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Contractor is withhold part of final payment claiming we didn't complete the full scope of work

New JerseyBack Charges

I'm an electrical contractor and worked as a sub for a GC on a public project for a housing authority. Full disclosure, the GC and I had a falling out and we refuse to work with him after completion of this project. We completed the project and when he sent us the final lien release for our retainage payment, he advised he was withholding money because we did not install a water heater control panel. He claimed he had to bring another electrician in to complete the work. 1. No where on any of the contract documents is a water heater control panel shown. It is shown as a single point connection on all drawings, which we did. 2. The submittal for the model of the water heater used does not show it needs a control panel, or that a control panel is even an option. 3. We were never notified that a HWH control panel was needed. Therefore, we never had a chance to submit a change order. If this was change order work, then it would be above our contract amount and he still could not back charge us for something that was not on the drawings to complete. 4. If this work was complete, do I have the right to see if an additional permit was taken out? Our permit had one control panel for the boiler. The boiler control panel we did install. I do not want to be held accountable for any work associated with the HWH control panel. 5. I have been working with the housing authority to help straighten this out. Their representative met with the engineer that stated a HWH control panel is standard and we should have assumed there would be one, even though it is not mentioned on any contract drawings. They are also claiming we didn't connect the boilers to the generator. (This is the first time I'm hearing about this.) The drawings show a new panel being installed for the boilers, which we did, and that panel fed to a distribution panel. That is where our work ends. There is no mention of doing anything to connect to an existing generator. I honestly feel like I'm being gaslighted here. I'm trying to have a meeting directly with the engineer, but it seems that he doesn't want to admit to any sort of wrongdoing, but the principal of the matter is that I whole heartedly believe we are owed that money and the GC is trying to stick it to us because we had a falling out. I don't know if I have any hope here because the engineer is backing the GC up with inaccurate claims. Is there anything else I can do?

2 replies

Nov 14, 2022
You definitely have potential options to put pressure on the owner and GC. You may possibly have a right to file a public works construction lien depending on how far out you are from your last date of work. Also, a lawsuit may need to be filed to really move things along and get the GC and owner reps talking about resolving your lack of payment. But that must be balanced against the total value of your overall claim, because there will be legal costs associated with any lawsuit. Please feel free to call me to discuss further this week.
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Nov 29, 2022

Thank you for your response. I received a copy of the approved submittal for the water heater and there is no mention of a control panel in the sumittal. As far as the contract documents go, we completed our scope of work. I understand it's not much he is backcharging but I'm willing to do the work and put in my time to try to fight it. You are correct that the legal fees would not be worth the $1,000 he is withholding. I'm trying to set up a site meeting next week to confirm the heaters installed and see if there even is a water heater control panel installed. I sent a notice of intent today to the GC, the owner, and the bonding company via levelset. Our last day worked on the project was April 2022. I don't know exactly when the GC received final payment, but he sent us a lien release on September 26, 2022. With all the documentation I gathered to support my claim and the fact that he has provided no documentation to support his, I think he is outright lying about the panel in question and just trying to short us money.  

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