How to get my money back from a jerk contractor...

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OK, so, some of you may have seen my earlier post entitled "I want OUT with my builder", where I explained that my home improvement job went awry due to the builder's incompetence and poor service level.
Anyhow, I've had no luck "playing it nice" with the builder in trying to get back the up-front money I gave him before I had to fire him. So, I'm ready to get stern with him.
I have some friends in the industry (building/demo, etc.), and they advised that I mention the following things to the builder as "consequences" for him not refunding the money he owes me:
1) File a complaint with the Board of Registration of Contractors in my state (try to get his license revoked) 2) File a consumer protection complaint with the Attorney General 3) Give an account of my ordeal to the local inspector (that he has to work with all the time) 4) Write negative reviews about him on online message boards, such as Angie's List 5) File an OSHA complaint that his workmen weren't wearing goggles/ respirators, etc. when they were performing demo involving potentially hazardous materials 6) File a complaint with the local Better Business Bureau 7) Have an attorney draft a "legal letter" alleging breach of contract and fraud 7) File a civil lawsuit alleging breach of contract and fraud 8) File for mediation (as has been stipulated to in the contract)
So, which of the above do you think are valid, and are there any other avenues I can pursue? I would prefer to have to actually **do** none of the above, but I will definitely go all the way if I have to. I'm hoping that just the mention of certain things will help to get at least a partial refund.
Thanks again!
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Assuming you're sure you can stand in front of a judge and clearly point out real breaches of the contract, I'd go with the last 3 actions first. The rest are lightweight and a waste of time compared to the last 3.
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I would prefer to choose the options that might cost less in time and money, and then "build up" to the most severe options. So you think I should just cut right to the legal action?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com says...

If you're serious and you can show you're right, yes, you do.
The little stuff is what people who *can't* show breach of contract do.
Banty
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Time off from work? I know. Plan carefully and you can efficiently minimize that. Go right for the throat, and do it fast. The longer you wait, the less important your concerns will seem when you finally get to court.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

How much money are you talking about? Lot of time if less than $10,000 you can go to a small claims court without using a lawyer. Make sure you have all records to support your claim.
Lawyers usually work on contingencies but you could have up front filing fees and have to pay for expert witnesses. Lawyer will usually work up slowly to this by first sending contractor a letter but if contractor holds out and wants to go the distance, you could be in for a long ride. Even if contractor is a rotten SOB and you want satisfaction, look at the bottom line and assess if the view is worth the climb. Also be careful of slandering contractor as he may counter sue.
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You can always hire some "rent a lawyer" ($20-30 monthly fee) to draft a standard "pay up or face dire consequences" letter. I did this when my registered trademark was being infringed and the guilty party had told me to "drop dead". I actually had written a much better letter (stronger language, more facts with actual statutes listed) but just having a letter sent by an "esquire" on legal letterhead did the trick. I cancelled the service as soon as the infringer ceased and desisted, so it only cost me $30 and a few hours to get this resolved without filing suit in federal court.
In your case, I would try the cheapo lawyer letter first, as well as filing complaints with your state's attorney general, the better business bureau, and any organization or licensing board in which the contractor is registered. If you believe you can prove actual fraud, go to your district attorney's office and ask them to file criminal charges. That won't cost you a dime, and threat of criminal charges might get the contractor to settle.
I filed and won a small claims case against a contractor for $5,000 (the entire amount I was owed), but never received a dime, nor do I expect to. In NY, $5,000 is the most you can file for in small claims court, but at least it's very easy to do without a lawyer and it costs about $20 to file, so you're not out anything but time if you never collect. You could also call your local TV station and see if they have a a reporter who does "consumer got screwed-buyer beware" stories, and see if you can get them interested in your story. The contractor might be willing to cough up quickly and quietly to avoid the negative press. You never know.
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JoeSpareBedroom wrote:

I agree. Been there - done that. Be prepared to never get money back. Any smart contractor will be incorporated and you will be suing the corporation and maybe him personally but may not be awarded a personal suit since you are dealing with the corporation and corporation may be bankrupt. I settled with my builder out of court and never got a penny. Only relief was to take tax exemption as a short term business loss. Good luck.
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On Mon, 14 Jan 2008 13:45:23 -0500, Frank

When you have a judgment and believe you will never get a cent, there is one last way to put the spurs to him. Write the debt off, send him and the IRS a Misc 1099. It now becomes income to him and the IRS will do your dirty work by collecting taxes due on the write off amount.
--Andy Asberry-- ------Texas-----
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JoeSpareBedroom wrote: ...

