From Bad-Ass to.….. Bad

This is done. Paint bub­bles and drips galore.

As chron­i­cled in my 3 Month Update and Bugs, Thugs, and Hugs posts, I had some work done on my house this sum­mer.

Notice I didn’t say any­thing about the qual­i­ty of the work.

I delib­er­ate­ly left that descrip­tor out as it turns out my con­trac­tor was clos­er to the “should nev­er be allowed to work on a home improve­ment project for mon­ey ever again” side of the scale than the “wow this con­trac­tor knows their stuff and did a fan­tas­tic job!” side.

Much to my cha­grin.

It start­ed off inno­cent­ly enough. She was hun­gry for the work and paint­ed a beau­ti­ful vision of restor­ing the work. Sad­ly for me and the house, it turned out to be the only thing she knew how to paint. I would be remiss if I didn’t men­tion the price was right, as well. She beat out every sin­gle quote.

The fact she did it with just a quick look around, no time to research prices or mate­ri­als, and with­out bat­ting an eye should’ve been a red flag.

The work took for­ev­er to start, and then was con­tin­u­ous­ly delayed due to a vari­ety of fac­tors. We got over 4 inch­es of rain dur­ing that time, which does make it dif­fi­cult to work on the exte­ri­or of a house. Sup­plies weren’t com­ing in on time. Work­ers didn’t show up. Always excus­es. More red flags.

The work start­ed and I was less than impressed. I don’t know much about home improve­ment (hence the rea­son I hired a con­trac­tor in the first place!) but what I could see it did not look good. My neigh­bors, both the one across the street who bid on the project and the one behind me, walked me around the house and point­ed out every­thing being done wrong.

Gut­ters not hung cor­rect­ly.
Garbage strewn all over the yard.
Sup­plies left out in the open.
The porch pow­er washed, then not sand­ed, and then stained before it dried com­plete­ly.
Paint being applied incor­rect­ly and with­out the prop­er prep process.
2 com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent shades of blue paint.
Wood shin­gles replaced with the wrong kind of shakes.
Wood sid­ing replaced with wood shin­gles shoved in the open space.
Dam­aged wood not replaced at all or incor­rect­ly.

As you can see, there was A LOT not get­ting done cor­rect­ly.

I came home from vaca­tion and fired her. Need­less to say, she was incred­i­bly unhap­py. I was upset. I hate telling peo­ple bad news. This ranks right up there with break­ing up with a boyfriend, kick­ing out my ten­ant, and quit­ting a ter­ri­ble job.

She said a lot of things to me I didn’t appre­ci­ate but under­stood where she was com­ing from. She asked me to text her why I was fir­ing her and got even angri­er when I refused to put any­thing in writ­ing.

At this point, I’d paid her $5,275 out of our orig­i­nal­ly agreed upon $6,500 and was will­ing to just end things right then and there. She was not. She threat­ened to put a lien on my prop­er­ty if I didn’t pay her the rest of the mon­ey owed by Sun­day evening. I don’t know much about that whole process, but I was pret­ty sure it didn’t work that way.

(Spoil­er alert: I was right.)

Come Mon­day morn­ing I get an email from her at 4:57 am that con­tains an invoice. If she were to file for a lien, she’d need an invoice. I open it up and imme­di­ate­ly start angry laugh­ing. She was invoic­ing me for an addi­tion­al $8,745.92. ON TOP OF THE MONEY I’D ALREADY PAID

Oh broth­er was I mad. I spent a fair por­tion of my child­hood being bul­lied, so I can eas­i­ly rec­og­nize one now. She hoped by send­ing me an offi­cial look­ing invoice that I would get scared and pay up.

Well she was wrong. I might be new at this, but I’m not stu­pid and I’m a very quick study. I spent some time look­ing over the legal statutes with my work wife (a for­mal legal admin) and came to the con­clu­sion she had no legal leg to stand on.

