Nighmare Contractor Stories


Fat plumberDo you have a nightmare contractor story you would like to share? I would love to hear it. Leave your story in the comment section below or submit your story via email on the Contact Us page.

It seems that almost every week I hear another nightmare contractor story from clients. The “best” story lately was from homeowners who hired a landscape contractor to work on their yard. The contractor convinced them to pay the bid amount up front and promised them the job would be done in two weeks. After receiving the full bid amount from the homeowners, the contractor walked with their money and did none of the work. At that point the homeowners contacted the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and the State Division of Professional Licensing only to find that the contractor had numerous complaints and no contractor’s license. When I asked them why they hadn’t taken legal action they said that they felt embarrassed by their mistake and fearful what the contractor would do if they brought legal actions. They lost thousands of dollars in this exchange. I felt bad for these homeowners and this is a heartbreaking story, but there are a number of things that they did wrong in their interaction with what I would call a “dirtbag” contractor. Contractors like this reflect on all of us in the industry and it upsets me that someone like this would take advantage of hard working honest people.

When dealing with contractors let me offer you a few tips:

  • Check with your family, neighbors, and co-workers to see if they know a good contractor who does the type of work you need. If you see work that you are impressed with ask the owner who did the work and if they were happy with the contractor. In my mind this is the best way to find a good contractor.
  • When you find a contractor check with the BBB to see if there are complaints.
  • Check the standing of the contractor with your state’s Division of Professional Licensing.
  • Never pay the contractor more than 1/2 of the bid amount up front.
  • Don’t pay the remaining balance of the bid or contract price until you are happy with the results. This is the only leverage you have over the contractor. Good contractors will try to make you happy and do things right, they value their reputation.
  • Don’t let the contractor get the hook in and leave you hanging. What this means is some contractors will get a job, get half in advance, start the job, and then leave you to find more work. What are you going to do? You are on the hook. On the flip side, most contractors have multiple jobs going at once, and problems and delays are a reality of doing business for them. But good contractors will keep you updated with what their schedule is. I find in my business that customers understand this but just want the courtesy of knowing what is going on.
  • If the contractor is working by the hour, get a ballpark price if you can.
  • Remember, stuff happens. Problems arise that neither you nor the contractor has anticipated. A good contractor will thoroughly explain this to you and will explain what additional materials and labor are needed to correct the problem.
  • Even with a checklist there is a chance you could get a bad contractor. My advice here is to go with your gut. If you have an uneasy or ambivalent feeling about a contractor, don’t do it, keep looking.

So thanks in advance for taking the time to leave your “Nightmare Contractor Story” and I can’t wait to read it.

 Posted by at 4:21 pm

  26 Responses to “Nighmare Contractor Stories”

  1. I live in Fullerton and hired an Indian contractor Ashok (Ash) office in Artesia to add one room and a bathroom. I had no such experience and did not do much home work before hiring him; my wife’s friend referenced him. One thing that I did well was that wrote all the work in an email with titled contract, put the contract price and asked him to agree with it which he did. I specifically wrote that all work will be according to the Fullerton city code. He said he has the license and per contract he will do the work according to the city code. Well, he did not even start the base with city code (he was thinking he will finish it without permit) and now the work that he did, city is not approving it. He is also telling me now that he don’t have license, he is using his friend’s license to pull the permit. It is almost 10 month now and work is almost 40% complete and that is too without city approval. I have paid him 84% already (have the hard copy receipt) but he says he cannot do more work because his business is down, I should pay him full. I feel helpless because if i go to the court and win the case, i will still not receive my money because they pay in very small installments. Don’t know what to do?

    • Don’t pay him anymore money! I would have a talk with the city to see what your options are. If you try to take him to go he’ll probably simply go out of business. Bad situation, let me know what happens.

  2. We are in shock that we too, have become victims of a bad contractor. Our bad contractor is still working in Wisconsin and feels that he has done nothing wrong. We are heartbroken… Here is our story in a letter that I just sent him.

