Contractor Question-Urgent Help needed please

Hello All,
Apologise for my lengthy post. I live in NJ. Myself and 4 of my neighbors wanted to finish our unfinish basements. We hired a contractor who gave us a quote of $8000.00 for each basement as a base price. Additions such as bathroom, wet bar is extra. Base price included framing, fireproofing the ceiling, waterproofing the walls, sheetrock, painting, electrical and carpeting. He promised to complete the work by May end and started the work in 2nd week of March. He was not a licensed contractor and he resides in Philadelphia. For each stage we paid him in advance in full. For each house he took 2 to 3 weeks to finish the framing work. He was iregular and we had to call him several times. He was doing this as a part-time business. He was working with another company as a fulltime. After framing he was supposed to start electrical, but he didn't and took money from us for electrical. As per our verbal agreement he was supposed to help us with getting the township approval(making the diagrams etc). But he did not do that. He gave us some pictures but they were wrong. Four of us paid $3800 each and another person paid $4700 totalling $19,900. With all these money he just vanished. He doesn't answer our phone calls, no word from him. It is middle of July now and our basements look terrible. We wanted to take some sort of legal action against him and get our money back. He basically cheated us. I will be contacting a lawyer for this. But mean while I was wondering where to start from, what can we do. If we go to the court are we strong(we don't have a formal written contract with him). Any advise or people who had similar experiences please share your valuable thoughts
Thanks much for your inputs
-Kumar
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If it were me, I'd start with the District Attorney's office. I'd file criminal charges against him. An oral agreement is binding, it doesn't have to be in writing. The 5 of you should all go down together & file. This guy needs to be put away. I don't know if you can recover your loss, maybe he owns some property that you can get a judgment against. In the future, never pay a workman in advance for a job! Good luck.
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Is this a TRoll or what I find it hard to beleive 4 of you had no contract, no refrences, maybe no permits, and all 4 of you paid in advance in full ,for each part of the job... and Im sure got no inspections. I just dont beleive this,,, there is something missing here If he did the framing how much are you out....You guys screwed up ,take him to court, sounds like a troll
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Has to be a Troll.
I can't believe NJ would allow 5 stupid families to live in the same neighborhood. If this is true, NJ better make some new laws against so much stupidity in one place.
Yes, see an attorney, so they can take the rest of your money. With incompetence such as yours, you shouldn't be allowed to handle anything to do with money.
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This is a classic example of what not to do when remodeling or constructing.
You didn't hire a contractor. You hired a "Fly-by-night". New Jersey does not have any licensing requirements for general contractors. Only electrical contractors and plumbing contractors are required to be licensed. You are also required in New Jersey to take out building permits for this.
$8000.00 sounds like a very cheap price for all of the work and materials that you mentioned. My guess is that was what you were looking for. Have you ever heard the expresson "You get what you pay for"?
This guy doesn't have a license. Is he bonded? Is he insured? Did you get an insurance certificate from him? Since he lives out of state your legal recourse will be more expensive and less satisfying if it is possible. This guy probably knows the rules and knows how to break them which is why he does work out of state.
I cannot answer your legal questions, but as a licensed electrical contractor in NJ my suggestion to you is to fess up. If you want to get your basements finished the right way, contact your local building inspector. Tell him your story. Tell him you want to make things right and get the basements finished. Let him tell you how to proceed. Be prepared to spend money to have plans drawn and submit them for approval before proceeding with the construction. Get at least three estimates for each trade. Have written agreements. Get insurance certificates from all contractors BEFORE they start the job. Do not agree to pay any money in advance, but upon commencement of the work or when materials are delivered to the job site, and upon completion of each stage of the job. Hold back 3% - 5% of the price until the job is completed, the final inspections have been made, and a certificate of occupancy has been issued.
You will probably go into a state of shock when you find out how much this is going to cost to have corrected. I know many contractors (Myself included) who are cautious about finishing a job that someone else has started. We are reluctant to assume liability for someone else's mistakes. As a licensed contractor I am obligated to get approval from the NJ State Board of Electrical Contractors before I could work on the job because someone else has started it.
You have learned a lesson (I hope), but school is not over yet.
Good luck
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv
construction.

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You are probably screwed. Across state lines makes it even more difficult. Sad you had to learn this lesson, but you will probably spend more money to get nothing back. Does he have assets to put a lien on? Ed snipped-for-privacy@snet.net http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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Thanks for all your inputs. We are planning to take action against the guy. We are not stupids to give that work. In fact we checked his reference by physically going to the site and talking to the homeowner. We took several quotes from others before making the decision. Paying high prices doesn't alwasy neccessarily get you the best. One of the contractor for the same type of work quoted as 20K for each basement, not including the carpet....But I learnt something from all your posts which were useful and I will keep them in my mind and make it a point before giving out any job to the contractor.
Thanks again folks

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