I have a water problem . I can not turn it off . And abit scared if I calling a Plumber they will tare the skirting all up and can not afford to get it redone
    So you see it’s Contractors like this that really givwe the Good ones and Honest ones a Very BAD Name
    You really need to see the Clients point of Views before stating all you do here

  10. Anne-Marie Starkey says:

    A friend of ours is a sub-contractor. That friend owes money to the contractor from another job ( I do not know all the details) . A job was finished this week but he(friend) could not pay his guys (one of them being my husband), because the contractor deducted all the money that was owed to him (almost $2,000). That meant that my husband could not get his full pay this week (but will get what is owed to him next week).

    My question is, is the contractor allowed to deduct money from the sub-contractor’s pay, money that is owed to him (contractor), from a finished paid job, or should it be that the contractor pays the sub-contractor in full and then the later pays the money owed to the contractor according to an arrangement?
    Thank you for your time.

    • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

      Anne-Marie, we have sent this off to our legal experts, and hope to have a reply really fast. It gets into lien law, employment law, and contract law. Can I ask what province you are in. We aren’t lawyers, but something about this bothers us: and that is, that under the Construction Lien Act here in Ontario, money received from owners but not paid out to subtrades, exposes the owner of the property to liens from the subtrades. So we would not recommend GC’s refuse to pay subs because of money owed to them on UNRELATED jobs. We predict the lawyers are going to agree. But let’s find out. We hope your husband gets his money really soon.

    • Bob Haagensen says:

      Sounds like you live in Nova Scotia. This web site’s for you.

  11. Colin says:

    Hi, I am writing this on behalf of a contractor I did work for back in November. Myself, another worker and the contractor did work for a lady that we had done work for previously. The work was spanned over a month or so with a couple days here and there. Greg, the contractor, paid for all the materials himself and we all did the work. He has had communication with the lady several times but she refuses to pay stating some of the hours were unjust. By the way we all work by the hour at the same rate and don’t charge for any extra like some do. So asking for money up front wasn’t really an option. As a result of her non payment Greg is on the hook for all costs including interest on his credit card. I would just like to point out that he is not an established contractor and only does work for clients he has a reputation with. I was just wondering if you or anyone knew what actions he could take to get this resolved as it has taken a toll on his family and caused many arguments. Now he has cancer and this is something he doesn’t really need to deal with right now. Thank you.

  12. Ernie says:

    I am a well seasoned contractor and strive for an over the top satisfied customer in the end. I was the project manager only on this job. I get constant compliments of the quality of our homes.
    I recently finished a house for a couple who told me that they were honest people and that we didn’t need to go with a lot of signage. They did sign an estimate of cost as a go ahead but did not give much detail to finishings They added many finishes to the house and each item was priced and they approved. When it came to paying the invoice they didn’t want to pay for them .They started complaining about shoddy hideous workmanship. All the miters were presise, doors plumb and square.They paid most of the invoices and now they are suing for full refund plus for work done. I’m just reminding contractors to be wary of people that come on that way.They are the seasoned con artists.My suggestion is to not start any additional projects without a signature on a detailed quote. People will ask why you don’t trust them. It’s because of these “honest” people that we almost need to treat honest people as dishonest. Personally I hate it . We as contractors can’t let ourselves be abused by those kind of people.

  13. simone says:

    What if the contractor does not do the job or the tasks required with no contract. Is a person or business obligated to pay an overinflated invoice that is not fair market value for services?

    I have emails that gave him deadlines for work, not met or completed.

    In Alberta

    Thank you

  14. I study at Kumasi technical institute , am on level 2 now , I study Building and contraction technology. as am called ohemeng Jonathan live in Ghana I like to work with a Canadians contractor so I can become a somebody in this would because am willing and I really enjoy to build many house with my technical brain to build house .. need your help

  15. Steve Edwards says:

    Hi guys and gals,

    I am a contractor. I am getting screwed over on a job. The client keeps moving the goal post and has used the “blurry” tactic. They have changed their mind on several tasks that were to be done on the jobsite. Their have been delays on both parts, one accident (fell through the ceiling), delays due to products purchased by the homeowner, a delay on the glass that was ordered, delays on my undiagnosed health condition. Needless to say their were some issues. Now i am trying to get paid, for the completion of the work. They have re evaluated the bill, and have made their own deductions. What are my options?

