Always, Always, Use A Contract For Every Project

Every remodeling project, no matter what size must have a contract. On very small jobs, a might be a 3 or 4 line description of the job. On larger jobs it can be pages long with a description of the work to be performed, product specifications with manufacturers and model number information. There should be a section defining the owner’s responsibilities as well as the contractors, including the payment schedule.

This all sounds nice and neat and correct, right? But, when you are doing a small job, a couple grand for a friend, who needs all that, right? WRONG. All the more reason you need a contract. Let me share a story.

In November of 2011 I was contacted by a “friend” who had been through the loss of a business and bankruptcy and was renting a home for their family. They had an opportunity to buy a home and wanted some minor changes made to the home before they moved in, could I help them?

Sure why not, this is what I do; work is slow right now, why not? I was sent some pictures and a description of the work they wanted to have completed, letting me know they only had about 3k to spend. I thought it would be slightly more than that for what they wanted, but they were “friends”. I told them let me look at the house and I could give them a solid number and if it was a little over their budget we could work it out over a month or two.

They said the house they were purchasing was a rental house right now and the tenant wasn’t being very cooperative, they would see if we could get in again. I finally was able to get into the house 2 days before closing. After looking at the project I sent them an email describing the work and that the cost of the work would be $3500. They said they would give me $1700 to start and $1000 from their security deposit and asked if we could work the rest out over the next couple of months. I agreed and inquired as to when I could start. They wanted me to start the morning of closing. I was a little uncomfortable with that but we only had 10 days to rip out all the carpet, install new 4” base upstairs as well as installing crown molding in the entire upstairs and paint it all, have new carpet installed (their responsibility) and clean so they could move in.

They stopped in about 3pm and announced they had not closed, it was rescheduled for tomorrow. I had a sick feeling in my stomach because we had ripped out all the carpet, base, and 2 sheets of drywall where we had found a leak, also stripping wallpaper from 2 bathrooms upstairs. Not to worry they said, and by the way could I install pre-finished hardwood upstairs? Where upstairs I replied. The whole upstairs, 3 bedrooms and the hallway, the bathrooms could stay tile, and how much would it cost? I worked up the price and no sooner had I given it to them when I was asked if I could install can lights in the kitchen ceiling. They added a few more things and to make a long story short the total grew to $13,800. They had paid me the initial deposit of $1700 and then the $1000 payment, so the balance was $10,900.

We were finishing the painting as they were moving in, everything was completed. Honestly I was kind of proud I got it all done in such a short amount of time. I waited a couple of days for them to get settled before I sent a final bill. Two days after I sent the final bill I had not heard anything, so I called, and left a message. After another email, a couple of messages and a week had passed I finally received a call from them. We need to talk, can we meet and talk about the bill. Not what I wanted to hear. Well another week passed before we sat down to talk.

The husband half of the couple went on to question some of the charges, which were documented by the hour. He soon calmed down and stated that he was more frustrated with the whole situation and not mad at me, good to hear. He went on to say they did not have the money to pay this bill and the best he could do was $600 a month. I told home that would take over a year, it was unacceptable. He said take it or leave it, that was the best they could do. Did I mention these were friends of mine?

I wrote it all out and got them to sign a document including interest and they made 3 payments and completely stopped making payments. Seems they decided they did not owe me anymore money. No reason they just thought that. I know you are thinking there has to be more to the story, but I assure you they just stopped for no reason and would not listen to anyone including a pastor.  Fighting with them for my money for over 15 months I was offered $3,000 through a pastor to settle the matter in full.

Business is business, always insist on a detailed contract. Did I mention these “were” friends of mine?

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