This con­clu­sion was fur­ther cement­ed when I chat­ted with a lawyer. I love my job, because I work with some very sharp, tal­ent­ed, and con­nect­ed peo­ple. It’s not every day you get access to the head coun­sel of a For­tune 500 com­pa­ny and are able to ask them for rec­om­men­da­tions. I got hooked up with a fab­u­lous lawyer who told me I was going to be just fine.

We didn’t sign a con­tract, so she couldn’t file a lien. She didn’t file a com­mence­ment of work notice, so she couldn’t file a lien. (The law changed July 1st. Guess she should’ve kept up with that!) I’d also paid her for work already done, so she couldn’t file a lien.

She couldn’t come after me for breach of con­tract, because we didn’t sign a con­tract.

She couldn’t come after me in small claims court, because the amount she pulled out of her butt was over the lim­it of $5,000.

I sent her an email inform­ing her I didn’t want work to con­tin­ue on the prop­er­ty, I was hap­py to have paid for the work already done (lies), and that I was going to use the rest of the mon­ey owed on a dif­fer­ent con­trac­tor who could com­plete the work to my sat­is­fac­tion.

She sent back anoth­er nasty email that more or less said PAY UP OR ELSE. I ignored it and haven’t heard from her since!

Need­less to say, I learned a TON from this expe­ri­ence. Please, don’t do what I did. Fol­low the basic guide­lines below and you’ll more than like­ly have a bet­ter out­come than me.

  1. Ask for rec­om­men­da­tions from trust­ed fam­i­ly and friends.
  2. Sign a con­tract.
  3. Get a bunch of bids from var­i­ous con­trac­tors. Do not go with who­ev­er respond­ed first.
  4. Sign a con­tract.
  5. Ask for a detailed scope of work from them. Have them list out exact­ly what they’re going to do so you’re on the exact same page. It might be a pain but bet­ter to do it at the begin­ning than find out halfway through you had dif­fer­ent ideas.
  6. Ask for ref­er­ences and exam­ples of pre­vi­ous jobs. You want to know what kind of work they’ve done in the past.
  8. Famil­iar­ize your­self with the work that needs to be done. You need to be able to tell if they’re doing a good job or not.

I learned all this on the very first project. I’m hap­py I learned it now and for the rel­a­tive­ly low cost of $5k. It could’ve been a major over­haul project that got messed up instead of just some paint and a new porch. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be way hap­pi­er if I hadn’t lost the $5k or had prop­er work done, but you live and you learn.

I took my lessons learned and imme­di­ate­ly applied it to a new project: replac­ing the front porch. I went with the guy who built my friend’s deck. I liked the deck and my friend had noth­ing but good things to say about him. He was pro­fes­sion­al, gave me a scope of work, pro­vid­ed a con­tract to sign, com­mu­ni­cat­ed with me through the project, updat­ed me on sur­pris­es (bad joist repair work), and had it done in less than one week. My new front porch looks amaz­ing! The neigh­bors have giv­en me a ton of com­pli­ments and enjoy the house look­ing nice instead of run down.

Now all that’s left is some sand­ing, stain­ing, paint­ing, and front-porch-swing-build­ing!

Did I miss any­thing about the con­trac­tor find­ing process? Have any oth­er advice? Con­trac­tor hor­ror sto­ries? Share in the com­ments!!

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50 thoughts on “From Bad-Ass to.….. Bad

    • I hope I’m through the worst of it! Either that, and I’m in the eye of the storm with more bad news to come. I’m pre­pared, but also hope­fui that’s not the case. Thanks for com­ment­ing!

  1. Way to stick up for your­self, Gwen! I’m sim­i­lar in that I don’t love con­fronta­tion and I gen­er­al­ly try to appease rather than cause a scuf­fle. But when there is that much mon­ey on the line and it has to do with your place of res­i­dence, you have to do what you did!!

  2. An addi­tion­al $8k+?!? Daaaamn, that is insane! I’m so glad you had the back­up who could con­firm that you were right… there was no way that was legal or right!

