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Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:22 PM

Dispute with a contractor: Am I unreasonable?

Some months ago, as part of a series of jobs, I had a contractor install some outdoor security lights. During this installation, both bathroom floor-heating thermostats got fried (smoked and blackened). We let them install replacement thermostats and everything is working fine now.

When they presented the bill, it merely had two items: parts & labour. I didn't trust them and asked them for a breakdown of the parts, which they finally came up with. Sure enough: they included the thermostats in the bill. I paid them in full, minus the cost of the thermostats, and included a note which said that I thought it was a lot of nerve to ask us to pay for something they broke.

Ever since, I've been getting daily harassments through the phone and email telling us to pay our bill in full. They claim the system was "wired wrong" and that's why the thermostats got fried.

Now, I'm a reasonable person, but I'm just flabbergasted at the unmitigated gall of these people. How could any reasonable person expect us to have to pay? Seriously?

I've complained to the Better Business Bureau, but the company has just changed names. That's another warning sign, in my opinion.

I'm not worried about it. I've stared down bullies before, but I've never been a situation before where I couldn't even begin to understand the other side's point of view.

Any thoughts or recommendations other than slamming them on every review site?

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Arrow 37 replies Author Time Post
Reply Dispute with a contractor: Am I unreasonable? (Original post)
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 OP
PoliticAverse Oct 2013 #1
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #3
PoliticAverse Oct 2013 #5
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #6
jberryhill Oct 2013 #2
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #4
CrispyQ Oct 2013 #7
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #9
CrispyQ Oct 2013 #12
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #24
CountAllVotes Oct 2013 #8
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #10
CountAllVotes Oct 2013 #13
KT2000 Oct 2013 #16
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #21
KT2000 Oct 2013 #23
The Straight Story Oct 2013 #11
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #17
msanthrope Oct 2013 #14
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #18
Capt. Obvious Oct 2013 #15
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #19
Capt. Obvious Oct 2013 #20
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #22
ScreamingMeemie Oct 2013 #25
riverwalker Oct 2013 #26
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #30
Warpy Oct 2013 #27
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #32
Warpy Oct 2013 #34
Motown_Johnny Oct 2013 #28
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #31
Motown_Johnny Oct 2013 #35
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #37
wercal Oct 2013 #29
Ron Obvious Oct 2013 #33
JustAnotherGen Oct 2013 #36

Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:25 PM

1. Any attorney's in the family that could write them a short letter?

How much money is in dispute?

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #1)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:29 PM

3. About $450.

They're threatening liens. I do have umbrella insurance, but frankly, wouldn't mind spending more then $450 on lawyers on sheer principle.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #3)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:34 PM

5. $450 is significant money, did you sign a written contract with the contractor? n/t

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #5)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:39 PM

6. Nope

Didn't sign anything.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:27 PM

2. "No, and calling me again tomorrow will not change my answer"

 

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:30 PM

4. Thank heaven for caller ID.

I might block their number.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:40 PM

7. Tell them your going to post your story on Yelp.

Good luck. I think they have a lot of nerve.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #7)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:44 PM

9. I did

It stopped the calls for three days.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #9)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:51 PM

12. Maybe write up your review & fax it to them first.

It will have more impact to actually read a bad review. Then, I'd post it.

Also, did they tell you about the "faulty" wiring at the time of service? Did they fix said "faulty" wiring?

Yeah, & the name change stinks too.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #12)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 06:46 PM

24. Good idea

No, they only came up with the 'faulty wiring" after the fact. The bathroom remodel that installed the floorheating was 12 years ago. I'm not buying it, but as I'm not an electrician, I can't be 100% certain.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:42 PM

8. What state are you located in?

You might look for the Contractors State License Board in your state.

Where I live, this is the rule of law:

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) protects consumers by licensing and regulating California's construction industry. There are about 300,000 licensed contractors in the state, in 43 different licensing classifications. In addition to educating consumers about contractors and construction law, CSLB activities include administering examinations to test prospective licensees, issuing licenses, investigating complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors, issuing citations, suspending or revoking licenses, and seeking administrative, criminal, and civil sanctions against violators. In fiscal year 2012-13, CSLB helped recover nearly $44 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

**********

That said, I had a situation a few years ago where I hired a contractor to fix-up my bathroom that has lots of tile in it and required new caulking and some minor renovations.

The man that I hired was completely incompetent and made a huge mess out of my bathroom, inside of the house and even outside front yard (he was dumping the caulking down the gutters outside!). He needed to retire yesterday if ya'll know what I mean!

With the mess he left along with his pay of $400.00 for this job that needed to be fixed up and fixed up fast it seemed at the time he left with promises that it would dry in a day or so. Some two weeks later, it was still not dry.

I managed to get someone to help with this mess and got it semi-fixed up to where it now is (still a nightmare really) and I went after this contractor's bond after finding out he was indeed a licensed contractor.

After filing that complaint, I got my money back (with the mess still intact for the most part).

Said contractor is no longer in business -- seems I was not the only complaint on record they had against him I was told.

It was a hassle yes, but the Contractor's Licensing Board in your state should be able to assist you at no cost.

Best of luck!

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Response to CountAllVotes (Reply #8)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:45 PM

10. Washington

Thanks for this information!

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #10)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:53 PM

13. Yep

Due a search on Contractor's Licensing Board state of Washington and you'll find out what you can do about this!

Sorry for your trouble. I know what you are going through, believe me!

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #10)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:07 PM

16. good state for this

go to Labor and Industries to get started and ALWAYS check with their site to see if a contractor is licensed and if there are any complaints - before hiring them. If the contractor is not licensed then there is nothing they can do.

You could also go through small claims court.

