Dealing With Contractor Theft
LESLIE: Ooh, Beverly in Delaware is having some issues with a contractor. How can we help you?
BEVERLY: Hey, love your show.
TOM: Thank you.
LESLIE: Thanks, Beverly.
BEVERLY: Listen to it every Saturday on WDEL in Wilmington.
BEVERLY: I hired a contractor. He started a job, did it halfway, took my money and left and I haven’t seen him since.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Oh, no.
BEVERLY: The problem is my mom is 87, is moving in and I have a half of a shower – walk-in shower, 4×4 – and the plan was to put glass blocks from the top of the tiled wall to the ceiling. Is that something I can do myself to finish it off or do I have to hire someone?
TOM: Well, glass blocks are a little bit tricky because it’s kind of like setting brick. I mean you have to have a mortar and then you stack them up one at a time and that’s actually what makes the wall. So you have to do it one on top of another on top of the other, plus you have to be able to make sure that the sizing works out right because you can’t end up with half a glass block because you can’t cut them.
BEVERLY: Right. Any special way to cut them if I have to cut them?
TOM: No, actually what you want to do is design it so that you don’t have to cut them and buy the right size pieces.
TOM: Now let me ask you about this contractor that took off halfway through.
TOM: So why don’t you go to the police and file a theft charge against him?
BEVERLY: Well, I’ve been trying to deal with the attorney general’s office on the Consumer Protection and I’m playing phone tag.
BEVERLY: And so that was my next step because I just get voice-mails and no one is really helping me, even though …
TOM: Did you pay them so that, basically, they took your money and ran?
BEVERLY: Right, I paid them in increments. Part of the job was done – the demolition, the drywall, the painting, the – whatever.
BEVERLY: And so – and then I paid them to order my doors and windows. I finally took advantage of the tax rebate this year …
BEVERLY: … and I was going to get a Therma-Tru door because I’ve heard you guys talk about it so much. So I had to give them the money to get the windows and doors and of course I don’t have any of that either.
LESLIE: Oh, my God; they didn’t even order them for you?
TOM: Oh. Well, listen, if the contractor has acted in a fraudulent way like that, you can file a theft charge against them; I would check with your attorney. But generally, you can go to the police department and if they essentially take your money and run, like this guy did, that’s stealing. That’s not something that you have to necessarily go after them civilly for; you can go after them criminally. And you’ll find that even the sleaziest contractors, if they think that there’s a chance they’re going to get a criminal complaint on their record, they may settle up with you. So I think you can do both at the same time but, obviously, check with your own lawyer; I can’t give you legal advice. But I’ve done it here and I tell you, it works; it works well.
BEVERLY: So I can go to the police department and start there?
TOM: Go to the police department and try to file a theft complaint. They basically took your money and ran.
TOM: That’s theft.
TOM: Alright, that’s not a contract dispute. It’s not like they built it, you didn’t like the way it came out.
LESLIE: They stole your money.
TOM: They charged you for something, they stole your money. There’s no difference between that and somebody …
LESLIE: Walking up to you and taking your purse.
BEVERLY: I appreciate it greatly. Keep up the good work.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: That’s so crazy. I feel like it’s the one arena where people are like, “Oh, well, they took my money. I’m kind of screwed.” It’s like, no; you can do something about this.
TOM: Exactly. You’re not screwed. Theft.