Difficult clients

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Posted by: from Horsham
5/13/2012 at 2:02:12 PM


I have a very good track record with my construction company. Work always gets performed to the best of my ability and trust, honesty and goodwill is what has built my business. As well as consistently communicating with the client to make sure work is being performed to the highest standard.

I am busy with an interior renovation and building an addition onto the existing house. The client has signed my companies contract and now believes that I should do whatever extra work she throws at me for free. In my contract there is a change order cluase. I was informed by her husband that I now work for him and I must not charge them for extra labor or material.

Everything has been going fine with the job up and till now. She is there everyday and see's what is going on. Both her and her husband lie an incredible amount. I have been warned by there friends that they have bitten off far to much to chew with this remodel of there house. I was warned by another friend of theirs that they are not going to pay me and what dishonest people they are.

On Friday they started getting very aggressive with me because my painter painted the inlet and outlet pipes of there 100 year old radiators. These pipes were already painted several times. The client got really upset when I told her that they were already painted and she informed me that none of them have been painted an I must strip the paint off the pipes. I took pictures of the multiple layers of paint once I started stripping them. We have also had a few issues with paint colors that were chosen by the client. She would then say she did not ask us to paint the closet that color after we had painted the color she asked for. And so it goes on with this continual lying.

What are my rights as a contractor that is licensed with the state of PA. Somehow I cannot find anything on any rights I may have to terminate the job. It seems that only the client has rights and not the contractor.

Any light on this subject would help.

Thanks in advance

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Liam in Niagara Falls
Date/Time5/15/2012 at 10:15:31 AM

Hi Al,

I'm not familiar with the laws in the state of Pennsylvania but if you've provided a detailed contract that outlines the details of the work and the client is demanding work outside the scope of that contract you're not obligated to do additional work and any changes requested by the client would be subject to separate charges.

However, for the sake of keeping your reputation intact and preventing the client from posting bad reviews about your company all over the internet you may just want to suck it up, smile and complete the job. Make the client happy and never look back.

Good luck!

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Date/Time6/3/2012 at 8:58:09 PM

As another contractor in the state of PA, I suggest you have your attorney get you a copy of the Pennsylvania Contractors & Sub-Contractors Act of 1994. If your attorney does not know about this then you need a new attorney.

If you have a contract signed by the homeowner then perform to the contract & use the local building codes officer to help justify the quality & completeness of your work.

Good luck with your customer from hell.

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MJ Salese Construction in Bangor
Date/Time7/15/2012 at 11:38:55 PM

Hi Al,

What your describing is way to familiar with what I went through with what I called "the customers from hell".

I started my company in 1984, building decks and small home improvement work, by 2001 I was working on Multi million dollar Commercial projects, we have built up a very sucessfull company with many many references.

In 2008 we contracted a sunroom for what I thought were a very nice couple. We priced the sunroom with attached deck for $20,000, this included taking down the old deck and installing a concrete patio below. We submitted plans for a 3 season sunroom, no heat, no insulation and no drywall, exposed beams and a pine t&g wall finish. During the job we were asked to change interior doors, install floor tile, fix drywall among a long list of extras, which were all completed. Once the project was 95% completed, we were asked to insulate the walls and install drywall, trim and paint, piggy back the heat vent from the adjoining room and Install a sliding door at the sunroom exterior wall.

I told the customer to revise the permit, he said I was not to worry about that. We submitted invoice for the extra work we completed, his balance was around $7,000.00 of course they disputed the extras even though they agreed to pay for, we knew this was going to happen as the payments were getting slower and less.

I had asked the customer to bring his account up to date or we would have to stop work. he promised payment for that coming Friday. Friday came and went still no funding. so we packed our tools and equipment and pulled off the job leaving it 98% completed which was not a smart thing to do on my part.

The next thing I knew we were being notified by AG office, he had filed a complaint that we did not build the structure to code, he flipped the whole thing on us, he then notified BBB which we answered and posted a complete lie on about us.

If I weren't so aggressive I would be out of business from this customer from hell. To this date he is still posting negative items about me and my company all over the internet. People like this go unpunished, and there is NOTHING TO PROTECT THE CONTRACTOR. After almost 30 years of being in business and completing over 1,000 jobs it only takes one person to destroy you and your reputation.

My experience tells me to kiss ass, bend over backwards finish the job and cut your losses.

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Terry from Construction Services in West Helena
Date/Time1/17/2013 at 2:12:19 AM

I Avoid starting anything but paperwork on the additional work, until the original part that you are currently contracted to do is finished and paid. I treat the additional work as a separate project.

If the additional work causes the original contracted job to change, then you have a 'change order'. You may have to work around the change, or stop all work while you are working out the details of the change. once you have the details worked out, write it up, and have a meeting with them after you have done your homework. Most clients simply don't understand the cost of a change. show them exactly what they are asking of you. But do not start until you have an updated agreement. (Contract = agreement)

I use things like this to refine future contracts. On this one though you will have to complete what you have already agreed to do (the honest thing to do, weather in writing or not). After that , if they do not full fill their obligations, that you have in writing, then you have legal recourse. Please pay your bills in the mean time though, even if it's from your next job. But if you have started additional work, without a contract for that work, shame on you. If it's just something small, like repainting just a closet, I might just through that in for free and not worry about it, (except for the cost of the paint, if I don't have it, I think that is fair).

Let the client purchase the paint, sink, faucet, light fixture, even the door knob. Take the client to the store even, or at least have them initial the color samples saying 'this color'. And save it, later you can say "that's the color number on the label" You may have to suck it up on this one, make your contracts more detailed on what you are agreeing to do to avoid future problems.

On getting out of this one as clean as possible, ask them about every thing. I've even asked a client which color they wanted the edge of the door painted, before it was painted just to make sure I didn't have to do it a second time. And be honest and tell them why you are asking, to make sure they are happy when you leave. Fix the existing issues, and don't bring it up to them again or they will think you are holding a grudge against them and it will probably get worse.

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