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Hired a subcontractor & paid half up front. The subcontractor did a unsatisfactory job. What are my options?

OklahomaDefects

I hired a subcontractor to resurface a pool deck on a commercial property. We did not have a signed contract, only a verbal agreement. I paid half up front and agreed to pay the final payment upon completion. The subcontractor did an unsatisfactory job and the project will need to be redone. What are my options? Do I need to pay him in full? Can he file a lien on the property if I don't pay him in full? Can I ask him to redo the project to meet managements standards? If he refuses, what are my options?

2 replies

Apr 26, 2019
Sorry to hear about your situation. With any dispute over the quality of work, the best option is to reach out to the subcontractor. Sending a letter, by certified mail, providing an opportunity to cure the defective work is a good start. This should describe the work that needs to be corrected, and a timeline for them to return to the project. It should also indicate that failure to remedy the work, will result in hiring a replacement sub, and hold the first sub responsible for the additional costs incurred. This can be particularly effective when threatening specific legal actions or if sent with an attorney letterhead. As far as withholding payment, generally speaking, contractor's cannot legally withhold payments from a sub. There are very limited situations in which this is allowed, and they are typically included in a written contract. Withholding payments is a risky option considering the threat of a mechanics lien. Under Oklahoma statute, any person, under oral or written contract who provides labor or materials for the improvement of a property can file a mechanics lien. A mechanics lien can still be filed, even if there is a dispute over the quality of the work. We even wrote a whole article on this situation: Can I File a Lien If My Workmanship Is in Dispute? Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the filed lien will be valid, and it definitely doesn't mean the sub is off the hook for the poor workmanship. If a lien is eventually filed, it would mean the owner would have to fight the lien and raise the workmanship issues to dispute the claim. If all else fails, going to small claims court or filing lawsuit against the sub may ultimately be the best option to recover any damages. For future projects, you may find this article helpful; 3 Ways to Deal with a Non-Performing Subcontractor. Good luck!
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Jan 20, 2021

Thanks Alex for that explanation. Either way it's a bad situation for both parties involved. It has been my experience as a contractor, if I go as far as filing a lien then I'm confident that I can prove my case . Here are some examples of jobs that I did that the client wasn't happy and refused to pay and I filed lien confidentiality. We poured black 1' wide concrete bands with a rock salt finish. The insides were stamped concrete. The customer complained that the rock salt was not washed out of the concrete and was turning it white. Well that was not the reason it was due to efflorescence. Which is common to most masonry surfaces. Another example would be the customer wants to overlay a busted up patio instead of tearing it out and replacing it. I make sure to outline what is and isn't covered in the contract. And what is and isn't garunteed as well. Biggest complaint is overlay color doesn't match existing patio. Two different types of materialtwo different type ways mixed and applied. Color can not be garunteed and should be careful when choosing colors because they are ball park at most. It's been my experience if the contractor filesa lein then he or she is pretty sure they can win. And that is especially true if the customer isn't a contractor or in the construction field. For example an architect can draw blueprints and all the specs but he doesn't know how to go out and apply all of that in the field whereas a journeyman cement Mason can read blueprints and install it but doesn't have a clue to how to draw blueprints. I would say be prepared for the long haul. 

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