  16. Bonnie says:

    We are dealing with 2 situations right now where we were subcontracted to complete painting work for 2 difference contractors and in both scenarios the majority of the work was completed but payment is not being provided. The first was Contractor 1 who hired us to do an exterior job. We did the bulk of the work including added work that the homeowner requested on site but because of site restrictions the work was unable to be completed, not just by us but at all. We have still not been paid for the work that was completed. What is our course of action here? The second is Contractor 2 who we were actively working on multiple jobs with. When C2 called while we were on another job site not associated with them at all, they called to complain that we could not go back to a job that was previously completed and add more work at that moment. C2 called, threatened us with bodily harm and has now since refused to even communicate with us about the completion and payment of the 1 job that was outstanding which is 90% complete. What can we do here? We’ve tried reaching out by email, phone, text with no replies. We received a deposit only but that covered only about 25% of the total project costs. This is taking thousands of dollars out of our pockets and this is our first year so it makes a large impact on our bottom line to lose out on payment for these jobs that we did complete the work for.

    • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

      Editor’s Reply:

      Bonnie, it’s tough when you are in your first year of contracting and you run into cash flow problems. We’ve all been there.

      However, I am not sure you are doing very much to help your own cause. Yes, we understand you feel ripped off. But let’s look at the facts you gave us.

      Contractor 1: You did not complete the work. That’s all anyone needs to know. This is a very good reason why you have not been paid. We understand there were some “site restrictions.” But you still need to understand that the GC is not going to get paid by the owner for YOUR work if you left it undone – and, worse, you say that lots of other work wasn’t completed either, from other trades. So it’s almost guaranteed that your GC is awaiting payment themselves. Tough life lesson. The only way to get paid is to (a) communicate fully with the GC that you want to complete the work (b) do so as early as possible. Then you can start feeling like you’ve been ripped off. Right now you haven’t been. Clean up your side of the street first.

      Contractor 2: Now this sounds very much like you hadn’t completed two additional jobs. GC 2 calls you, angrily, and the source of his anger is apparently that you refuse to go back to a previous job. At least that’s the way you described it. And then you tell us additionally that a job previous to THAT one wasn’t completed for GC 2 as well. And now it’s “threats of bodily harm.” Well, no excuse for that from GC 2. If actually were threatened physically and he wasn’t just yelling at you and calling you names, call the cops. If you feel physically unsafe, don’t even hesitate for 30 seconds, go to law enforcement. (BTW, if you report threats of violence to the cops, you lose control of what the cops do. They are going to visit him. They have to. Once you’ve reported that, it’s out of your hands how it proceeds.) But let’s return to the Getting Paid stuff. You told us about three jobs in your post, not one of which was completed, and not one of which you’ve been paid for. The lessons are right there for you in that non-coincidence. We do empathize, but finishing what you start is job #1 for any rookie contractor, no matter how difficult it can be. Good luck and let us know what happens.

  17. Shawn says:

    What if you didn’t have a written
    Contract or anything on paper.?

  18. Rupinder Singh says:

    Hi I am working with one transport which is working with one lumber company . I have my company ‘s number plates
    . We are getting load under his company from lumber company. We worked with him from 3 years and he is paying our company after 60 days of work . This month I refused to work with him he told me he will stop my payment of 45000 dollar and Told me to go to court to get it what can I do . I have all paper work with me .

  19. Paul Bezodis says:

    We are a trade contractor who was working for a subcontractor to a lrage general contractor on a large University Institutional project in Ontario.
    The subcontractor became financially insolvent due to project delays, and was unable to pay the sub-sucontractors and suppliers for material and site labour. the project came to a halt as a result. The GC offered to remedy the problem by having the subcontractor sign payment directions to enable the GC to pay the Su-sucontractors and suppliers directly, in order for us to resume work and finish the project. The subcontractor complied with the GC’s request, providing us with signed Payment Directions, which we acted on in good faith, believing that the GC would pay us directly. The GC wrote to us directly after we had finished the work to advise us that they would not be paying us after all. As a result, there were several Liens on the property owned by a University. The GC has elected to post security into court + 25% in order to vacate the liens, rather than pay us as agreed, and without further explanation.

  20. This is an important topic us contractors often don’t like to talk about but I’m glad you all did. This was helpful and inspiring information for me to take action on a few issues. Thank you!

  21. Allan says:

    Hello. I’m a small contractor in Toronto who did a job for a large condo company. It was an emergency job that needed urgent attention and as such, the only ‘paper trail’ I have is a series of emails between myself and the condo board (in which they agreed to have the work done and agreed to pay in full upon completion). I did the work outlined in my scope of work and they were very happy with it. However… it has now been 42 days since the job was completed and they have not paid me. Furthermore, they have stopped taking or returning my phone calls. I’ve been very polite up until this point and am wondering if I have any legal recourse at all. Any advice would be appreciated.

  22. Henry Clarke says:

    What is the best way to deal with a contractor that has issued a P.O for a quote supplied to them , then refuse to pay stating the work was not done . The Company’s site Foreman was on site to witness the job being completed .

