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Question DetailsAsked on 7/10/2017

I fired my contractor. We only had a verbal agreement. He is threatening to sue. What can I do?

I hired an unlicensed contractor. I paid him over a third of the amount agreed on. He was not doing a good job and demanded all the money up front so I fired him. Now he is threatening me with a law suit. What can I do?

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1 Answer


Hmmm - unlicensed so state (and sometimes local city/county/borough too) licensing board is unlikely to help, though if he was supposed to be licensed for the type of work he was doing, contacting them with a complaint will result in them putting n some pressure on him, at least in the form of a fine or a cease-and-desist order. And evidence from them that he is not licensed but was legally required to be might help your case, and in some cases makes it illegal for him to receive ANY payment for the work. In a few states offerring to do or performing work requiring a license, but without said license, is actually statutory fraud - threatening a charge of that against him might get the result you want.

Also, if unlicensed - I would bet unbonded and uninsured too, so likely no recourse there. Calling his bond to get the work corrected and completed correctly, for the original agreed-upon contract amount, would be a normal recourse for this sort of issue.

Sounds like no contract in hand either, so the argument about 1/3 or 100% up front can't be resolved by what is on paper.

If demanding 100% up front, I would contact the consumer fraud unit at your state or city district attorney's office (where office lives depends on state) to see if he is known for running construction contracting scams - like taking deposits / initial payments and running with the money. Also, whether or not they arer aware of him being a scammer, IF you believe he scammed you (as opposed to just being a poor quality contractor), then filing a consumer fraud complaint would put a lot of pressure on him - though could also bankrupt him.

I would suspect the threat is just that and would go no further - but once threatened with a suit you should talk to an attorney, and in many cases you are also required to inform your homeowner's insurer to avoid having that protection lost.

The initial step is commonly to send a certified return receipt signature guaranteed letter to him (and if on lawyer's letterhead a LOT more effective) informing him his work with you has been terminated due to poor workmanship, and that you demand either:

a) a refund of X dollars (which could be up to the 1/3 already paid if you feel the work is useless or will cost more to repair than it is worth) because you feel you paid for more satisfactorily completed work than he delivered, or that you are offering Y additional $ as final compensation for his work (if you should feel he satisfactorily completed more work than you have apid for to date, or

b) that you desire a proposal from him then a meeting to resolve how much total payment is approriate for the work he did satisfactorily complete (which might end up with a refund or paying him more). Obviously, making an up-front offer in a) puts you in a stronger position because he has to refute your offer, rather than having the opportunity to ask for the world.

In the long run, you need something in writing (at least a PAID IN FULL invoice, if not a contract document) noting the total payment amount and that it has been paid in full, in conjunction with you receiving a lien release from him (and from any significant suppliers and any subs, as applicable) so as to forestall any attempt by him to file a lien down the road to get more $ out of you.

And of course, once all is said and done, probably an appropriate honest Angies List review would probably be in order.

Here are some previous similar questions with answers which might also help:

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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