Asked on Jun 1, 2012

What to do with a non-performing contractor?

AltonKevin M. Veler, Law Office ofWoodbridge Environmental


We decided to update our kitchen with new cabinet door/drawer faces and restained cabinet frames, and new wood flooring.   We engaged a General Contractor who introduced two sub-contractors to do the two jobs; both visited and submitted proposals - we agreed to both with no haggling over quoted prices.   The cabinet job was $4K and was to take 7 weeks; no time-related performance penalties were discussed.   The Floor Guy is to follow completion of the cabinet work.
Cabinet Guy (a 2-man operation) said he could get started in about 4 weeks and be done 3 weeks later.   We gave him $2K to get started.   Although part of his job was to remove the doors, drawers and hardware, we had all that done when he came for them AT 8 WEEKS.   "I'll have these back and finish the job in a couple weeks."   He's had them 4 weeks now, and not so much as a phone call to update us on his progress.   The cabinet job is now 5 weeks late.
We've called the GC several times, he's amazed that Cabinet Guy hasn't completed and hasn't called.   The GC finally disclosed that Cabinet Guy's been out of town this last week, attending to the memorial service and burying of his mom's ashes .. she died a month before our initial engagement.
We're living out of all our kitchen stuff in boxes in other rooms of the house.   The Floor Guy keeps calling to try to set an installation date; can't set that until Cabinet Guy is done.
We now feel that a reduction in the price of the job is warranted, but don't want to prejudice his work, whenever it does get done.   We feel that a 10% reduction from the original quote, plus an additional 1% reduction for each day (from the day we announce penalties) until completion is fair.
What do you think?   Is this reasonable?   Will announcing our intention before completion cause sloppy work (like the chef spitting on our food because we sent it back)?
IF he'd kept us up-to-date with his progress & distractions, we'd feel a lot more compassionate for his problems - but NO updates from him??   GEE WHIZ!!
6 answers
  • 3po3
    on Jun 1, 2012

    When you say the job was to take 7 weeks, do you have any restrictions or penalties for late work written into the contract?

  • Jim D
    on Jun 1, 2012

    No, no completion-time penalties were considered at the time of contract .. my bad! The Cabinet Guy's proposal, executed unmodified as a contract, had no such verbiage.

  • 3po3
    on Jun 1, 2012

    Not sure you can legally deduct anything if there is no completion date or penalties in the contract. I would get a solid contract now, with completion dates and penalties, if possible.

  • You can think about reducing the cost and everything. Does not matter. What does the contract say about him not doing his job. Is he in breach of it? Its understandable that he has a family issue. And its understandable that this may cause this project to run a bit longer, but who did you sign with on this, and what are the terms? The fact is its still going to cost him money, and he is going to want to make it. So I doubt he or she will be willing to allow for any real price drop. If these terms are not addressed with the signed agreement with him I do not think there is much that you can do. Your contractor should be stepping up and getting this done for you. After all it was he that provided you with this contact. As far as a family service, so sorry he had to attend this tragic event, but it does not take that many days to bury someone and get back to work. Had she just died perhaps different story, but the fact is she passed prior to the contract and a month had past. Read your paperwork that you signed. Check your agreement about paying also. It sounded like a lot of money up front, but not knowing what the entire project is it is hard to say if you gave him to much. In your case, the contractor is at fault. If they have your belongings, and your cash, you need to send a certified letter demanding your money and your belongings back or finish the job within a set amount of time. . You can call all you want, but its the letter that is sent that you need to have should you decide to go after them for your money that you paid out. Be polite with the letter, explaining your concerns and your demands. however you must understand if you have a contract that you follow this agreement first. If there is nothing within this agreement that protects you against this issue, then you could perhaps have an issue getting your money back without going through the court system.

  • So far you've gotten some great advice but the truly controlling issue will be the contract terms and putting pressure on the GC to complete the job. A 10% reduction and 1% per day will likely mean that the contractor will not complete the job. You are in a tough situation of trying to get the job completed in a timely manner. It's difficult to provide effective advice without having reviewed the contract and the facts (including other options), but I would generally think pushing for the job to be completed and then negotiate a discount. The GC should be managing this project. If this is a state licensed contractor, the licensing law does have a 90 day period to presume abandonment. Whether that may help in this situation depends on a lot of factors.

  • Alton
    on Jul 9, 2015

    Check to see how often they do this and if they have even started work on what they have . Never pay up front unless you know and trust them .

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