    January 23, 2015

    Dear Mr. Rick Duggan,

    I hope this letter finds you well and that you have had some time to reflect on the conversation you and I had on Wednesday, January 21. I want to ask you again to search your heart and conscience to do the right thing. I am not saying that you did anything intentionally and from reading your bio on the America’s Best Home Remodeling website, you and your family certainly appear to have good character and worth ethic.
    In 2008, my husband and I had saved up enough money to finish our very small basement in our home. We were stationed at Fort Carson and he was deployed to Iraq. We found the Owens Corning basement finishing system and decided it would be a great fit for our small basement. We felt so comfortable working with America’s Best Home Remodelers because of the professionalism of everyone we spoke to. L.D. Jones treated us kindly and explained everything so well. My husband was only home for his short 2 weeks of R and R when we signed everything and decided to spend all of our savings and the small amount of extra deployment money to complete this project. We were so happy to have it done.
    I have attached copies of our paperwork. As you can see we were told about the permit process, the fees, and I even remember being told by the installer that he could not finish putting up the rest of the wall panels until the electrical was looked at by an inspector. You can imagine our surprise, 7 years later, when we are in the process of selling our home and are told by the potential buyer’s inspector that our basement has no permits. I was certain it was a mistake. I called the Pikes Peak Regional Building Office and they told me the same, NO permits were ever pulled for the basement. They asked me who it was that completed the work and when they looked up American Best Home Remodelers they could not find any records or history of the company ever being licensed. I was in absolute shock! You hear about people falling victim to bad contractor and have even see them do stories on the news and TV shows on this and yet I never thought this could ever happen to us.
    Mr. Duggan, we are a military family. My husband is in the Army with 11 years of service in and, up to this point, 3 year-long deployments. I was a teacher and I am now taking some time off to raise our two young boys. Sir, we are not a wealthy family. We are selling our home and praying to break even. We will never see the $29,000 we paid for our basement back because of the housing crash. I realize none of this is your problem. However, your company lied to us. Your company did not properly and ethically complete a job. I know the company no longer exists, but you and your reputation and your character do. You sir, should be responsible for the cost of the permits. Our JAG office has told us that you are also responsible for any repairs that an inspector may find if the basement was not completed to code. While we do not think that it was poorly done, we are not professionals in this area. We are asking for the $1156.00 (4% of the basement cost, as stated in the invoice as the cost of the permits).
    I was shocked by the anger and lack of sympathy from you when we spoke on the phone. I could not believe the way you dismissed any type of responsibility for the situation and the angry words and tone is your voice. I should be angry and mean, not you sir. I pray that now in your nephew’s business you are doing the work properly and legally and that no one else falls victim to cut corners and heartache that you have caused us. I hope to hear from you with a better resolution to this than you just hanging up the phone on me and leaving me feeling like nothing. Please find it in your heart to do right by us.


    Ana Rossol

    • Hi Ana. Thanks for posting your story even though it must be painful for you. Did you ever hear back from the contractor or recover any of the costs?

  3. Hi my name is john.of srinklers 4 less me and my brothers are sprinkler con i dont understand that when we – cont go 2 a house 2 do sprinkler work y people are so cheep when it comes 2 there lawn and thay live in real nice houses

    • Hi John, You can never guess what customers will want or what they’re willing to spend money on (wealthy or not).

  4. my name is john kosheluk i am starting a sprinkler repair buss with my brother i will never f a coustmer if i cant make it to a job when a comstomer wants i will try my hardest to i allso work for a car dealer f time in sirvice i am not a saiilsman i deal with coustmers evey day and treat them like i would like to b traeted i think if a coustmer feeles happy with u you will get repit buss


