Uncooperative homeowner

I did a project for a homeowner who refuses to give me access to the home to complete my work, but they have paid me all that I am owed. What it comes down to, really, is that they wanted to operate as owner builder, so they drew their own plans and pulled permits. They subbed things to me and others. In their minds, the fact that I am a general contractor means that I am responsible for the people that they hire and pay. When those people make mistakes, it is no me. My contract clearly states my scope of work and supervising their people and being responsible for their work and their mistakes isn't on there.
Is there a legal document I can file saying "I am finished with my part of the job", have it recorded, and I can go my way? By the way, I am in Califirnia.
Thanks, Tim
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T. C. Conde wrote:

I'm unclear why you make a point of not being responsible for other subs. Are the owners asking you to deal with the other contractors or to complete there work? If so, I think you need to build a paper trail that starts with the contract, includes a chronology of events, any written correspondence between you and the owners or other contractors, a letter asking for access to complete your work with a time limit after which which you will not be responsible. If you think the owners are going to cause you trouble, an attorney with background in building work would be cheap insurance against future charges. TB
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Thanks for the reply.
Yeah, the homeowner hired subs, people she knew, friends, etc. after these people screwed up and the inspector caught the mistakes they made, she turned to me and demanded to know why I didn't tell them what to do and how to do it, and I never even knew these people. First, the things they did were things outside my scope of work in my contract and were also outside my licensing, things like utility connections, like the water meter connection to the main. I do not handle that stuff (can't actually, you need to be an general engineering contractor for that). So the guy she gets screws it up and she then demands to know why I let him do it wrong. She even wants to hold me liable because the water company installed the wrong size meter. I had no dealings with them and have no idea what the size even should be, let alone how they decided to do it in the size they did. I just want to be rid of her and want to legally split. What makes it REALLY interesting is that she is a city official. She did a lot of things that are contrary to the building code, so if this blows up, my first stop is to the mayor of that town and my second stop is the nearby big city newspaper.

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T.C., It sounds messy and dangerous. An attorney is not cheap, but is less expensive and painful than going it alone. I know several contractors and they all have stories like this. If the client is tied in to the city power structure, you need legal protection. Unless you know the mayor on a personal basis, he will probably avoid the problem. TB
T. C. Conde wrote:

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T. C. Conde wrote:

I hired by you to oversee these individuals"? I mean, it would seem you have, or have tried, to make it clear to her that you were never hired to oversee _her_ sub's. What was the scope of your involvment in the project?
At first guess it sounds like perhaps she is now realizing how grave a mistake she made and may be looking for someone to blame. I think TB's advice of a paper trail and some formal correspondence would be in your best interest.
Mark
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Her assumption. amd again, she is a city official, is that if I am a general contractor, I am, by default, liable for everything that happens. It was not like that while the work was going on, but now that the work done by cheap, unlicensed people has gone sour, I am on the hook, she thinks. That is her answer to everything. Even though I did not contract to do the work and even though she hired and paid the people that did it, I am still responsible.
My scope of work was probably 75% of the job. I have learned, over the years, to make my scope of work very specific. If I am digging a trench, I say what it is for, and it's length. If I am doing plumbing, I spell out where to where and the purpose. So my scope of work is 25 lines where others might be 5 lines. But it is impossible (to me) to misconstrue. I say "Trench 154 feet of 12 inch deep trench for foundation footing per plan". Yeah, it is a pain but it eliminates (hopefully) the guy that says "Oh, I thought that included the 600 feet of 3 foot deep trench for the septic system."
As far as the formal correspondance goes, I have done that. No response. I was looking for some legal document that I can file that puts her on notice that I believe I am done.
Tim

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T. C. Conde wrote:

contractual obligations there. a fifteen minute phone call will not be that expensive. find one who lists construction law as a specialty. common sense says that if you had a contract with a scope of work, you did that work, and got paid, you are done, and any judge or arbitrator would see it this way as well. but law can be funny. ever read the book "house" by tracy kidder? in it ( a true story) the builder almost gets stuck painting a house he built because he was contractually obligated to build a house in a workmanlike manner (which included painting) even though the asshole homeowner new damn well that painting wasn't included. but in general, most of the cases i have heard of (and unfortunately been involved in) where the builder was on the up and up and the customer was a kook, worked out in the builder's favor. good luck.