    I work with con­tracts as part of my job and I had to smile read­ing your take-aways… you are spot on! That is a very famil­iar check­list that I employ when I am look­ing for ven­dors to do work for my employ­er 🙂

    And the house looks beau­ti­ful now! Nice job, I love the blue and the beau­ti­ful porch!!!

    • Yeah she was cray-cray. I wish I could post all the pic­tures. The house looks awe­some until you get up close and then you’re like, wtffffff?? I’m sad the house will need prop­er­ly paint­ed in the spring, but at least I’ll have time to save up the mon­ey this time!

  3. This per­son was UPSET! Sucks you had to learn this way, with so much cash out the door already, but many times expe­ri­ence is the best les­son. Way to hold your ground and not let them intim­i­date you.

    And thanks for shar­ing your sto­ry! This is the type of expe­ri­ence that we can all learn from.

    • I real­ly con­sid­ered post­ing the screen shots of her texts but decid­ed against it. She was livid and blew up my phone for awhile after I fired her. I’m hap­py to share my expe­ri­ence and help peo­ple learn from my mis­takes!

  4. Wow, sor­ry you had to go through all that. That’s awe­some that you could talk to a head coun­sel just like that. I am glad you stuck to your ground and didn’t let that hor­ri­ble con­trac­tor take advan­tage of you.

    I am on the board of my HOA, and we made sure that we get at least three bids for every project. We would give new con­trac­tors a small job to start to see if they can do what we want­ed, then move on to big­ger projects. It real­ly is a rela­tion­ship build­ing process with con­trac­tors. Espe­cial­ly dur­ing the hous­ing boom right now, good con­trac­tors are not that easy to find.
    Mao recent­ly post­ed…Hous­ing Afford­abil­i­ty for Mil­len­ni­als Between the US and AsiaMy Profile

    • My job can be kin­da bor­ing, but it does come with a pret­ty sick set of ben­e­fits! The small job idea is fab­u­lous! I def­i­nite­ly will incor­po­rate that into my future plans.

  5. Your Vic­to­ri­an house looks charm­ing. You’ll prob­a­bly look back on these hic­cups with poor ven­dors as just that hic­cups. Restor­ing your house seem to me as a labor of love, which I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing more updates.

    • Hi Neva­da! Thanks for the com­ment. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I won’t be able to restore her to her full glo­ry. The ROI just isn’t worth it as a rental prop­er­ty. I could def­i­nite­ly see some­one con­vert­ing it back into a SFH though and tak­ing the time to restore it prop­er­ly.

  6. Yikes. I know it’s not exact­ly a con­so­la­tion, but… thanks for tak­ing one for the team so the rest of us noobs can learn from your expe­ri­ence! And great job not back­ing down and let­ting her bul­ly you!

  7. I am so sor­ry that you’re deal­ing with this. That work is ter­ri­ble! We are cur­rent­ly deal­ing with a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, but from the con­trac­tor side. Basi­cal­ly, we signed a lease to move into anoth­er apart­ment at the end of this month, with the new own­er stip­u­lat­ing what work they’ll do before we move in (new lam­i­nate floors, fix win­dows and doors) in the lease. My hus­band has a lot of con­tract­ing expe­ri­ence from work­ing for his family’s busi­ness over the years, and was asked by the own­er to give him a price for the work. Long sto­ry short, after going back and forth with this guy (who did not want to pay a fair wage), we final­ly agreed to do the work in exchange for one month free rent. The whole sit­u­a­tion is so ridicu­lous. We would have been just as hap­py if he found anoth­er con­trac­tor to do the job and just move in after, but it seems like he doesn’t want to pay for any­thing. We draft­ed a bid pro­pos­al lay­ing out exact­ly what we’ll do in exchange for free rent for the first month, and brought it to him to sign. He has gone back on so many things that he ver­bal­ly agreed on (and shook hands on), that we have learned our les­son and will not do any­thing else for him unless we have some­thing in writ­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly we’re stuck with him as a land­lord for the next year.

