To be very honest, the reason for writing this post is because I am a victim of an unscrupulous general contractor who is currently licensed by California State Contractor's Board, operates out of Monrovia California and is continuing to take advantage of consumers.
I am hoping that by sharing my story, you will be able to avoid a similar situation and be smarter in making hiring and payment decisions.
My story begins just like most when I was in the process of getting my house ready for sale. Prior to putting my San Gabriel home on the market and listing it in our Multiple Listing Service, I wanted to get it painted inside and out, change out some bathroom fixtures, update handles on kitchen drawers and cabinets, change out some light fixtures and do little things here and there to make the house perfect for the new buyers.
At the same time, I also had an investment property that I was getting ready to rent out that needed to be updated - interior painting, a new air conditioning unit installed, fixtures, etc.
We were also buying a new home in San Marino and needed to have work done there.
This General Contractor who shall remain nameless, but whose name implies that he is in CONTROL, was awarded all three jobs.
Well... this guy was totally OUT of CONTROL!
- * There was no oversight at all on 2 of the 3 projects he was hired to manage.
- * Unqualified and unlicensed subcontractors were hired.
- * All deadlines were missed.
- * The delays in these projects ended up costing me a tremendous amount of money due to last minute rescheduling of other service providers and loss of work time between my husband and I.
- * The work that was done was incomplete or sub-standard.
- * Charges were ridiculously inflated because the contractor didn't have time or his computer was down or a zillion of other excuses and didn't put the charges for change orders in writing. Everything was verbal.
- * I learned how to beg and beg and beg and beg....
- * I was totally at the mercy of this guy given the deadlines that needed to be met and the amount of money that was paid in advance for the work to be performed.
- * Come to find out after getting a payment in full from me, this wonderful god-fearing man who attends church on a regular basis decided not to pay his sub-contractors and opened me up to potential Mechanic's Liens.
- * I am getting various phone calls, packages in the mail and people stopping by my house to check if my contractor received his payment from me.
- * Warranty on items like Air Conditioning unit are not honored because the A/C guy didn't get paid. UGHHHHHHH
How did I pick this jewel of a contractor?</strong> He was a husband of a friend.
Lesson #1 - Do NOT hire a friend without checking his references fully!
I've been doing some research to see what steps I could have taken to ensure this didn't happen. So... here's a list I put together that you can use when you're thinking of hiring a contractor.
- * Hire only licensed contractors and check their status with California Contractors State License Board at 1-800-321-2752
- * Get a minimum of three references. Go out and take a look physically at thier past work.
- * Get at least three bids.
- * Get a written contract and don't sign anything until you completely understand the terms.
- * Never pay more than 10% down or $1,000 whichever is less.
- * Don't let your payments get ahead of their work. Keep records of payments.
- * Don't make a final payment until you're satisfied with the job.
- * Don't pay cash.
- * Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project.
To avoid Mechanic's Liensfiled against your property, Contractors State License Board suggests the following:
- * Make sure your contractor hires only licensed subcontractors, and check their licenses, too
- * Check up on your prime contractors reputation for payment and lawsuits at the local courthouse, suppliers, and subcontractors;
- * Get a list of all subcontractors, laborers, and materials suppliers to be used by your prime contractor.
- * The simplest way to prevent liens is to pay with joint checks.
- * Compare the contractor's bill for materials or labor, compare it to the schedule of payments in your contract and the Preliminary 20-Day Notices
- * Make sure that work was done as described
- * Make out the check to both the contractor and the supplier, or subcontractor.
- * Both parties will have to endorse the check, which will ensure that the subcontractors and suppliers get paid.
* Before making final payment, make sure that you get a signed conditional release from all possible lien claimants. You can download a copy of a lien release here.
* After you pay, the contractor should get you an unconditional release signed by each of the claimants paid for the portion of the work being released. Make sure that the actual claimant signs the unconditional release.
By law, you may withhold the next payment until you get the unconditional releases for the previous payment.
File a Notice of Completion with the County Recorder's office</strong> after work is completed, you can reduce the amount of time a contractor, subcontractor or supplier has to record a claim.
This Notice reduces the amount of time a contractor has to record a mechanic's lien from 90 to 60 days, and reduces the time a subcontractor or materials supplier has to record a mechanic's lien from 90 days to 30 days.
The Notice of Completion form may be obtained through your County Recorder's office or a stationary or office supply store that stock legal forms.
Good luck in hiring a contractor and please follow the steps outlined above to save yourself a lot of aggravation and headaches.