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T. C. Conde wrote:

If push is coming to shove they're the ones that will have to initiate some sort of proceedings. Any letter or other document won't prevent them from initiating a proceeding against you, even if they don't have a leg to stand on, so worrying about a preemptive move to prevent any action is almost pointless. If you wrote a clear contract (if you wrote it any ambiquity will be interpreted against you so I hope it is as clear as you say), and did all the work as specified and they paid you in full, there's not much that can happen.
All you need to do is send a registered letter to the owner complimenting them on the completion of your project and acknowledging payment in full for the work included in your contract. That's all the legal document you need. If the owner isn't responding to your letters it doesn't really make a difference.
R
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T. C. Conde wrote:

Whether she is a city official or not is of no bearing on the issue. What you are responsible for is, to the best of my knowledge, the scope of your contract. Whether there is some implicit oversight responsibility owing to the possession of a general contractors' license in your jurisdiction is essentially the question here as I interpret it. That question could be resolved undoubtedly by either a request to the licensing board or an attorney knowledgeable of construction law in your locale. My initial gut feeling would be "no", but then again, I'm no lawyer.

If this contract is also specific, imo that _should_ suffice (w/ the above caveat, of course).

As someone else has noted, you can't prevent anybody from filing an action against you. A formal letter indicating you have completed the terms of the contract is, again, all I see that you can do at this point.
You earlier in the thread mentioned something about trying to go to city officials against this person as a first recourse if anything happens. I strongly encourage you to _NOT_ undertake any such action whatsoever. As noted above, the person's position has no legal bearing on the matter even though he/she may try to (inappropriately) use it as influence or pressure. Your best course of action is to stay professional on all levels and if it appears really likely to come to a legal contest to get some professional advice from that front before doing anything silly.
One could start by having the contract reviewed to ensure it covers all the bases and doesn't somehow leave you hanging out owing to some formality of oversight or imprecision, followed by a suggestion of proper course of action from this point on.
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don't sweat it til she gives you reason to. threats are meaningless.
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I agree with most of the other responses to this request. CAUTION I am not a lawyer (and do not mean to brag) and legal advice from Usenet is worth what you pay for it, but
I think the term you are looking for is 'Statement of Substantial Completion.' I do not know the legal niceties that apply in your jurisdiction but this notice is commonly placed in trade and other publications to serve notice to all that your obligations are complete.
Get competent advice. Good luck.
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If you are a liscenced contractor why not go to the liscence board with this question????? Thats what they are there for ............ T. C. Conde wrote:

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That has no standing legally.

That contract is what has legal standing, not what's in their fuzzy heads.

That would be redundant.
Matt
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I agree with most of the comments. Do not get in a pissing match with her. You need to be the professional in this. A call to the local building official first, a call to the newspaper (or TV) second.

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IMHO a call to the media will probably be ignored (unless it is a very slow news day) but if it is not it WILL cause a public pissing match. Some believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, but publicly pissing on your customer may not be the message you wish to send to other customers. Most people believe that there are two sides to every pancake and some of that piss WILL splash back. Media manipulation is not a task for the inexperienced, and could make this situation much worse and MUCH more expensive. Think about the risk / reward ratio, what have you got to gain / lose.

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Indeed.
However, if attacked first...
Yet, usually, politicians have spend enormous energy and efforts in cultivating their "media presence". Other than complete dolts, the media is the most gullible segment of our modern society. (Sorry if that's redundant)
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'Discretion is the better part of valor'

Also, IMHO one of the laziest, which may be the root cause of the gullibility. If you want the media to do anything for you, you had better be prepared to lead them by the hand AND do all the work.
Nice to be in agreement on this.
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Don't make that second call. The media will make you out to be the bad guy. What matters to them is the fight itself - not who is right or wrong.
In the UK....
...you would write to the owner stating that you are "ready able and willing" to fulfil the terms of the contract by a certain date (a verbal quote and a verbal acceptance counts as a contract in the UK). Add that if they do no allow you sufficient access by that date then you will hold them in breach of contract and as a result the contract is terminated..
Then you have to look at the contract to see what happens to the money. I suspect you can't just retain money she has paid for work not yet completed but you could charge for a) work done to date b) actual expenditure (eg wasted trips to her house, materials you can't return for a refund or men you had to hire but who couldn't work for lack of access). You can try and claim for consequental damages but be sure you can prove it. Normally you are expected to make reasonable efforts to reduce your own losses - so you wouldn't be allowed to charge for materials if you can send them back for a refund. Basically common sense stuff.
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