  23. Steve Stairs says:

    Ok, so ive found myself in a situation that luckily i have very little, actually no experience in dealing with and im hoping someone can lend me some advice on my best options to persue in order to receive money owed to me… So ive been working on a fairly good sized reno job in which i have an estimate or the completion of the work listed in it thats signed by both myself and the homeowner. Now ive had a number of issues ive had to deal with in terms of getting the necessary materials in a reasonable time frame, which it was agreed that the homeowner would be responsible for payment and delivery of any materials required, and the contract stipulated that once a certain amount of work was completed that he was to pay me an agreed on percentage which because of the problems receiving materialson time it took that much longer to be able to 100% complete certain “phases” of the job which then delayed my payment but i also had to wait probably a week at least extra on top of the already late payment due to no materials but eventually i did receive it although this shouldve been my first clue to how future dealings with him relating to receiving payment would turn out… So eventually, after a couple more unnecessarily long waiting periods for materials i managed to complete everything layed out on the list with the exception of a couple pieces of trim and two tiles, both because ive waited 5 days to receive those couple things so i could install them and therefore complete the entirety of the work laid out in the estimate and done it for the price laid out in the estimate exactly, even though i obviously had multiple valid reasons i couldve added charges for unforseen work, but i always try to meet my original quote if at all possible aiming for a satisfied customer in the end. Now to the issue im having…. Before he has delivered those few little things i needed in order to 100% complete the work entirely, which might have taken me all of an hour to complete if materials were available, he has decided he now does not want me to continue onto the next phase for him, which we havent even discussed at all and has nothing to do with the now 99.9% completed work, and therefore without him bringing me the couple things i needed in order to be able to complete the work in full its simply just impossible for me to actually complete the work though ive offered to do it once he brings whats needed he has choosen to just move on and have someone else put the last couple pieces up. I would be fine with that but the issue im having is that he now believes that because i couldnt finish the work completely and only did 99% of it, he now doesnt want to pay me for any of it because he is going to have to pay someone else to finish the work. Now if I made the decision that im not going to complete the work and am just walking away from an incomplete job then i could possibly understand his thought process…. But i have told him multiple times that i want to complete the work once he purchases whats needed, even if i have to come back in a week or whatever just to do that little bit of work, i will do it so that i complete my own work myself but because hes not making it possible for me to complete it i cant understand how he could think that because i didnt complete everything that means he no longer responsible for paying me for the completed work since hes choosen to not have me finish the little bit of work. So he has the belief that because i didnt fulfil the entirety of the agreed contract that he doesnt have to pay me for the work i did complete even though hes the only thing thats preventing me from being able to do the hours worth of work needed in order for me to fulfil the contract in its entirety. What would you recommend to be my best course of action in order to receive the remaining balance owed to me? I mean, he cant be right id hope….? If he is in the right then hes managed to figure out the greatest way to con a contractor and i just pray that the rest of the public doesnt hear how he did it…lol. Im hoping court isnt my only real option and am actually hoping theres a way to make him see how much more beneficial it would be for him to just pay me and move ahead with his project and have another guy waste days on end for him to bring materials and weeeks to be paid…. If he gets paid at all…i know i feel its my responsibility to warn whoever he brings in to continue the project, id hope someone would do the same for me….

  24. Jim Welfare says:

    I am a truck driver who sub-contracted my driving services to an owner-operator. The company he was contracted to closed its doors so as a result we were both out of work. He is now refusing to pay me for work done. He owes me approximately $3,500. What can I do to get the money he owes me?

  25. Laurent says:

    I got surprised on the last day – second last day of the job: bathroom reno (customer bought all the tiles, appliances, and fixtures), and we were installing the vanity (tub and custom shower were already installed). It came with leveling bolts. When the customer saw that we needed to level the vanity, he freaked out saying his floor should have been level (we never talked or communicated leveling of any kind – just floor repairs). It was completely unrealistic since the floor would have had to be raised a full inch at the entrance into the bathroom (ensuite from bedroom).

    Then he decided that the location of the shower head was off by 1.5″ (a location his wife, the designer, chose; a location I advised against, and the one I advised would have been where the husband wanted it).

    Then he complained about the bathtub not draining properly… free standing tub on a sloped floor… he didn’t want me to use the leveling legs that came with the tub because it would show a gap where it met the tiled floor, and he didn’t want me to caulk it.

    Then he decided that he was due a full new subfloor, not just replacing the area where we had to effect repairs. This is ludicrous since the contract stipulates “floor repairs” and not “floor replacements.”

    After kicking me off the job site, he claims the drain of the tub was leaking. He said he filled it twice and both times it leaked. I reminded him that he kicked me off the job site and that he was in breach of contract. He got his own plumber.

