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Shoddy contractor threatening to file lien on work he admitted to doing incorrectly. Don't homeowners have protection against thihs quality of workmanship?

WisconsinPayment Disputes

We purchased a cabin Fall of 2017. Spring of 2018 we had basement flooding. I hired, who claimed to be, an experienced waterproofing company to do some outside excavating and install drain tile around the inside perimeter of the basement. Initial visit they forgot to roll ruts out of lawn, second visit they only rolled ruts out of one side of yard. They have ignored three additional request to roll the entire lawn so mower does not get hung up. Still very difficult to mow. They did not follow instructions to tear our old cement sidewalk and instead poured a new sidewalk by adding to the old. I asked them for a second face to face so that they understood directions and to have redo supervised. To busy to come and asked me to draw a map. Still did it wrong. Instead of 12" of old concrete now there is only two. I did not ask them to do over a third time. Shoddy contractor recommended a 2" 'skim coat' of cement in order to improve esthetic of basement floor after perimeter was dug out. Discovered the original floor is only 2 - 3 inches thick They used overly wet cement mix with no expansion joints cut. Cracks form shattered glass appearance with high and low spots. When asked about excessive cracking, they claim this is normal. When asked why they did not cut expansion joints they said "Had we followed Redi Mix guy's instructions, we would have had to make cuts every four feet.' I have asked no less than 10 other cement contractors for their opinion. They all agree it was shoddy workmanship and unacceptable. They say it should be tore out to correct. Shoddy contractor feels that joint filler is the answer and does not want to tear out. Isn't that like putting duct tape on a broken window? I don't feel that this is reasonable as it does not cure the issue. They have had to redo every part of project. I put half down but am refusing last half of payment as I am told it will cost more than I owe to repair ($8000). I have now been sent a letter that they intend to file lien. I feel I have given them the right to cure. Obviously, they are not skilled in this area. They have refused face to face meetings to discuss all failures and I do not want to waste any more time with them. They belittle me and suggest I complain about everything. Well, I have! Very poor quality work! The floor needs to be replaced but I am not willing to pay for failed work that was done incorrectly. Can I file a claim against their insurance? Can I have work redone by someone else and bill them for a similar replacement? Please advise.

1 reply

Dec 6, 2018
I'm very sorry to hear about that. First, I should mention that I won't be able to provide you with legal advice on this situation - but I can provide some relevant information that should help you make your own determinations on the issue! Further, before getting into specifics, this article gives some insight into an owner's options once a lien has been filed: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now? Regarding the ability to lien when there's a dispute over the quality of work - mehchanics liens can be filed even where the workmanship is in dispute. We discuss that idea in this article: Can I File A Lien If My Workmanship Is In Dispute? Of course, that does not necessarily mean the filed lien will be valid - and it doesn't mean that a contractor is off the hook for poor workmanship. If filed, it would just mean that the property owner would have to fight the lien and raise the workmanship issues themselves in an effort to combat the filed lien. Regarding a claim on their insurance - if the contractor is licensed and bonded, making a claim against the contractor's bond and filing a complaint with their licensing board could be an effective way to recoup some payment and excise some punishment on the contractor. Further, merely threatening to do so could also help convince a contractor to drop the issue or to go back and correct faulty work considering the potential penalties and expenses involved. Of course, this could also just add fuel to the fire of the dispute. As far as fending off a lien claim and trying to convince a contractor to either drop the issue or fix the work - sending a demand letter specifying legal threats if the contractor decides to file a lien claim can be effective to deter potential lien claimants, especially when sent via an attorney. Plus, considering the amounts at hand, it might be a good idea to at least do an initial consultation with a local construction attorney to get a clearer picture of potential avenues and advice on how to proceed.
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