Say you get a judgment -- how you going to collect?
If he performed work, he's probably entitled to a fair amount of the payment for services rendered whether you're completely satisfied or not. How much would be part of what the suit would be over. The burden of proof will be on your side to prove that your complaints are sufficient as to rise to the level of breach of contract so unless you're expert enough or the case is really _so_ bad as to be evident (unlikely, I would guess) to be able to show this, you'll likely need some expert witness(es) to bolster your claims either in person or at least by written testimony (which you may or may not be able to introduce in small claims court).
Before you go too far, you need to find out about this guy's past history--many shoddy contractors are sued over and over and over and simply dissolve one business and form another or hold every attachable asset in wife's name or other diversionary scheme so there's nothing to get...
--
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On Mon, 14 Jan 2008 10:19:02 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Bullets speak louder than words !!!!!!
Most effective famous words in history: Take a look down the barrel asshole........
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On Jan 14, 12:19pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Your only chance is small claims if the amount is low, have you looked up his record at the courthouse, I hired a guy by mistake that lost a case a year and nobody collected, I sued, won and cant collect. You fired him, he will say he was trying to fix everything and you would not let him and maybe that you owe him money still. You have to have very good proof, photographs and all to win. Before you try check his record and worth, a judgement wont do anything if he is genuinely broke and rents a shack.
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These situations are rarely completely one sided. I would compile a list of all the failings of the contractor, have a competent attorney send him the list in a letter seeking a fair settlement, and hope one can be reached and you get something back. The alternative is to go to court, which at best takes the money from the contractor and gives it to your attorney.

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If he goes to small claims court, he doesn't need an attorney. If he's in NY, there's a good chance the town justice won't have any legal training, so he'll be on equal footing.
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If the dollar amount is small enough that it can be held in small claims, it's probably not worth the bother. Even getting a judgment in your favor, doesn't put a dime in your pocket. Truly sleazy contractors have their assets and yours in places that can't be touched. At least in standard court, he would have to hire a lawyer to represent him. That's gonna cost him, and I believe is his best chance of forcing a settlement

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The dollar limit for small claims around here is $5000.00. Sounds worthwhile to me.

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That's fine when you have a dispute with your neighbor. If you read the post from "H", that is typically what's going to happen to you in small claims, against any disreputable contractor. The laws simply protect these creeps. If you can force him to negotiate, or have to pay for his own attorney, you've at least got a little leverage

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Since local laws vary from place to place, and it appears this is only going to be settled as part of a legal action, I suggest you contact a local legal authority. The best one may be your local small clams court if you have one. They often offer advice free to help you determine if there is any chance of wining. In some locations and for some larger amounts it means a local legal professional. Just having them write the letter many be enough. If not, it will likely take the big stick to get the contractor's attention.

--
Joseph Meehan

Dia \'s Muire duit
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

In the words of the Master of the Force, "There is no threaten, there is only do."
Don't threaten. Get a lawyer involved. A letter should cost about $100 and the lawyer will point out that subsequent action may make the contractor liable not only for the contracted amount, but collection and litigation costs.
If you were in Texas, $100 would be ample for, er, "extraordinary measures" to collect the debt.
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My choices would be

? state (try to get his license revoked)
Many State Boards are filled with very self-righteous people who like to draw blood from their own kind. Nobody wants a hearing by a State Board.

That's one of the functions of the Attorney General. If enough people complain, the AG may prosecute him.

They may have a file on him.
Those are the least expensive of the choices you presented.
Dick
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