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Posts: 12
Reply with quote  #1 

Hi Everyone…  I need some guidance on a second townhome that we purchased for rental.  Thanks to everyone here, our first rental unit went smoothly, it is now rented and the tenants keep the unit “spotless” and very well maintained.  Here’s my story on the second unit we just purchased.


The second unit we just purchased is located and adjoined to our first unit.  The gentleman that occupied the unit for 30+ years unfortunately passed away, and we were able to purchase it from his daughter.  The unit was filthy, and not touched (by this I mean painted, plumbing problems, filthy carpeting, foul odors, etc..) … so basically it is a rehab type unit.  Knowing that most of the repairs needing done were beyond our capability we seeked out a contractor to do most of the work.  We handled the painting of the bedrooms, removal of the padding under the carpeting, etc…  The contractor hired was basically to rip out the bathroom (take out the tub, toilet, sub floor, replace the ceiling drywall, etc..) and to completely redo the kitchen (part of the ceiling drywall was missing due to a water leak from the bathroom, rip out the sink, cabinet, etc.. and put in new sinks (kitchen and laundry area), garbage disposal, cabinetry, etc..  everything in the kitchen was basically being replaced.  We did not check the contractor’s references, or if he was licensed / bonded, etc…  There is no contract signed or in place, the total job for labor was to be 2,200.  We gave him a 1,000 deposit to start the work. His quote to us was written on spiral notebook paper and basically detailed the work that he was going to do (i.e. replace bathroom tub, repair bathroom walls), etc..  His business card states a company name and his name/phone number (which probably means very little).


The contractor started on Thursday March 6th, worked that Thursday, the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Up until then, he ripped out the toilet, tub, sub-floor in the bathroom, and we ended up having him take all the drywall down in the bathroom and put up new since the walls had paneling and were a mess after the removal of the paneling.   During the teardown phases of this project, we had no issues with his work.  However, on that Wednesday/Thursday, he started to do plumbing work that was not satisfactorily or professional done, his drywall work was very sub-par and not done correctly, the stucco on the ceiling that he did was very poor and not professional at all.  The first issue of the plumbing not being done right was pointed out to him during the day and he had it corrected the following day, but still it certainly did not look like a professional job.  Plus there are burn makes on the studs around the plumbing for the bathroom indicating that care wasn’t being taken during their work on the pipes.  Upon seeing the ceiling stucco work (which looked like he just took a mop/sponge, dipped it in plaster and just slapped it on the ceiling) was hideous.  He indicated on the phone Thursday evening to my partner that he would be over on Friday to correct the issue.  I then went over there and found several other things that were not correct… i.e. the window moldings were not professionally done (not level and looked incomplete), the banister was not level, etc..  On Friday, he did not show – however, at the beginning of the work, and during the time that he worked he did state that he would not be there on a Friday, but did not mention this fact to my partner that Thursday evening and instead stated that he would be over to fix the ceiling and give it another coat.


On Friday, we called and basically fired him from the job, and did not give him a chance to fix any of the issues, and told him that we wanted our 1,000 back.  He said that he would not refund our deposit, and wanted to come over and pick up his tools.  Long story short that weekend he showed up with the police in order to get his tools back.


We now have another contractor in completing the job and fixing the areas that we were not satisfied with from the first contractor.  So there is time and materials for the correction.


The magical question is… do we have a case for small claims court?  Is the work that he did during the teardown and the hours he put in entitled to compensation?  Is it worth the time and money to pursue this, or just walk away and cut your loses.


I have talked to the local court.  They could not advise me to file or not file, but warned that the contractor may counter claim and say we owe him money for the materials and some of the labor work that is above and beyond the deposit.  Plus the court cost is 89.00 and collection is up to us.  If we win the case, they said it only states that the other party legally owes us money, but we have to collect.


Posts: 45
Reply with quote  #2 

Been there! I know how difficult dealing with contractors can be.  

Was this guy licensed? For a major bath renovation he should be licensed for plumbing, electric, etc (in NJ anyway; not sure about OH).

Did he take out permits? Once again, don't know about Ohio, but we need to take out permits for such work. If you don't and get caught, the city/town can fine you (the owner). 

Watch out for these guys! Anybody who's got some tools and a van can get some business cards printed and call himself a pro.

NJ is cracking down on unlicensed, unscrupulous contractors due to the many consumer complaints.

Next time, check the Better Business Bureau ( for past disputes/complaints. If I can't get a solid referral from a friend or collegue, I hire from (bbb members only). BBB will mediate disputes.  


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #3 
Bluejay, call your city inspector's office or city building department (whichever office does the building permits in Cleveland).  Ask if permits were pulled for the job.  CK is right in that you would have to have permits for a job like this.  Also ask them if this guy is a licensed contractor in the city (they will know, they keep a list of all licensed contractors).  Only the homeowner or a licensed contractor can pull a permit in my area.  The plumbing will need to be inspected by the city building inspector.  If you close up the walls before he inspects, you will likely have to cut them open so he can see the work.

Some of this work could have been completed by you.  A toilet is very simple to remove and there's only about 3 or 4 steps to it.  The same goes for removing a sink or vanity in the bath, very simple.  The demo work is really easy.  Had you done some of this yourself, you could have saved some money.  I would have left removing the tub to the contractor (especially if it is a cast iron one).  You could do this but those are really heavy.  (Not gonna wrench my back out when I can get the contractor to do it.)  Cabinets are easy to remove too.  Teach yourself some basic construction skills and you can save tons of money on these items.  (If you ask, we can post simple instructions for these types of things.)

I doubt you have any case in court against this contractor.  You paid him part of the money and he did do some of the work.  He did do all the demo work and completed some of the other items.  Beware if he starts saying you owe him money, since he could file a contractor's lien against the house later.  Find out if he is licensed so if her tries to press for the money you could tell him you'd report him to the city.  You figure he put in about 40 hours of work and got paid $1000, that's $25 an hour, about right for his level of "expertise".  Next time, please get an actual written contract, check out the contractor and his work before you hire him, require references, a license, a permit, and that he be bonded and insured before he starts (and he shows you these things).  You might want to join a local LL association or chapter of REIA who will give you solid referrals to good contractors.  Good luck with your new place.
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