Canadian Contractor

Rob Blackstien   

Locked out of a job

About a week and a half ago, we documented the plight of Laurent in Ottawa, which was part of the ongoing issue of getting paid.

Well, Contractor Nation has jumped all over this one. First, Paul Hood empathized…

The story sounds eerily similar in many respects. I didn’t have an unlevel floor but I did have the same tub and faucet configuration. The owner did some reno in their home just prior moving and the contractor then was thrown off site, not being allowed to finish. That should have been the first clue. I was vetted very carefully for their next home. The job went fine for the first 98% then it all broke loose, very similar to your story. I could not finish or correct deficiencies, was locked out, was out 25% or about 23,000 in my case. I eventually sued for 25k, received a counter suite for 25k and settled for 2k before court. They had too much evidence that I couldn’t refute without going back. I know they provided photos that 1) were not in the house, 2) prior to us finishing and said that’s the way we left it. All trades and my employees said the customer was happy when they left yet I found myself in this similar position at the last few days. I don’t have great suggestions but would love to hear others feedback. I feel there are some owners who plan to fail, and some who you just can’t satisfy, ever. Fortunately the good outweigh those by a lot. My learned experience is to vet the customer as much or more than they vet you. be willing to say no to them before you start. Also, document the project clearly with emails, photos, and daily logs throughout, especially the large one because for all those good customers, there is bound to be a bad apple coming your way that you won’t suspect and you need to be ready. In your instance, I would suggest you lick your wounds, glean some lesson from it, and don’t waste energy fighting. Put a smile on, forgive them and forget about it. You’ll be better off for it.

David Cousens followed up with his own, similar experiences…

(We’re) assuming this contractor holds some form of professional designation? Red seal Carpenter, plumber? The school of hard knocks is tough. Having been in this game for 30 years, I have learned not to take customers at face value. It’s a sad, but a unfortunate reality in today’s world. On the residential side I’ve had to bring over the commercial change work order forms. I’ve also had to take notes and pics of before and after. With notes I’ll ask customer to sign indicating that have been made aware of the situation.

All our work involving owner supplied box store junk, comes with notes on the quote explaining that the warranty is provided at point of purchase. Also, we’ve added time for incomplete or work required to fix owner supplied equipment. Allowing the home owner to dictate the improper installation of equipment is a automatic stop work order! If this contractor is a handy man, looks good on him!

David’s comments resonated with Robin Curry …

Perfectly said. Too many cowboys out there trying to do it all… plumbing is to be done be plumbers, carpentry by carpenters… as a plumbing company you should see some of the stuff we get called in to fix!

We also do change orders, and have explicit notes about Customer Supplied products!

Finally, Marten Burghgraef chimed in, taking a more philosophical approach…

I too have been in your shoes. Some homeowners are just plain evil or something like that. You will never make them happy. If it is the guy you have been dealing with, wonder if the wife is the one that’s not happy, ever, or hard to please, or something. You will never be able to make them happy. You will never get your money unless you want to fight for it. It wont take long to get to 4K in legal bills, whether you use small claims court or some other legal way.

The way I read your message, it sounds like you are 100 per cent right. It just sucks that you will not be able to win this battle.

Early on in my business I wanted all the work. I was warned not to take on the weird clients. If it didn’t feel right, walk away. I didn’t listen. Each time I thought/believed I could win them over. Each time I lost anyway. Now if I have a gut feeling that something isn’t right I say no. It’s hard to do, based in part on my personality, but had to be done. It’s happened at least four times perhaps more. I lost a boat load of money. Now I’m much older and a bit smarter, I hope. It may still happen but hopefully not.

Live, learn, move on. There are bigger and better projects available. And there are a lot of nice people in this world.

Back to you, Contractor Nation. Any more advice for Laurent?


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