  6. Do you have a Facebook page or Twitter? Would love to follow you there, I’m on my iPhone and love reading your stuff!

  7. We had a contractor put in our sprinklers, good price, and we requested all spray heads because our pressue in this neighborhood is so bad. Now after he was done and collected his money can’t get him to come back and fix the problems. There are areas the sprinklers arent evne reaching, I told him that and he said to wait, the runoff water would take care of it, well its been very dry here and no better. He did come back and put all 18′ nozzles on one zone and that still doesnt get it all, there are places they head are 25 foot apart…and he guaranteed me in writing, head to head coverage. Now he doesnt seem to want to be bothered with putting in more head or fixing the problem, just keeps telling me and my neighbor, who had them done when we did, to just increase the time on the zones. Also he gives a “lifetime warranty” providing you use his services to service your sprinklers startup and shut down, which I had no problem with because someone has to do it….BUT…if I fight with the guy and he never comes back where my warranty????? I told my wife maybe he fights with people so he doesnt have to come back and then breaks their warranties. All i know is Im about to go to the BBB and the State of Illinois that licenses these irrigation contractors about this, I also put 1/3 of the money on my charge card just in case of this problem, should I go after him thru the bank? Please tell me what you think, even thou they have only been in 6 weeks or soI am getting sick of calling, emailing and not getting any satisfaction. Thank you!

    • I’m angry just reading your story. It’s contractors like this that reflect on all of us in the industry. There are so many problems here, I don’t know where to start. First I would absolutely stop the 1/3 payment on your credit card from being paid. It’s the only leverage you have on the contractor. Also, follow up with Division of Professional Licensing in your state and the BBB about your problem with the contractor. In my state contractors should warranty the installation for at least a year. When I do an installation, if something I installed fails, I will replace it free. My goal is customer satisfaction and that doesn’t seem to be the case with your contractor. So my initial advice is to see if you can get the contractor back and make the adjustments necessary until you are satisfied. If this doesn’t happen you may have to cut your losses and move on. I call it the aggravation factor. Life is too short to spend all of your time trying to get something from this contractor that isn’t going to be delivered. He’s not responding to your complaints and odds are he won’t.
      Next the design flaws in your installation are staggering. For the installer to tell you to let the system “flood” the dry areas approaches gross incompetence. Most sprinkler spray heads water a 15′ radius, and to achieve 50% spacing the heads in your yard shouldn’t be spaced any more that 15′ apart. This provides even watering if the sprinkler nozzles have MPR’s (Matched Precipitation Rates). From your comment, it appears you have heads 25′ apart. Without knowing the flow capabilities (gpm) and working pressure (psi) of your system, it’s hard for me to suggest many possible solutions.
      One possible solution would be to retrofit the spray heads with small rotors that will water 25′. They can be nozzled down to use the same or less water that your spray heads use. You would need 25-30 psi for these rotors to work. 50 psi is even better. The next option would be to add in a pump to increase the pressure delivered to your system. This is a pricier option.
      If you want to send me some design information like you pipe size and static water pressure, I might be able to come up with more suggestions.
      Anyway, let me know what happens and good luck.

      • Some of our heads in the back are closer than 15′ and they still don’t reach each other because of our pressure issue, he told me large heads was a waste of water and that we didnt need them… he changes them anyway…strange. I guess he’s so busy installing he has no time for service, which is sad because I liked the guy and trustedd him but he just doesnt want to take the time to come back, I told him he needs to come at 6:00am when they are going, with all the neighborhood ones going and see everything for himself, that to me would be logical, but can’t get him to do it, I even emailed him some pictures I took and no response. Now if I go to someone else and it needs more heads I will have to pay who knows how much money to have this done, money I have already spent for his installation….sad situation.

        • If you get a chance, send me a little more information and maybe I can make some suggestions. Is your sprinkler on culinary (city) or irrigation? What is your water pressure? Do you know the pipe size of the sprinkler? Do you know your water meter size if your sprinkler supply is on city water?

