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Discussion Starter #1
First of all, I have to say that even though I just registered as a user on this site, I've been visiting for quite a while now and have benefitted a lot from the advice, suggestions, and tips given here. So thanks.

I have a question regarding a problem customer (I'm sure we've all had them!) I can email anyone who would like to hear the full story, but basically this is the short story....

A few months ago, a guy hired me to do some work on the property he purchased to remodel and sell. We signed a contract and he gave me an up-front payment. Part of the agreement said that I would provide and pay for garbage dumpsters during the demolition (which he hired someone else to do) and throughout the remodel. The house ended up collapsing during demolition and I had to pay for a dozen or so dumpster pick-ups, which was more than I had planned but I still paid for them uncomplainingly. I also met with him several times after the contract was signed, talked to him on the phone, gave him a lot of consulting, helped him with the permit office, did design work, and a lot of legwork, etc. He eventually decided to cancel the project and is now selling it. He has hired a collection agency--basically a intimidator--to get the entire amount of his up-front payment back. I know he lost alot of money on this project and he's trying to make up some of his losses on me. This collector has threatened to go down and file at the district attorney's office for "fraud", then told me I'll get arrested, etc, etc, etc.

This is the first time I've EVER had a problem like this with a customer, but I refuse to pay what I do not owe. My feelings are this: 1. After the contract was signed and I received the up-front payment, I did exactly what I was supposed to do and paid for what I was supposed to pay for. By the way, the payment was called an "up-front" payment in the contract and did not stipulate any specific work that would be done for that amount. It was simply payment for me to get started, to cover what work I had already done and cover the work I would do at the beginning, as well as cover the costs of the dumpsters, etc. I'm just saying this to let you know what technically the contract stated in case he wants to get technical. 2. As I mentioned, I already spent a large amount of money on the trash removal, as I agreed to do on the contract. He can't expect to get that back whatsoever. That doesn't begin to cover my time and labor, either. 3. I did everything I said I would do according to the contract. There is nothing that he can point to in the contract that I failed to live up to or do, and I certainly didn't defraud him. Bottom line is that he breached the contract, not me, and he decided to breach the contract after I spent money on and put a lot of time and energy into the project. I'm a nice guy, but I'm not a pushover and I refuse to let people take advantage of me.

So this is basically the story. I'm wondering what you guys think I should do, tell him, tell his collector, and so on. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. If you need any more details or have any more questions, please feel free to post it on here or email me. Thanks.

David D.
New Orleans, LA
 

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I would like you to email me the whole story, [email protected]

Ok first of all, what a ******* of a client. I would refuse to pay him also, be prepared to go to court. From what you are saying it looks like you have a great chance to win.
 

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BTW- if you have a signed contract with the amount up front you will be fine.

He cannot go down and file fraud cases on you, if he payed you the amount you have written in the contract for the up-front costs, you will be ok. Just make sure you have that in the contract and his signature or it could get ugly.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for your reply, first of all.

Oh yeah, I definitely have the original contract, signed by him. And as I mentioned in my first post, the exact term used in the contract was "Up-front" payment. I sort of feel like if he really felt that he had a strong case against me, he would have went straight to his lawyer and filed something. Instead, he TELLS me that his lawyers have papers drawn up and are ready to go, but he hires this collector to try to scare and intimidate me to throw money his way. I'm wondering what my legal rights are with dealing with the collector, by the way. I refuse to deal with this guy because first of all, he's a jerk, and secondly, I can tell that he doesn't know the whole situation. And of course he'll keep half of what he can get out of me, so what does he care what the situation is anyway?

Something else that gets me mad about this customer is that we have a mutual friend who he has told that I took the "deposit" (as he called it) and ran--that I cashed the check and did nothing and am basically a thief. I would think that this would be somewhat like slander and defamation of character.

I'm sure that I'll have to hire a lawyer to deal with the legal issues here, but does anyone know how the law would view the way he cancelled the project after I had spent a considerable amount of money and time on it? Thanks again for your viewing and any advice or suggestions.

David
 

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In what capacity were you hired? Architect, General Contractor, Construction Manager, etc.?
What form of Agreement did you use? What does it say about his right to terminate the contract for convenience?
 

