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Question DetailsAsked on 5/11/2016

If my contractor asked for an advance and then walked off the project, taking our house key, can I call the police?

We have a contract with this person, and he has only finished plumbing and sheetrock in 6 weeks. He asked for an advance of $1200 to get help so he could finish more quickly. Now he has cleared out his vac and tools, came and went today without any work done, and has not mentioned anything or returned our calls. What can I do?

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2 Answers


Sounds like you did not give him the advance - which unless the contract called for it or you agreed to a contract amendment or change order for advance and maybe additional payment for acceleration of schedule, you had no obligation to do so and indicates he is probably running out of cash to do his jobs, so advancing money risks losing it if he is on the verge of going broke.

Assuming you are convinced he is not coming back (or you will not let him back in the house), and assuming also you do not totally trust him as indicated by the fact that you are worried about the key, I would pay the $100-150 or so (with normal exterior locks) to get all your locks that use that key rekeyed. This means a Locksmith putting new tumblers in the locks and cutting new keys to match, but almost never requires changing out the locksets themselves unless very badly worn or very high security locks and you do not have the master code number - usually just changing the shape of key that works in the lock, and of course cutting as many new keys as you want.

Depending on whether you are ahead of him on payments (relative to the work done) or not, your options are to negotiate a termination to the contract - with refund or additional payment as appropriate for the agreed upon payment for the work completed, or contacting his Bonding company to have the job completed with the bond money by another contractor. Or suing.

you also have the options of filing a complaint with the state licensing bureau about him (he was licensed, right ?), filing a complaint with the city business license department about his business operations, and of course after all is said and done you can do an appropriate Review on Angies List.

Other potential complications -

1) getting work completed by another contractor undoubtedly means only a partial or no warranty from them because they would be foolish to warranty work he did,

2) plumbing and any other work he did nay not have been inspected and passed so you may be caught with having to have drywall torn partly out for plumbing or electrical or structural inspection,

3) replacement contractor may not agree to continue with and finish the partly completed work as it is (or its quality may be substandard which you would not want),

4) you did not say if you had paid for any materials that were not used or left on site,

5) you need to get lien releases from the contractor and his vendors and subs to be off the hook with them.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


One thing I left out of prior comment - the reason I did not mention calling police is the most they could do (other than be upset you wasted their time) would be to get the contractor to give the key back - but if he intended ill with it, first thing he would have done is get it copied, so getting the original back does not give you any added security against that.

A good reason to either change all locks after a contractor has had free access, or cheaper keep one lock set for a single door (maybe back or kitchen door) that you put in only when contractors need unsupervised access and give them that key, then change the lock back out after they are done, back to your normal one. Not tough to DIY on door handle set if at all home handy, even easier if you leave that lock unlocked during contractor use period and put in a deadbolt lock above it which the contractor key fits.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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