    • Still can’t get him to come back, at least not when Im home, he came and replaced the nozzles all to 18 foot ones in the rear but they still do not reach the dry spots, now when that zone goes on, and theres only 5 sprays on that zone, they only go halfway up, I have to go out and pull them up the rest of the way. He told me to increase the watering times, which I had already done and it did not work, of course because the heads are spaced too far apart, even for the biggest nozzles because if they ran at full pressure I dont think they would reach each other, but when everyone in our neighborhood is watering at the same time, they only go out about 3’….which I told him about all this when it was installed that is why I went with all spray heads instead of rotors. The sad thing is if I push him, and I have no problem doing this, then I might as well kiss our guarantee goodbye, because he will not service us in the spring and fall, and he guaranteed lifetime warranty if he did all the service, having said that, maybe he aggravates people enough so he doesnt have to come back and service them, then he gets rid of them as problems and also gets rid of the warranty of “lifetime” that he told us we have. I questioned him on head to head coverage and he said that did not mean each head had to reach each other….I always thought it did because he gave me a paper where he guarantees head to head coverage. It would be so easy for him to just come and put in 4-5 more heads and that would solve it but for some reason he doesnt want to do it. He gave me an argument after he put these in and I called him back telling me he has done over 1000 installations….which I told him meant nothing to me because I was a former police officer and made 3000 arrests but that doesnt mean they were all good! In other words he isnt capable of making mistakes I guess. Our neighbor next door got rotors and he did both of ours together and he has alot of areas that are dry too. First he emails me telling me he will call me to come and look at the system, next thing I know I email him and he tells me he came, no one was home but he changed out the nozzles, which he knows did not work. What is a person to do? I would like to go against his license here in Illinois but I dont know who holds that, I guess a certified letter to him first, followed by the BBB and then finally my credit card rescintion and mayeb then he would do something….but then do you trust him or not then….I dont know the answer to that one. Thanks for your help.

      • So he’s threatening not to guarantee a sprinkler system that doesn’t work in the first place. Amazing! Without knowing more details, It sounds like you have major flow and pressure problems. These should have been addressed in the initial design. If they weren’t addressed and it sounds like they weren’t, changing nozzles won’t cure the underlying pressure and flow problems. You are correct though, do you even want him back to correct the problems and you do have major problems. Keep me posted.

        • Im not saying he said that but if you think about it why would you give a guarantee and then not service the customer??? Especially if you just put them in, we are in a large housig area and this neighborhood has always had pressure problems, they put in another main a few years ago but people saw no improvement, like I said that is why I wanted alot of zones and spray heads instead of rotors. It is city water but I dont know the size of the piping, he measured hte pressure when he put it in but it was at the time of day when nobody had their water running or their sprinklers on so naturally it would be high. My neighbor said his came up the other day (he has rotors) and when his wife flushed the toilet they went down an inch or so, amazing. Im not saying he threatened not to gurantee it, I’m saying I feel that is what will happen when I push the issue, which will have to be done, sad people cannot due the job right in the first place and spend the time needed to get the thing right. He has the heads in the back on the property line about 20″ apart and are not reaching each other, those are the ones he said should run down and get what the heads arent watering, doesnt happen. I think it is the basis for a small claims court lawsuit because I have the written email that he says they guarantee head to head coverage. I guess what it boils down to is that he said its fine the way it is and I saw it needs more heads….which anyone can see from the brown areas its not reaching, even our lawn guys commented on where they werent reaching. He told me by only putting 5 heads on a zone and 9 zones that even with the lowest pressure they should still work. Also, alot of our heads are crooked, when you look at them they lean to one side, which I dont think should be either, also there not in a straight line either, which I could live with that, my wife insisted he straighten one in the backyard because it was leaning so much and after 3 times he finally did straighten it up….go figure people. Whats sad about it is I recommended him to our next door neighbors andas I said we had them both done together, now I feel bad because they cant get the guy either. Sad case.The theres the thought of having to pay someone else to come back and put in more heads at MORE expense than I paid to even put the system in, if I could even get someone to do that, I would think most people would not want to mess with a system someone else installed, especially wihtout the added expense.