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DavidD said:
Something else that gets me mad about this customer is that we have a mutual friend who he has told that I took the "deposit" (as he called it) and ran--that I cashed the check and did nothing and am basically a thief. I would think that this would be somewhat like slander and defamation of character.
David, same thing happened to me before, except it was a cousin who i was contracting out a re-roof for. He expected that his roof would get done first before all of my other projects and bad-mouthed me about it. lets just say we no longer talk. :rolleyes:

Some people just cant put things behind them.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
PipeGuy said:
In what capacity were you hired? Architect, General Contractor, Construction Manager, etc.?
What form of Agreement did you use? What does it say about his right to terminate the contract for convenience?
I was hired as a contractor and I would do basically all of the work stipulated in the contract. As far as what the contract says, it mentions nothing about his right to cancel for convenience. All it states is: "In the event Owner shall fail to pay any periodic or installment payment due hereunder, Contractor may cease work without breach pending payment or resolution of any dispute and pursue legal actions accordingly." It also states that the "Contractor shall not be liable for any delay due to circumstances beyond its control including strikes, casualty, general unavailability of materials, or unfavorable weather." Those were the two parts in the contract that had even touched on the subject of ceasing work. There is nothing in the contract that states anything to the effect that the customer could cancel the project or contract for convenience or because he changed his mind, especially after work had begun and money had been spent.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Cole_21 said:
David, same thing happened to me before, except it was a cousin who i was contracting out a re-roof for. He expected that his roof would get done first before all of my other projects and bad-mouthed me about it. lets just say we no longer talk. :rolleyes:

Some people just cant put things behind them.
I hear ya, Cole. Sometimes customers--and unfortunately friends and relatives--think that everything revolves around them 24/7.

But I sort of feel like he's done more than bad-mouth me. He's pretty much outright called me a thief and a fraudulent business person. There's nothing further from the truth as I've always tried to be 100% honest in doing business with people. Last night I called my friend and filled him in a little. He told me that after our conversation, it was a whole different story than what was presented to him.
 

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DavidD said:
Last night I called my friend and filled him in a little. He told me that after our conversation, it was a whole different story than what was presented to him.
It always is!!! :evil:
 

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If you put out more money than what was paid I would file a counterclaim - essentially asking for the additional money that was paid out. That usually wakes them up a little bit.
 

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Are you sure this "collector" is a real collector?

because if he is willing to
1) demand the money back
and 2) lie to your friends about you

then I don't see why he didn't pay a friend to rattle your cage.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Very true. I wouldn't doubt if he wasn't a real collector. Regardless, I refuse to deal with him.
 

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I'm with Hatchet - I'd look hard at my actuals and file a counterclaim for any expense, direct or indirect, that I didn't recover.
 

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I would sue the customer for the balance of the contract and lien his property.

Just because he cancelled the deal, does not mean you are not entitled to the balance of the agreement.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
To answer your question, Bob, no, he doesn't blame me for the house collapsing. I had nothing to do with it.

As far as counter-suing him, I honestly haven't thought about going after him. Although he breached the contract and I essentially lost this nice-sized project, I can't really say I spent more than I had received with the up-front payment. Like I said, I try to be honest in business and I really don't know if I should go after money that I may or may not deserve. I'd be content to let him go his way and I go mine.
 

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If youy feel like explaining to me what caused the collapse, I'd be intrested in hearing. Somtimes on older structures, especially when dealing with a balloon frame they have to be supported in some areas when removing surface products (shingles/siding/roofing/lath and plaster) ect.

Bob
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Well, the customer had one guy doing some demo work and another guy replacing the sill. They both blame each other for the collapse, and they both probably share responsibility. The demo guy took off all of the exterior sheathing, basically leaving bare studs with no horizontal support. The sill guy, I was told, did not nail the floor joists back into the new sill. But the customer has never blamed me for the collapse. He knows I had nothing to do with it.
 

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Sounds like the fella tearing off the siding is to blame.

With two others fellas out there what exactly was your end of the program, or did I miss something?

Bob
 
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