What are contractor obligations?

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Posted by: from Toronto
3/31/2015 at 3:41:06 PM

I am an independent (work by myself) handyman with over 20 years in the general contracting field.

I was retained by a lady through a referral do fix a moldy shower stall. Upon inspection, there was a lot of mold and water damage from the shower pan up the walls for about 14 inches. I told the lady that all the walls have to be removed to the studs; cleaned up and dried out before any new construction takes place.

I told this woman that I cannot see what is inside the walls (structure damage) until the wall tiles and substrate is removed. The shower pan and tiles look in pretty good shape, so we left that alone. Once the tiles we removed and the walls and ceiling, the entire studding and framing was done with commercial metal framing and was installed 16"OC with no cross bracing considering the height from base to ceiling was 84 inches, which made the walls unsteady and whopply. I informed her that the structure really should be re-done with proper studding ( wood) to make the walls more sturdy and to add structural integrity to the new cement boards and new 12 x 14 inch Porcelain Tiles being installed. She did not want to go through the expense and labor and said.." If you can work with the existing that would be great, but I do not want to spend any more then what is necessary considering it is a basement guest shower which is rarely used anyways". I told her that I will do the best that I can with what I have to work with and she said.." I understand the problem, but work with what you have. It doesn't have to be perfect and I do not want to spend a lot of money on a part time shower". O.K.

The tiles were terrible quality (but what do you expect for 96 cents a sq.ft.) and were chipping and cracking. Great wet saw and new blade as well!! As a result of inferior construction by the previous contractor and the lousy tiles; the end result was less then perfect; but I did the best that I could with what I had to work with.

Here is the problem. Because it did not end up being "a perfect job", she did not like it and refused to pay me. No deposit; no money up front and no written contract. Now she wants me to pay for the tiles; wants me to rip the tiles out and expects me to pay a real tile setter to install the new tiles she wants me to pay for!

So where do I stand? Should I tell her no? What would you do? What should I do?


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Date/Time3/31/2015 at 4:23:44 PM

Hi there,

First and foremost, sorry to hear your dilemma. I myself have 25+ years in the residential construction industry and in my very early days I had a similar situation arise. Unfortunately, I did not have any paper trail to support my case.

Anytime you have a job issue or a problem comes up, the first thing that should be done is have the discussion with the client and explain the issues at hand. Once then they agree and give you directions, you then at that moment make a change order and have them sign it. Email copy as well so there is no discrepancies. I would never start a project without a deposit and a clear payment plan as well. At this point it sounds like you need to file a civil matter in court but from what I hear from your mist likely will not win.

I would now try to have the conversation with your client and try to resolve if you can.

All the best and hope it works out for you.

Respectfully yours,

Joe Giannini

Tru-Pro Renos & Handyman Services

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Date/Time3/31/2015 at 5:57:44 PM


I hear you loud and clear. This is very unfortunate because you were given the verbal approval but the client expected you to work magic. I would suggest that if she is reasonable, talk with her once again, BUT put everything that you saw and the repairs that you did, in writing. Give her a copy and keep one for your self. If she agrees with what you wrote then you can request payment for what was done.

As I understand it, a client cannot with hold payment for work done, by law. They can, however, issue complaints and go after compensation if any additional damage was done. In your case it sounds as though the client was expecting more than just a fix-up job.

If you write up the situation, include items such as the perceived quality of the tiles, the mould situation, and the structural concern. If tou are talking a respectable amount of money, suggest that the court may have to decide on an acceptable settlement. I don't like legal threats but in this case, it's the job and your reputation at stake. Again, I want to empathize the need to include as many details and verbal agreements as you can. It sounds as though you were up front with her and she just didn't realize what was involved.

An alternate approach, assumong you don't want to see her face to face, would be to send a registered letter. If you do this I'd include something along the line of " if this matter isn't corrected immediatly, the legal profession will become the next course of action". (small claims court). If you know the people who referred you to this client, you might also contact them for the sake of your credabilty and any feed-back that they might volunteer.

Hope this helps.

Mark ... from Alberta.

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Mark from CMJ Renovations in Oakville
Date/Time4/2/2015 at 8:35:30 AM

Hi Mark

Sorry to hear about your situation, send her an e mail basically stating what you said on the forum, talk about all the conversation you had with her and how you where to proceed regarding the shower, also list the time you have been there at what it is worth, the money you have spent on materials and the fact that you didn't take a deposit as she was a referral. Tell her you would appreciate payment vis a cheque which you would like to pick up tomorrow. Depending on what her response is will determine your next course of action, you might be lucky and never hear from her again.

Very often people buy cheap material which in turn makes the contractors job harder as you are dealing with material that falls apart.

Good Luck. Please let us know how you make out.

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Date/Time4/2/2015 at 12:23:15 PM

Sounds like you should of told her off the bat that you couldn't do it cheap If she wanted nice work. that aside I would have to see the tiling work if it was put in straight and nice. if so and the work was up to par then you would have to say no which sucks cause you want everyone happy at the end of the day. Be sides that there is not much you can do.

Wayne Stevenson

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