I finished a large (for us) remodel for a large bank. The contractor said the check would be a couple of weeks. Now six weeks later the contractor is not answering or returning my calls, texts and emails. What should I do? We're in Washington State.
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor T:
Call a lawyer. Sometimes a well written note on lawyers letterhead is all thatís needed. Otherwise make his life miserable - lien, civil court, etc until itís not worth it anymore. Then forget about it, as hard as that maybe. Don't let one guy sour you when the next big job comes in.
Once back in the 80's I was in your situation and called the architect to ask about the money flow. Turned out the contractor had not listed me as a payee. He had obtained lein releases from all the other subs and simply left me off. The architect gave me the phone number of the guy who was writing a big check in a few days. I called the contractor and told him that if there wasn't someone waiting at my shop the next day with full payment I knew who to call. The next morning a man who had driven 80 miles to get there before me paid me in full! Sometimes you just need to find where the money is. Try to be sure he isn't in the hospital!
You do have a signed contract, right? If so have they breached the terms of that contract? Again take a look at what it says, carefully. Study it, and consider it from their viewpoint as well. You have to know exactly what both parties are obligated to do before you start to go any further with this. If youíre going to make demands, or negotiate, know your stuff. Have the facts in hand - period. If you did not have a contract you will say one thing, and they will claim otherwise. There will be no documentation of what you agreed to in the first place. If this is the case, good luck.
2. Is there a reason why they may be withholding payment? Has the work been signed off on, and accepted as complete? If not get something in writing ASAP that says it is. Get someone to acknowledge that you completed your job, and that they are satisfied. The contractor may very well try to claim later on that there were problems, and defects.
3. Have you sent them an actual invoice/bill or just tried to text or call them?
Forget the text messages, phone calls emails, etc. A voicemail does not provide documentation that you billed the client, or asked for payment. Send an invoice and letter via certified mail. Ask for payment. Once again, what does your contract say? Remind the client what he agreed to when he signed the contract, and what his obligations are.
4. Given that you are six weeks out, I think you need to sit down and consult with an attorney. You will probably want to begin the process of filing a Lien. This is not a time for DIY legal work, as you don't want to be caught with your pants down later with procedural mistakes or loopholes when the contractor gets a real lawyer who is trained to rip people like you or myself to shreds.