        • I measured in the backyard near where the areas are not getting watered and there are 3 heads, one is 24′ from the other and the next one is 29′ from the other one, there are other ones in the grass not on theedge as these are that I think are suppose to help these but they don’t reach that area either. I think what I am going to have to do is mail a certified letter stating all the problems, give them a date to respond by, and then if they are not fixed to our satisfaction do three things, file a complaint with our Village, a complaint with the BBB and a complaint withe the State against his irrigation licensure. I think we will try to get an independant sprinkler outfit, pay them, and have them give us a written opinion on what this system is lacking and the problems it has, then we would have another “professionals” jist of it…..What do you think???? Just sad people make you do this.

          • Sounds like a good plan. I think you need to also arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge. You need to know what’s going on with your sprinkler so you can intelligently decide what your next steps will be. The pressure and flow problems need to be identified so that whoever “fixes” your sprinkler system knows what they’re up against, and you know what they’re doing is correct. Buy a $5 pressure gauge and test your pressure. Test when everyone is watering and when no one is watering. If you don’t have a pressure reducer in the house you can test from one of the taps running out of the house. Look in a valve box and see what your pipe size is. My guess is it will be 3/4″ or 1″. If its 1/2″ you have major problems right there. Send me the information and I’ll help you decide what to do. Read my post on Flow,Velocity, and Friction loss to help you understand what’s going on with your sprinkler. Good luck and keep me posted.

          • I think its 1″ pipe. My wife talked to him Saturday he was down the street putting in a system and he told us ours works fine, that the areas of brown we are seeing were from our dog…..but he cant even get to those areas on his leash….he alsosaid he thought he has gone “above and beyond” the call to service us and that if he had to come back again he was going to start charging us…..hard to believe. My wifes old boss owns a large sprinkler company and we are hopipng to have them come, look at the system, see what it needs and get it working right, I told her I think we’re better off done with him because I wouldnt trust him now to work on the system anyway, very sad situation, I could go after the some of the money I paid him because I used my credit card just for that reason but I dont think we’re going to do that, hopefully my wifes friends place can come and do whats needed whether it be switching heads, nozzles, pressure etc, and correct the couple problems we have…what an experience.

          • It looks like you have had an experience with a “Contractor from Hell.” I would hold up the credit card amount and tell him you’ll release that amount when your sprinkler system works. But then you have to deal with him again, so it’s a hard call. Let me know what happens. KT

    • if i was u i would take him to the bbb a f him like he is f u he did the job he should make it rigt at your conv becouse u put up with all his sh john kosheluk sprinklers 4 less

  8. I have a nightmare contractor story! As a single woman, I think contractors really try to take advantage of the fact that I am the sole decision maker and they can certainly tell that I know nothing about whatever it is they’re trying to sell me! My first story involves the main sewer line going out into the street from my 1922 bungalow that I purchased in 2007. I kept having to call the plumber to unclog the line every few months and then they put a camera inside the line and showed me what the problem was and why it was recurring. They came back to me with 3 solutions and convinced me to go with the most expensive solution ($12,000) because then I would be set for life. Of course, after the work was done, the paperwork said that the work was guaranteed for five years. At that point, I was so frustrated, however, that I was willing to do almost anything. I put it on a credit card, which I’m still paying off. Subsequently, I’ve had to have my AC unit cleaned and my hot water heater replaced. I am convinced that I paid too much each time because I panicked in the moment. Of course, those items usually break down in the middle of something, like the heat of summer with the AC or preparing Thanksgiving dinner in the case of the water heater. They have you over a barrel, especially when they make you feel ever so grateful that they are available to come out on a holiday! Anyway, I just wanted to write this as a warning to other single women out there! Call a friend that you trust, keep calm and don’t over react and over pay like I did!

    • Great story! A lot of contractors seem to take advantage of people when they are in a bind. It reflects on all of us in the industry which is unfortunate.

    • hello patricia my name john kosheluk i am a sprinkler contractor i am statring a sprinkler repair buss with my brother i work 4 a car dealer in fl ft i hear a lot of bad things about contractors not living up to there word i am a person who stands by there word and i will never f a customer as to you being a single woman to me that should not matter u shud b treated the same i know u have probley herd this before but i can only speak for my self

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