The Scam - Part Three
So, back to the document diving. Here's the last part of the scam: Get Out of Dodge. As soon as Contractor A realized that waving numbers around was not working any more (I'm working on a detailed post about the number shell game he was playing, but it is understandably complicated and taking a while to write), he began trying to get us to sign a waiver and release of liability. I mean, the man owned his business as a d/b/a, with no liability protection for himself (he's since incorporated).
Here we are on April 8, he's still trying to get us to accept his assertion that he'd given us a written notice of the alleged conditions under the house (and keep in mind that there was absolutely nothing concealed about those conditions, so he didn't really have a basis for giving us a notice). He even asserts that we have signed that we received that notice, though of course we had not.
When we continued to resist the idea that we had to pay to fix damage he'd caused, he began trying to get us to sign a second contract, one that included this gem:
We've been contacted by several other people who he scammed over the years, and apparently he's very big on getting people to release him from liability when he's screwed up. (One reason why we're convinced he's more scam artist than contractor.)
He offered this to us as if it were a great protection for us, releasing us from liability to... him.
And every time he gave us a quote for something, it always included a little attempt to sneak in a liability waiver. Like somehow we were not aware that there was a huge amount of damage he'd caused under our house and we'd just let that one slide.
I show you all these contracts and attempts to releases from liability to let you know: somebody who has screwed up is not going to help you out. They're just going to try to cover their own butt.
This guy played on our inherent niceness. We were open and honest with him, and when things were hard, we told him so, because why the heck would we not trust this guy? We'd chosen him as our contractor because we knew there would be a lot of work to do on the house and we wanted to find a general contractor we could work with for years, doing things like repairing this or that, and eventually doing the addition on the back.
But the big screwup he made was not destroying the soil under our house -- though we're stuck with the effects of that forever, and it has changed the value of our house for the worse (we can no longer extend the basement under the front of the house as we had planned). The screwup he made was that early on we would have been willing to be more flexible and generous with him, but when he started all this stuff, we lost the ability to be flexible. If we had accepted any of this, he would have fleeced us. In fact, I think it was clear, by the end, that he'd intended to fleece us all along.
These letters and contracts and change orders he sent us, they are all part of a body of evidence that he was not capable of performing the original contract for the amount of money he'd quoted us.
And when we told him he'd used up all the money we had, he suggested some other ways to get money: a home equity loan, he said, would help us get money to finish the job. Except that we'd gotten a home equity loan to do the job in the first place. Well, how about if he made us a second mortgage on the house (in which he shows that he doesn't know what a second mortgage is, but no matter). When we said we didn't want to do that because it was too risky for him (the loan would actually be unsecured, because we had no equity in the house), he said, "I'd like a house in Alameda, but foreclosing on you is not how I planned to get one."
Wait -- did he just tell us his whole plan was to try to scam us out of our house?
Eventually it became clear that he thought we'd been dishonest with him all along, as we told him exactly how much money we had and that there was no more. He seemed to think he could do to us when he'd done to somebody else -- turn a $100,000 job into a $300,000 job just by snowing us with change orders. I guess if you live in Richmond, Alameda seems pretty posh, but dude, at the time of the foundation job there was a crack house three doors down from us; our neighborhood has a heart of gold, but is has terrible skin.
So he walked off the job, claiming breach on our part (though he never did countersue, so I guess he knew that was a dead end), and then the real bullying began.
posted by ayse on 04/19/10