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Advice needed re a contractor & lien
Old 10-18-2011, 01:04 PM   #1
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Advice needed re a contractor & lien

I'd sure welcome your advice on this situation. We've been working on a vacant rental house we have (previously 1 tenant for 20+years). All renovations had been done, except for completion of painting..we contracted with a licensed contractor to do inside & out. We noticed he nor crew were there everyday, athough the work they initially did was good and the longtime next door neighbor even asked us for the name. The house is small and empty...so easy to paint. Contract said he'd put on 2 coats everywhere. Found out (from him) he was also painting an apt. complex or something..so was not at our place much...he didn't tell us that up front. Anyway..we were checking and noticed much of it was sloppy work...drops on woodword, floor, screens,etc. No callbacks from him. We found out they left the hose running full blast in backyard for about 12 hrs....after a neigbor called us to say our yards were flooded and his crawlspace had water. Again no callback Then one day we found housekey we'd given him in a kitchen drawer. There were areas unpainted and taping on some windows left, filthy bathroom & dead grass where they cleanedup...to us definitely unfinished and I think abandoned. No notice he was finished, no walkthrough, no answered calls. We took pictures and waited for him to contact us. He did with a cellphone call that wasn't audible..we asked him to call us with better line..he didn't. About 2 weeks later he left us message that he'd fined preliminary lien papers (we've checked on county website...nothing filed we could find). We finished work and cleaned up ourselves because we were losing rent..but took pictures. Wrote him (unfortunately didn't send by 'receipt' mail) detailing everything and subtracted (about 1000$)what we thought was right from the final payment). Told him we had pictures but didn't send any and to contact us if he had questions. After about 2 weeks...he has not cashed check and not replied. We've again checked county lien info..and nothing. We don't know how liens work and wondered if anyone has experience. At one point he said he wanted to rent the house because his personal life seems to be a bit in disarray...so not cashing check seems strange. Welcome any advice. Thanks.
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Old 10-18-2011, 01:22 PM   #2
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My advice would be to pay the full bill as presented if he refuses to adjust it and take him to court for the difference.
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Old 10-18-2011, 02:05 PM   #3
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I went through something similar with my house painter . We agreed on a price and what was to be done . Well his work was sloppy and hit or miss . I finally got Him to finish the job. I had paid in advance because he gave me a sob story [lesson learned ]. After finishing he sent me an additional bill for things he said were not covered . I had the original invoice that we both signed so I refused to pay the extra . He forged a new invoice complete with my signature forged which I refused to pay . He took me to small claims court after harassing me for months . I won .
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Old 10-18-2011, 04:34 PM   #4
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What you do in cases like this (and its too late in this case I know), is to write him a check for the amount you feel he is owed. Ask him to sign off on it as "paid in full" on a separate piece of paper, if he doesn't want to accept the payment, tell him that he can fight you in court for 100% of it, most contractors will take the 75-80% you offer them right away (especially if they know they messed up), and cut their losses. Take 80% now, or fight you for 6-9 months to *maybe* get more.

Unfortunately I have seen this done even when the contractor does everything they agreed to, and since a lot of contractors live paycheck-to-paycheck, they accept partial payment even when they know they deserve the whole thing. - I don't support using that tactic in cases like that.
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Old 10-18-2011, 04:37 PM   #5
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He forged a new invoice complete with my signature forged which I refused to pay . He took me to small claims court after harassing me for months . I won .
I had a company do this to me once on a contract, it was a 5 page consulting contract, and we signed the last page. When the sh*t hit the fan, he goes back and changes the pages that didn't have my signature on it to his benefit (had to do with a non-compete clause, which he changd the length of after the fact), luckliy the 3rd party that was involved believed me, and it never went to court.

Lesson learned: now I sign/initial *every* page of any contracts I enter into, not just the signature page.
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Old 10-19-2011, 07:37 AM   #6
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I think Ed gave good advice. In any event, with any contractor, you should always get them to sign a lien release upon completion of the job acknowledging your final payment and absolving you of any further payment obligations.