    • Oh man, what a bum­mer! You’re so right tho…. you live and learn, and in the big pic­ture $5,000 is noth­ing for the learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty you just had. This is what helps me guide my deci­sions: I con­sid­er myself fru­gal. But not cheap. I love to save mon­ey, but nev­er at the cost of qual­i­ty. That’s my def­i­n­i­tion of being fru­gal that helps me at least. Great job on the remod­el and we plan on see­ing you tomor­row and catch­ing up.

      • Bill I’m so glad we got to chat yes­ter­day! Yes, cheap is not the way to go in home ren­o­va­tions. It’ll just need to be redone again in a lit­tle while, cost­ing even more mon­ey!

    • Lameeee! I know how you feel. The pre­vi­ous own­er put as lit­tle as pos­si­ble into main­tain­ing this prop­er­ty and now I’m the one pay­ing for it 🙁

  8. Read­ing your post I was feel­ing like you should have seen this com­ing but you know what? I’m just get­ting out of a sim­i­lar­ly dis­as­trous sit­u­a­tion that I should have seen com­ing too. I tried to rent an apart­ment that end­ed up being infest­ed with cock­roach­es. I should have googled the prop­er­ty man­age­ment com­pa­ny and done my research on them but I didn’t. I should have known that this deal was just too good to be true despite the high vacan­cy rate in this city. I was too focused on how much mon­ey I’d be able to put away into sav­ings. It’s been a pret­ty ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion and I’ve end­ed up hav­ing to pay so much more than I had want­ed to dur­ing this tran­si­tion and I’m stay­ing in some­what uncom­fort­able tem­po­rary hous­ing for a few weeks. I saw an amaz­ing place last night that I’m hop­ing will be my new home so I have faith that things will work out even­tu­al­ly. The only thing to do is live and learn I sup­pose. I’ll like­ly screw up just as bad again at some point in my life!

  9. Good for you for stand­ing your ground. Every­one makes mis­takes, and it sucks when they cost mon­ey, but ulti­mate­ly mis­takes can be great learn­ing expe­ri­ences. The house is look­ing good and it sounds like things are start­ing to turn around for you.

    • I am learn­ing tons! Wish I could say I’m hav­ing fun. It’s not in my nature to be a door­mat. I’m going to use every­thing I can to fight back. She needs to learn bul­ly­ing isn’t the way to live life.

  10. I’m so sor­ry you had to deal with that Gwen. I must say you are a lot braver than what I would have been. Real estate is not for the faint of heart and the mon­ey makes peo­ple so ugly. I can’t believe the contractor’s char­ac­ter. It’s like she doesn’t know she’s bad at her job! Don’t they have license required for that? I was told to nev­er accept the low­est bid. I’m hop­ing to nev­er have to deal with some­one the likes of her, wow. Wow.

    • She is licensed, but no one ever com­plained about her yet? Hard to believe. Maybe that’s why she has no web pres­ence.….… so many red flags I ignored.

  11. Wow so sor­ry you learned this one the hard way! I’d like to add to the SIGNCONTRACT and say also READ THE CONTRACT and ask for changes or addi­tions! We’re still fight­ing a 9mo+ legal bat­tle over old issues… nonethe­less you’re now wis­er and the lessons will serve you well in the future I’m sure 🙂 the porch looks beau­ti­ful and the bold blue is a great col­or choice.

    • I’m sor­ry, did you say any­thing about sign­ing a con­tract? Because I think peo­ple should sign a con­tract! haha sor­ry to hear about your legal bat­ter. Hope it clears up soon!

  12. This is tuition at the school of hard knocks. Bet­ter to make this sort of mis­take now when the num­bers are small­er. Beat your­self up with “what I should have dones,” to guar­an­tee the lessons stick. If you’re not mak­ing mis­takes, you’re not doing any­thing.

    • I like that! “if you’re not mak­ing mis­takes, you’re not doing any­thing.” It’s catchy and true.

