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
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
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.
T.C., It sounds messy and dangerous.
An attorney is not cheap, but is less expensive and painful than going
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
Unless you know the mayor on a personal basis, he will probably avoid
T. C. Conde wrote:
What is her reply when you say "I didnt hire these individuals, nor was
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
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
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.
I think you should find an attorney and determine if you have any
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 /
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)
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.
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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