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  • Chris D'Ambra

If you think a contractor's bond will protect you, think again!

Here's a first hand account from a job we took over after an owner hired a contractor from 'Home Advisor' for a big one story addition. Yes, this really happened.

My neighbor - yes, MY neighbor - decided to add a large master bed/bath off the front of their home in Huntington Beach awhile back. However, concerned our bid might end up too high and not wanting to face me everyday after going with someone else as a result (I completely understand), they went straight to 'Home Advisor' feeling it was a trustworthy source and ended up hiring a local contractor from there.

Keeping the story short, after about midway through the job, the owner approached me one day after I got home and asked if I could come over to see something. Because their house is around the corner, I had no idea they were in the middle of this project since I never drove around that area. Well, as I round the corner I see this partially built addition. But something was strange. There were no windows, but it was drywalled inside. Odd, since that's not how things are done, especially in this city. So, making mental notes I began to inspect the work inside. The first thing that caught my attention were the yellow wires sticking out of the light boxes unstripped in the bath. First off, there's no way we would be allowed to hang drywall without the full signed off 'rough' inspections (electrical/plumbing/heating/framing), let alone missing insulation and windows. So I tugged on that yellow wire and sure enough it was coming from one of the countertop plug boxes. 'How's that supposed to work?' I thought. You see, yellow romex signifies your typical plug circuit wiring in the larger size 12 wire and white 14 for lights. Now it's not technically wrong to wire everything in 12 as long as the amperage limits are followed limiting the amount of avialable plugs per circuit, etc. But it's just not done that way. Not to mention those wall sconce lights being run through the plug.

So I told them I needed to have our electrician go through it and see if everything was actually okay here. I also needed to call the inspector to find out why it was in the state it was and if he, in fact, signed it off. Well, turns out not only did he sign it off, he also told me the reason was the contractor begged him to sign off drywall so he could collect his drywall payment due to the fact the windows were taking so long to get. Huh?

Then my electrician informed me that the entire addition and bath had been run off of a single circuit that had yet to be connected into the panel. HUH? The entire thing needed to be rewired correctly. About $9k.

Apparently most of the work, foundation, electrical, plumbing, heating, and framing, were all done by the contractor's same employees, not individual licensed contractors specializing in those specific trades. For small jobs that's okay if the contractor knows what he's doing. But for a job of this size, no way. So with that, the owner immediately fired the contractor and called the bond company to 'attack' his bond for the $15k face value in order to recoup the money they were going to need to pay to fix this mess. And that's where even I was taken back by how bad things are when you venture into that side of this business. Those bonds are supposedly there to protect you, the homeowner, for just these types of things. And yet that company (to be left anonymous) did everything they could to never pay them because they were already in the middle of fighting with one of his other screwed clients. Imagine yourself in that scenario: your home half-built and then out tens of thousands to fix his screwups with no restitution. Yes, this happened. When the CSLB finally came out, the investigator actually told me that this owner was lucky enough to have caught this early in project so as to not be in such a bad situation. Now that statement alone makes you wonder what the hell is going on out there. And he did say it's bad.

In other words, as bad as a situation my neighbor found themselves, it was nothing compared to what CSLB investigators deal with everyday. Wow. And all because you went with the cheap guy. (not so cheap, huh?)

So, we ended up finishing the job and making everything right. The city's head inspector was extremely embarrassed by it all and because of this project has made specific 'fixes' so this never happens again. That field inspector retired and felt bad for what happened but felt he was doing everyone a favor by expediting the job. (he really is a nice guy. that's one of the tragedies here) It took about a year, but I ended up testifying in the CSLB court against that other contractor who ended up having his licence revoked.

And this all only ended up this way because my neighbor saw it through and pushed to have him punished. Most just walk away and try to forget leaving others at the mercy of clowns like this guy. And after conversations with the CSLB people, sadly this happens everyday. And to this day, I still don't think my neighbor ever got any kind of payment from his bond company whose job it was to protect them.

Do your homework before you commit to ruining your life.

Chris D'Ambra

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