    Then he calls me to tell me that the tub faucet (free standing variety that has water lines coming from the floor) was flooding the ceiling cavity whenever he tried to fill the tub. He was implying that the piping I installed was leaking. I informed him that since the fixture only leaked when he tried to fill the tub, that the leak couldn’t possibly be in the piping I did, otherwise it would constantly be leaking. He claimed he didn’t understand any of that, and said he was calling a plumber.

    I got this email from them a week ago:

    “Hello Laurent, Just to keep you in the loop, we have begun the process of hiring experts to attend to each and every detail we have had problems with. When everything is completed and our cost are tallied, we will give you the details.”

    The implication is that I am somewhat responsible for any costs they have incurred.

    They are preventing me from honouring my part of the contract. It is my understanding that I am not liable for any of their costs because any deficiencies in my workmanship are covered by the warranty and that the contractor has to be given a reasonable chance to rectify any defects in workmanship. They are depriving me of over $4,000 in revenue (about 25 per cent of the total contract) as a result

    What are my options?

    Ottawa, ON

  26. Remy says:

    A guy flipping a house down the road of a job I was doing asked me for a quote to do some work. I always wrote everything down in texts, we agreed on the scope of the work and the price. FYI, it was building a stone wall and stone steps for his porch. I got about half the money midway through the job. Since it only took a week to do I was still owed a lot. He kept blowing me off and stringing me along. He said he had to do some refinancing so he paid me another 25 per cent.

    Then he really tried to ghost me and figures he can get away with not paying me. No one lives at the house. Could I go there and chisel up a step and take it away? Can he call the police and get me arrested for theft?

    Just weighing my options because he drives around in a 100k car and hasn’t done a hard day’s work in his life and my credit card is collecting interest because I can’t afford to pay it down without that money.

  27. Chris says:

    I think we need a better way to hire/pay for trades services. Too many contractors do not finish the job and leave the homeowner on the hook after they’ve already been paid, leaving the homeowner in a choice between lengthy small claims court battle or hiring another tradesman to finish the job. With no accountability for these actions, it’s becoming commonplace.

  28. Damen Meade says:

    Just finished an apartment reno involving a bath and kitchen. The subcontracted painter made a mess on the floor, being told that the floors were being refinished. The client has now said they are not. The painter is taking responsibility and dealing with the client for repairs to the floor. I am trying to get paid for the portion that we completed and subtracted the painters fee until he completes repairs. The client is avoiding my emails. I have insurance that covers legal fees and considering a lien.

  29. Bert says:

    I’m dealing with a very difficult customer, did a complete basement renovation, the guy didn’t allow any of my workers on the jobsite he forced me to do everything alone and now he’s planning to take me on court for being late with completion. He planned it from the beginning, was confusing me all through the process and even gave me out to a collection agency for not showing up while I was self isolating with covid. He agreed to let me back and finish the job but is constantly putting me through difficulties, he changed the contract so many times that at this point I don’t even know what was the initial contract. He’s doing this to all the contractors, did this to the landscapers and other outside works too just to shortpay them. He paid me in full but he will backcharge me for late completion for sure. The collection agency is coming for inspection in two days, I don’t even understand the role of the collection agency as he agreed to let me back to finish so there’s no point for them to be involved at all. I just don’t know what to expect but will have to get a lawyer for sure. Has anyone dealt with such a thing with a customer?

  30. Working as a subcontractor for a large Winery. We kept working even low we we owed a substantial amount. Only to find there fittings leaked our contract spelt it out very clearly if there parts were a issue we would replace and charge. We got the leaks fixed not they owed for the payment due plus the extra work. They ordered us off the site with out paying. Job was installed as ;per there drawings and met the pressure test we had in our contract. They then hired some one else and redid piping and are trying to charge us for the changes in a counter suit. We have mechanic s lien on the property suggestions.

  31. Joni says:

    My spouse is a house painter. He just finished a sub contract job. Homeowners were happy with the paint job. He was supposed to be paid by the contractor over the weekend. He was not paid. The homeowners were complaining that they did not clean up after the job and that “paint dust” and small dots of paint was left on the floors. This is not true. Everything was cleaned and vacuumed before leaving the site. He has still not been paid and today received an email from the contractor saying the clients refuse to pay because of the mess and they along with their relator are now unhappy with the paint job. Please note that my spouse no longer works for this contractor, he gave them his two weeks notice and when this job was finished he moved on to his new job. We are owed a lot of money for this work as well as cost of supplies! Shouldn’t the contractor have some funds in place to pay their sub contractors when running into difficult clients like this? It’s becoming painfully obvious they want to get everything done for nothing. We cannot afford to lose this money.

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