Sticky Situation, need advice on how to solve problem with plumber

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Allen62

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Thanks so much for reading this post. First let me say that I have the highest regard for the plumbing profession, and most all plumbers are fine, hard working people. I mean no disrespect to anyone as I bring this issue to you for help.

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THE SHORT VERSION
I hired a plumber for construction of a new home. He has done part of the job, but has repeatedly failed to show up to complete it. He has already caused us 7 months in delays, just waiting for him. His most recent response is "I've been really busy and can't get good help, I don't know WHEN I'll be able to get to you."

I've heard "Fire him and hire someone else". Not so easy. I've put out some feelers and learned that EVERYBODY is busy right now and nobody wants to get mixed up completing work someone else started. The other contractors who previously bid on the project are unlikely to be interested, as I passed their bids for his.

I am open to any and all suggestions. Thanks in advance
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THE LONG VERSION - For those who like details....

I have a new home under construction and hired a plumber who was highly recommended by others, and from a family that has ties to my own. He was not the low bidder, I chose him because I believed he was highly qualified. The main problem has been getting him to show up. He typically says "Ill be there tommorrow" then we don't hear from him for weeks. We have been patiently accepting his excuses, as we just want to get it done. He also promised that it would be him and his helper doing the work, but so far, his helper has been working alone, which is another issue altogether, as I am not particularly confident in his abilities.

The house is above grade so the rough and top out are being done simultaneously. His helper did 60-75% of the work last year (after 3 months of waiting for him to show up). At that point he could not continue due to other trades (this was known in advance and planned as such) He asked me to give him a heads up when we were ready to finish the rough and top out.

I contacted him in March and told him we would be ready April 15. Six weeks later he finally showed up to look over things. The following week his helper showed up twice for a couple hours each time and did a little bit of work. Then six weeks went by with no contact, no response to phone calls or texts. Meanwhile he has been taking new jobs for his "regular contractors" and completing them.

I finally reached him last week. He told us he has been "really busy" and hasn't been able to find help. He said he didn't know WHEN he could get to us. But promised to call us Monday for an update. He didn't.

I've heard "Fire him and hire someone else". Not so easy. I've put out some feelers and learned that EVERYBODY is busy right now and nobody wants to get mixed up completing work someone else started. The other contractors who previously bid on the project are unlikely to be interested, as I passed their bids for his.

Then there is the issue of paying him fairly for the labor and materials for work that was already done. (He has not yet billed us). And permitting and inspecting the work...he has not obtained permits (it appears as though he is in the habit of obtaining the permit just before he calls for inspection, which is common here)

I am open to any and all suggestions. Thanks in advance
 
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breplum

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Definitely you should find someone else.
I understand how challenging that can be and am so sorry you are having such a bad time of it.
You should also contact the state contractor's license board and file a complaint, post to Yelp for other people to be aware of the issue with him.
 

Allen62

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Thank you. I am going to hold off on filing complaints for now as I am still hoping for an amicable resolution. I know I will pay a premium to any new contractor willing to take on this job. (So far I can't get ANYONE to even call me back) I also know I will have to pay the old contractor for the work already done, as he does have a lot of time and materials in the project. What would be a fair arrangement in a situation like this?
 

Allen62

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I'm not asking anyone to judge....just looking for suggestions on ways to approach this in a reasonable way. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever had to deal with a situation like this, and I was hoping someone could give me a contractors perspective.
 

PlumbGate

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Never hire friends! Never hire friends! Never hire friends! Never hire friends! Never hire friends! Never hire friends! Never hire friends!

That said, fire him and get someone else. What does your contract say is there a time-frame in it? If so, then sue him for the difference between the higher amount you had to pay for the short notice plumber. If you win, that will offset against his money due. I would say just don't pay him at all but he will slap a mechanics lien on your property if not so make it legal.
 

chiraldude

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How much work is left to do? Maybe time to DIY the rest of the work? Find a contractor willing to stop by for an hour and talk you through what needs to be done. May need to buy some tools? Chop saw, hole saw, PEX crimper, etc... but cutting and connecting pipe is not rocket science.
 

RenewDave

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By not filing a complaint, it makes me believe there is more to the story. But let’s assume for now that there is not. Send him a certified letter with a timeline on exactly how your project has gone. Send a copy to the contractors board. Tell him you must move on and hire another contractor and that when they are done if there is any Money left over, you will settle with him. If not, he’ll get nothing. Give him a date to resume work and an expected completion date and that if he doesn’t respond that you and the state will take that as him abandoning your job and any moneys that he thinks he is deserving of. Do you have a written contract? Contractor boards usually have free help lines for consumers for this exact reason. Now back to the reason you’re not filing a complaint........
 

sawguy50

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As a former contractor (not plumbing) one of the worst jobs was coming in behind someone else and finishing the job. I assume it's the same with plumbers. You need to tell him when the completion date is going to be...period.
 

Allen62

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Plumb Gate - this guy is not a friend, we had never met prior to this. But our social, business and family circles are closely intertwined. Making an enemy out of him would cause way more problems for both of us than it would solve. I wish there were specific deadlines in our contract, but tradesmen in this area balk at time constraints, perhaps because of unpredicatable weather? Detailed contracts just aren't thing on residential jobs here, most jobs proceed on a signed proposal and a handshake.

Sawguy, I understand completely, and I appreciate the many plumbers I have talked to who took the time to call me back and speak frankly. They don't want the hassle, and they don't want to be at odds with another plumber in town. They are automatically skeptical that I am just a "difficult client". I don't blame them.

Dave, there is nothing more to the story. I just don't see what good can come of filing a complaint, at least at this point. It is like kicking a hornets nest, it just pisses them off and you get stung some more. He hasn't broken any enforceable rules, just bad business practices. The Contractor Licensing Board told me the same thing. It is clear that they focus their enforcement efforts on unlicensed contractors, and contractors who take the money and run. He is a licensed contractor and hasn't asked for any money yet. Even if I could get him cited or fined, they can't make him finish the job.

Your advice provides an EXCELLENT blueprint for me going forward. That is exactly what I was looking for when I posted this. Thanks so much.
 

Allen62

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Chiraldude,
Finishing the work myself is a last resort....I've got the tools and halfway decent skills, but no time. If I end up doing that you will be hearing a lot more from me....
 

rickwhoo

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Fire him and have the new plumber finish the job. Tell the first one to eat **** and DO NOT pay him a dime! He screwed you up as well as your other contractors. They have to wait for him to finish before they can. He will most likely not take action against you because he won't have time. He may threaten you with suing but it won't happen.
 
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