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Discussion Starter #1
With all the 20/20 and 60 Minute type news ragazine shows, the internet forums and general global dissemination of information that abounds, how does this scenario continue to arise?

May- happy homeowner hires specialty "conservatory" contractor to build 9 x 14 addition.
June- excited homeowner pays contractor "downpayment" for special order items.
July / August - surprised homeowner makes daily telephone inquiries about schedule for starting the work
September- increasingly concerned homeowner accepts bet from cynical brother that addition won't be finished by Thanksgiving.
October - Nervous homeowner compels contractor to break ground and makes additional progress payment bringing total amount paid to-date to $27,385. Busy contractor installs 7 x 14 footings. Contractor disappears.
November - Angry homeowner calls state improvement commission and learns of contractors abysmal performance record. Calls attorney to commence remedial proceedings.
My poor brother.
 

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PipeGuy,
I feel for your brother. This is one of the reasons I went into business. After many years of hearing the same thing I figure if I do a great job and complete it on schedule, the reputation will follow. It all started with MY brother some 25 or so years ago. He hired on a remodeler and the guy never finished. He has about 8 hours worth of work to comlete the job and never came back. Luckily for my brother he didn't get the final payment. Unbelieveable. And I still hear the stories.
 

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Pipe, this really sucks, not only for your brother but for all of us who run legitimate businesses.
Perhaps there is some way for us to become self regulatory and root these guys out.
The marine business did it with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, they were determined not to go the way of the construction business and wrote their own standards prior to subjecting themselves to govt. regs. They were successful.
We will not be able to reverse the course that we are on and disband building depts. but we should arrive at some unified effort to police ourselves. Obviously what exsists through govt. is not enough. Sources say that contractors are just below attorneys in consumer confidence. Here and now contractors are drawing 3-4 news spots a week (none good), normally it's only a couple a month.
All of the older members here know how I toot the horn for the NAHB and locally the TCBA but this is one area in which they fall to their knees. Pay your dues and you are revered, attend functions and you can promote yourself to royality even if you are a pimp. Something needs to be done about this as well.
I will start a new thread for suggestions and forward them to some folks that I know in both organizations.
 

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Personally I like it the way it is. It makes it easy for a hack like me to shine like a diamond. If everybody had there act together I would have a much tougher time. Let the losers keep it up I say, keep screwing people and screwing up jobs so I can come in and look like a hero on the white horse and charge more to fix it right the 2nd time.

Just kidding...

or am I?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Guys- By no means am I pointing at a problem that lays exclusively with the contracting community. In fact, I was more wondering how homeowners, with the ease of access to all manner of information that we have in todays society, can continue to put their money at such great risk.
To some extent I agree with Mike but on the other hand...if unreputable contractors couldn't find homeowners willing to put up the money ahead of time for them to play with then those guys with the ba__s big enough to put their own money at risk would make out a lot better.
Personally, I don't care who the contractor is - it could be friggin' Michelangelo Buonarroti that gives me the best proposal to paint my house - I'm not paying in advance of the work being performed. If need be I'm more than happy to buy specialty items direct and pay an OH / Profit fee to the contractor for them. I think homeowners who bend over and submit themselves to silly downpayment requirements and arbitrary draw schedules are setting up the conditions for trouble.
 

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I personally don't think it has anything to do with putting a down payment on services to be performed. Contractors are not banks and should not foot the bill for a project.
IMO it has more to do with the contractors themselves - I'm with Teetorbilt in making it more difficult for these "hacks" to be able to perform work. I believe it should start at the state level and make mandations for contractors to follow. If you can't pass a test or show proven track records then sorry no license. Filter through the corruption in building departments and create a functioning entity. Get OSHA to focus on residential contractor (this is beginning to happen). These things will not only create a better industry but will also allow reputable builders to lower their prices in some respects for homeowners.
 

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I do feel sorry for your brother. I have made a controversial statement in the past that hatchet almost tore my head off for... I feel the consumer is as much to blame as the contractor for these types of situations.

Your brother didn't perform due dilligance on his contractor. You said he found out later about this guy's record. Your brother also should have never made the second payment.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Grumpy - I'm with you on all points.
 

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Dharma Building
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All good points here. The only problem I see with increased state regulation is that it can become merely a means to control competition. New York, for example, has no state regulation of general contractors, its all done at the local level. While this isn't a very good method of regulation, I shudder to think what our infamous state legislature would do. In other areas, New York has frequently passed regulations that make it almost impossible for smaller businesses to survive. Frankly, my experience has been that most state regulation only increases the cost of doing business, and, therefore, the cost to the consumer.

By the way, Teetor, since when is any profession ranked below attorneys. I figure, if I'm lucky, I may be reincarnated as a slug. Even that would be a major step up after being a lawyer.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Craig said:
since when is any profession ranked below attorneys
At least practicing attorneys provide a service to someone. How 'bout when they get elected to the legislature? - that's when they're the most dangerous. Career bureaucrats are right behind them.
 