Why? If the contractor hires subs and he doesn't pay them, they could file a lien against your property and thats just one of those unfortunate things that the law allows. Its also a good idea to have the contractor indemnify you at time of contract for any claims made by its workers (eg they get hurt on the job and want to go after your insurance).
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Old 10-19-2011, 08:50 AM   #7
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Does your state have a Registrar of Contractors board? If so file a complaint. They will first try to mediate a solution. Hopefully you have photos and documentation to prove the sloppy work. It can be time consuming to get a final resolution if the contractor doesn't agree to the initial mediation but most will so the complaint doesn't show up as being unresolved on their record.
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:40 AM   #8
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Here is what my husband has recommended: ask the contractor to provide materials invoices for your job. If it hasn't been paid write a joint check to the material provider and contractor. Do the same thing for each subcontractor. Alternatively ask for a release of lien for each material contractor and subcontractor on your project before paying the general. And, when you present your check have the contractor sign a release of lien at the same time.
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:43 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for such good info and advice. Wish we had asked before handling the problem contractor. In most previous situations when someone we've hired hasn't done a good job...we've just paid them to get them out of our life. In this case I think because my DH spent time interviewing and picking out the best of the bids it really annoys him the guy did such a lousy job. Aside from all the other stuff the watered down paint left in the garage and missing tools from our toolbox were icing on the cake. We did check the state laws on liens and then the records and todate nothing yet....but it appears we have to be notified in person with paperwork. Never have gone through anything like this...so don't know exactly what would happen if lien is filed. He did, however, yesterday, cash the check we sent with the letter detailing the whole experience and explaining how the final figure was arrived at. We are planning on contacting the contractor's board if he continues this (we do have pictures) and doing a report on Angies list, which is just taking hold in our city (he wasn't on it). If he'd only done a half decent job...he would have had neighbors on each side as customers, been paid in full by us and on his way. Instead he for some reason seemed to choose day workers to help him paint, not finish the job, etc. Weird! I hope this is now over....but you never know!
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Old 10-20-2011, 11:34 AM   #10
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Liens have state specific time frames which is why many subcontractors on large jobs file a 'notice of intent to lien' as soon as their work on the project is finished. Check with your state contractors boad about those time limits and find out what the process is in your state. Once that time limit has passed you can relax.
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:04 PM   #11
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Liens have state specific time frames which is why many subcontractors on large jobs file a 'notice of intent to lien' as soon as their work on the project is finished. Check with your state contractors boad about those time limits and find out what the process is in your state. Once that time limit has passed you can relax.

I also think that a lien has a time limit... I think 5 years or so... if you do not plan on selling within this time frame then it means nothing... I doubt that many will file a second one five years from now....

I think you can sue to get it removed and claim damages... I am a bit fuzzy on what happened, but I think that my mega did this when a contractor put one on when they did not fulfill their contract and they were not paid... it cost more to get the work done than the contract and mega got the excess money they spent back... (at least that is what I think happened)....
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:58 PM   #12
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I also think that a lien has a time limit... I think 5 years or so... if you do not plan on selling within this time frame then it means nothing... I doubt that many will file a second one five years from now....
I think the amount of time a contractor has to file a lien varies by state, but I doubt they have up to five years to do so.
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Old 10-20-2011, 02:36 PM   #13
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I think the amount of time a contractor has to file a lien varies by state, but I doubt they have up to five years to do so.
I agree...


I was saying that I think the lien is only good for 5 years... and then he would have to file another one to keep the lien alive... but I could be way wrong on this...
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Old 10-20-2011, 03:31 PM   #14
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I agree...


I was saying that I think the lien is only good for 5 years... and then he would have to file another one to keep the lien alive... but I could be way wrong on this...
Oh OK, I misunderstood what you were saying
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Old 10-20-2011, 03:47 PM   #15
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Oh OK, I misunderstood what you were saying
Actually... I did a bit of reading for Texas... and with my quick look it seems that they have 2 years to 'foreclose' or it is not valid... I think that means they have to go to court or something to get it done.. (not sure about how they foreclose on this kind of thing)...

But, the time frame for filing is very tight... and they have a lot of rules to follow to make it valid...

If that is the case in your state, they will probably not file as the cost to do so in time and trouble is probably not worth the trouble.... might as well go out a fleece some other person...
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Old 10-20-2011, 04:07 PM   #16
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Before time passes photograph everything this contractor did well enough to show the quality/nature of the work and the stuff he left behind, just in case he gets cute.
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