  13. Nice job, Gwen. Way to extract some good out of a bad sit­u­a­tion. Con­trac­tors are tough. We need­ed some work on our front porch and we got esti­mates from $2,500 to $15,000. Ugh! It was so frus­trat­ing. Since we real­ly didn’t trust any of them, we decid­ed to do the repairs our­selves.

    • Thanks Mr. Groovy! The paint project ranged from $6500 to $61,000. So frus­trat­ing. If I could’ve done the work myself, I would have!

  14. All my friends’ pre­ferred con­trac­tors are always busy, so I found my own subs via Angie’s List. That helped a lot.

  15. I admire your for­ti­tude! Despite a lack of seri­ous dis­as­ters (luck), I found land­lord­ing was not for me. More pow­er to you, but if it doesn’t turn prof­itable soon, and the nabe doesn’t begin to look up, don’t feel bad­ly if you decide it’s not for you! Many oth­er wasy to reach FI.

    But best of luck with this one- I hope it turns out to be the goose that laid the gold­en egg.

    • I’m giv­ing it at least two years- one in the place and one liv­ing some­where else. I’ll re-eval­u­ate after that! Thanks for the hap­py thoughts!

  16. I had to laugh, that con­trac­tor real­ly seemed to have thought she’d get away with demand­ing for more mon­ey. It’s so sad you have to cry at her hope­ful­ness. Per­haps she needs to go back to Busi­ness 101. Or build­ing 101 even, before busi­ness.

    I was in a some­what sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion too but with not quite as dire results. I know there’s a heap of flaws, and I know I paid 12k, but I also know that it was worth the mon­ey for both the edu­ca­tion and also the man­u­al labor he did actu­al­ly do well. It was a shit job that my con­trac­tor had to do, and any­body else would have charged me twice that, so sucks to be him.

    Your house is gor­geous!

  17. Con­trac­tors are tough! I recent­ly had one hang kitchen cab­i­nets for me in a ren­o­va­tions project and he hung them at EXACTLY 68 inch­es, which was the fridge height. Obvi­ous­ly the fridge didn’t fit. Boy was that a big ordeal.

    Glad you cut the con­trac­tor off, though, and didn’t take any of the bul­ly­ing. Con­struc­tion is a ruth­less busi­ness and peo­ple get nasty often.

    My advice for the future — dri­ve around and find a house that is being worked on. Walk right in and ask for the GC or guy in charge. It feels ball­sy but that’s the best way to find good peo­ple. Plus you can review what they’ve done on the spot. I’ve found two great GC’s that way and their work spoke for itself. I didn’t need a rec­om­men­da­tion.

    • The amount of work need­ed around here is off­set by the amount of charm it’s got. You should see the base­boards! They’re 18″ wide!

      Speak­ing of pieces of work.… she was just crazy, I think. Some of the sto­ries she told me while she was work­ing were like ermm­m­mm I’m pret­ty sure that’s not some­thing to brag about…

  18. Anoth­er guide­line might be “always throw out unrea­son­ably low quotes,” even if it’s against our fru­gal natures.

    I’m a lawyer and when I see work that was done by “cheap” lawyers or *wince* well-inten­tioned peo­ple on Legal­Zoom, often the result is that some­thing has gone ter­ri­bly wrong. For any­thing requir­ing more than a mod­icum of skill some­thing is going to get messed up, and it’s going to cost more time and mon­ey to fix it than it would have cost to do it right the first time by a pro­fes­sion­al who can jus­ti­fy a high­er rate.

    I only hire some­one to work on my house if it’s some­thing that ben­e­fits from a skill lev­el I don’t have. And if some­one has that skill level/experience, they should be paid a decent amount for it, too.

    • It goes against every­thing in my nature, you’re right.…. I would prob­a­bly have been bet­ter off going with the $17k quote. It would’ve been done right, that’s for sure.

  19. What a hor­ror sto­ry! She’s insane. At least it’s done now. And your house is so gor­geous! I need to keep this exam­ple in mind when we remod­el our house in the next few years!

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