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PipeGuy
No argument here. I really agree with Teetor, though. Better that the NAHB take a hand in regulating the industry, than we trust our collective fates to the tender mercies of all those career bureaucrats (many, if not most of whom, are lawyers!)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm curious - has your local NAHB chapter ever expressed an interest in such a thing? Mine hasn't that I can recall. I've been a member for a year and was a member rep for almost ten.
 

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Dharma Building
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Not to my knowledge. It functions pretty much as Teetor described. My concern is that, if the industry doesn't regulate itself, government will step in at some point. At least the NAHB is a starting point for self-regulation. In the meantime, one form of control is the marketplace. If a contractor regularly rips off his customers, generally the word gets around.
 

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Pipe, that's why I opened the new thread, to get some ideas to forward to them. If you read the end of #3, that is what I was saying.
The TCBA made one of the worst quacks President. He makes lots of money banging together crap, has been sued numerous times and has now started a real estate company. Buuuutttt, he is very active in the assocn, so they elect him Prez when they should have thrown him out. This should not be allowed to happen! He uses that in his promotions and gets credibility so that he can go out and screw more people.
This is one place where we should be regulating ourselves.
 

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Self-regulation is a pipe dream IMO. Well let me clarify that - as an industry wide standard self-regulation is a pipe dream. Self-regulation within an organization will probably work - but if someone doesn't join the organization how are you supposed to regulate them?
Don't get me wrong here - I'm 100% with yall - just need to look at all the angles that self-regulation or state-regulation involves. Neither offers a perfect solution - and honestly I don't think there is a solution that will even come close to ending what's seen as bad for the industry.
Grumpy - yes the consumers are still part of the problem in that they keep paying these contractors for poor work. Then they hire another contractor that jacks the price up to pay for uncovering and fixing all the crap the previous one did.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
hatchet said:
Self-regulation within an organization will probably work - but if someone doesn't join the organization how are you supposed to regulate them?
I think the only thing an organzation can do is promote the dissemination of any objective, arms length, performance based, information that is available about contractors. It can raise the visibility of, and ease of access to, such information. A good program might at once promote the interests of its reputable members while at the same time providing easy access to more critical information about questionable performers.
I agree with you Rich - in largest measure self regulation is probably a dog that won't hunt. In the long run, the consumer will always need to do their homework before paying for the goods.
 

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I suggest that everyone go back and look at the marine industry history. They took over their destiny, why can't we do the same?
 

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I think it's almost too late. We've backed ourselves (historically) into a corner of "letting it slide". I say WE as in homeowners, politicians, and contractors. If something were to be done it would have to start with the clients - get some people like ourselves (that can still think) to do something about educating the populace about situations like PipeGuy posted about. Get down to the nuts and bolts of what the true value of a home is and what it takes to construct said home. From the education of the client base stems anger and emotion that can do one of 2 things... push the government into action or pull it away from the government altogether. That's where organizations like NAHB would need to step in and firmly talk with the "gov" about self-regulation (and similar issues). Then it would probably take 15 years for a few studies on the bad elements of construction and how self-reg could help and then something might start happening (about the time I retire).
My worry with self-regulation is eventually it puts a bunch of power in the hands of few. Unions and Jimmy Hoffa come to mind :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Teetorbilt said:
look at the marine industry history...why can't we do the same?
I don't know anything about the marine industry (is that where Marines work?). Are you speaking of pile/pier/bulkhead construction, transoceanic and intercoastal shipping, ship building, pleasure boating? What is the marine industry and how does it regulate itself?
 

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The problem is not the customer. I'm sorry but putting the blame on the victim doesn't make much sense. Do we put the blame on a child that is molested by an uncle? Do you put the blame on a senior citizen that has had their life savings taken away by a ponzi investment scheme? For the child we have laws to protect them, we have a police force to arrest the uncle, we have a judicial system to prosecute the uncle. For the senior citizen we have the FTC and the SEC who set up regulations to protect the investor, we have the judicial system to prosecute the offender.

Realistically take a guess at the budget needed to educate the public at large effectively to deal with bad contractors and contractor con men, where would the funds come from if not your taxes and implementation by the FTC which is government. This education is on going, every DIY, handyman or lead service offers infromation to educate the public, radio shows are devoted to it, there are 'troubleshooter' new men that make their living off of it. With all this in place it is still happening everyday.

The problem and solution is right in front of us all:
"November - Angry homeowner calls state improvement commission and learns of contractors abysmal performance record. Calls attorney to commence remedial proceedings."

The simple solution is to not allow a contractor to continue to do business if he has an abysmal performance record. What is your brother going to be able to do to get satisfaction? Nothing, because there is not a system set-up to follow through and bring this person to justice. What is going to stop this guy from repeating it with another customer. Nothing.

What stops a person in the investment services from acting unethically? Fines and the threat of losing his license, without the license he can't work. When was the last time you saw a contractor lose his license?
 
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