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Response to KT2000 (Reply #16)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:30 PM

21. As far as i can see

I'm holding the position of power here and it's up to them to pursue action through small claims court. I can't imagine losing in court should it come to that.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #21)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 02:05 PM

23. You're right!

but you may have to do something to get rid of the lien.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:50 PM

11. Send them a bill for the time you have spent disputing it with them

Then start calling them each day

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #11)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:09 PM

17. Oh, that's tempting...

I wish I had the fire in my belly to be that kind of vindictive person. I'm afraid I'm just too much of a a "live and let live" inoffensive poop to go down that route.

ETA: typo

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:56 PM

14. Tell them you are going to call ECORE. Then, never, ever, take their calls again.

 

If they write, you can PM me for more advice on escalation. FYI--since they accepted payment, most small claim courts would say that was 'payment in full' and they don't have the right to dun you for the rest. So, stop talking to them after you threaten ECORE, and then file a violation--

http://www.lni.wa.gov/TradesLicensing/Electrical/Violators/ECORE/default.asp

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Response to msanthrope (Reply #14)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:11 PM

18. Thank you!

I don't take their calls in the first place (caller ID). This is very useful information, thank you!

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:59 PM

15. Cousin! Why didn't you let me know?

The best way to deal with them is to become the harasser. Call and ask to speak to the owner(s), the foreman, and so forth.
Call every single day and make a huge stink about their work and the fact that they are trying to charge you.

They'll eventually stay the hell away from you.

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Response to Capt. Obvious (Reply #15)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:18 PM

19. Thanks for the support, cousin!

That's not a bad suggestion, but I don't know if I have the energy and will to follow through.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #19)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:21 PM

20. That's what my wife did

I was almost embarrassed about the whole thing. But the contractor finally made amends - after several crappy attempts.

She was not taking no for an answer.

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Response to Capt. Obvious (Reply #20)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:32 PM

22. Good on her!

I think I hold the keys here in this situation, since they're wanting money from us, so we need not do anything.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 06:48 PM

25. No, no, no...you are not unreasonable.

You've gotten some good info here.

I fought ADT over a similar situation and won. Good luck!

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:00 PM

26. maybe it was wired wrong

are you positive it wasn't? You got the thermostats and the installation, and everything is working fine. I don't get what your complaint is.
Sorry, my son is a contractor and the horror stories about some customers make your blood boil.

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Response to riverwalker (Reply #26)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:10 PM

30. Fair enough

I think I'm usually a dream customer who always pays on the spot. If this was wired incorrectly before, it was done by professional, licensed electricians and I'm going to have to assume it was done correctly.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:01 PM

27. You're not wrong. Thermostats are generally run on a low voltage line

connected to a transformer. Chances are they decided to wire the lighting into that line and when the lights didn't work, wired a 120 line into the whole business, bypassing the transformer. It was their error for not tracing the line back and finding out why the lights didn't go on.

Yeah, I'll bet you got smoke and black thermostats!

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Response to Warpy (Reply #27)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:14 PM

32. Thank you!

It sounds like you know more about this than I do.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #32)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:23 PM

34. Only because the shorted line to my house fried a lot of things

and one of them was the transformer to the thermostat.

That's about the only way I can imagine they fried your thermostats, by tying in to the low voltage line, getting nothing, and then bypassing the transformer.

Just don't put me on a witness stand at a trial. My gaffer days were almost 50 years ago.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:05 PM

28. Who installed the thermostats?

 

Are you sure they were done correctly?


If these contractors did their jobs properly, they why should they pay for the mistake another company made?


I need more information than your opinion that you are right and they are wrong.

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Response to Motown_Johnny (Reply #28)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:13 PM

31. I'm not an electrician

But the job was done 12 years ago by professional, licensed electricians, not some black market hack or anything. Is this a mistake or shortcut a a professional is likely to make, you think? Serious question as I'm out of my competence range here.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #31)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:25 PM

35. If not grounded properly.. maybe. Maybe not.

 


I am not an electrician either but I do play one on TV.

Oh no, wait...


I work for a landscape company and we, among other things, install things like path lighting and spotlights. All outdoor garden stuff. All low voltage, so not like the security lighting you are talking about. We also do sprinkler systems and the control boxes need to be wired, but that is terribly easy.

I know only what little I know, but I have seen some weird stuff in some houses, and the older the house the stranger things are.

Why security lighting went on the same circuit as heaters is beyond me. There just isn't enough information here to know what happened.

Did you sign any type of agreement before the work was done? If so, was there any disclaimers in it for the contractor?

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Response to Motown_Johnny (Reply #35)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:34 PM

37. No, never signed a thing

And as I said, the original wiring was done 12 years ago by professionals who were remodeling our bathrooms.

I really don't care that much about the money. Yeah, I know, people always say that, but I genuinely don't. If I thought they had a genuine case I would pay them in a heartbeat, but the way they went about it (presenting a non-transparent bill) makes my spidey senses tingle that someone's trying to pull a fast one. And that I don't like.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:05 PM

29. Might be worth the money to hire an electrician

First of all it sounds like they piggybacked the lights onto another circuit instead of putting a dedicated breaker in the panel.

If they did, it could be a fire hazard.

If they didn't, then they did something pretty crazy to fry stuff on another circuit.

Either way it could be a fire hazard.

And if you can find a model number on those thermostats....see if Google agrees with that price.

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Response to wercal (Reply #29)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:15 PM

33. The price is probably fine

I will call another electrician to check out their work. Thanks for the suggestion.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 07:30 PM

36. My husband

Has several lines of business - Metal works and custom design, metal restoration and preservation and HVAC. He does detailed billing - always. Its just good business and honest. I bet you aren't the first person this has happened to. Report them to the BBB, get your receipts for the thermostats and call an attorney.

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