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Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
I'd like to start off with a post I saw at another forum:

"I'm trying to transition from union JW to contractor. Just finished a commercial garage under handyman license, $500 limit. After 50 hours I thought this wasn't right. The property owner kept promising me lots of work with other properties, got me for 2 more projects without pay, then complained angrily that I better finish faster, since the tenants were already moving in.

Owner refused to authorize me to PU permits, or request inspection, but agreed to let a C-10 check my work. Owner cried over C-10 charging $160 for 2 hours, and hit up new tenants for cost of new electrical panels, T-8 fluorescents and several other items.

These commercial garages were gutted & wrecked. Prior evictions ripped out all the conduit, fixtures, and pluming. I called the city and found out if the inspector showed up, everything would have been red tagged, and the new tenant (friend of the family) would not have had to pay a dime.

Needless to say the property owner did not appreciate me disclosing this to the tenant, who then demanded to deduct those charges from his rent. So, the owner did not give me more work at other properties, but did disclose to me they just gave another hack $24000 because, they said, paying me little chunks under $500 per project was too time consuming and annoying to them.

I am now trying to get my experience voucher from this owner, for the CSLB, so I could test for my license next year, but this is like pulling teeth without any leverage."

I see at least three basic business lessons in that post. Since I don't want to do ALL the talking .... who out there can name them?

(BTW, where this guy is working, jobs under $500 do not require a contractors' license. Testing for the license requires you document journeyman level work for five years - with affidavits from the customers or employers. Let's not get personal, even if you recognize the post).

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Did I also see where this "other Post" was locked at another forum.
Second post was "this has train-wreck written all over it"

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Cat Servant
Yes, you did, Doug. I thought our business forum was a good place to guess at the contents of every car in that train laugh

Joined: Apr 2002
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Working without permits.
Working for 'hours' instead of a decent wage?
Living in a fantasy world of 'more work to come'.
Possible conflict; working for owner & 'friend of family' is tenant and sharing info?

50 hours on job & owner complains not fast enough? Was the <$500 for the 50 hrs??

Makes me happy that NJ does not have 'graduated' licenses

Joined: May 2003
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Actually I think that other forum locks the threads at a certain age. anything over a year seems to get closed.

Joined: Sep 2002
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He is violating the law.. Breaking up the job into $500.00 chunks is not allowed in CA.(Max $500 labor AND mat.)

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Cat Servant
And I guess there's a business lesson in there.

Being 'clever' ... by having the customer break the job into small chunks ... and what does he get? "Paying little chunks ... was too time consuming."

Personally, I think that's all eyewash. What the customer meant was 'I don't like paying you as the job progresses; thet limits my opportunity to screw with you."

Ditto with the permit issue. He can't pull a permit, since he's not licensed; he's counting on the "homeowner" pulling the permit. As a result, he doesn't have the final inspection to dangle in front of the customer, to ensure payment. Yet, if there is any fault with his work, he still bears full liability.

Simply put, he has worked so hard to get around the laws ... and his efforts have only helped the customer - and worked against his own interests.

Joined: Jan 2003
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LK Offline
"Personally, I think that's all eyewash. What the customer meant was 'I don't like paying you as the job progresses; thet limits my opportunity to screw with you."

You don't understand, the owner has lots of work, and if you just bend over, he will give give it to you.

Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 36
One of my favorite purged remarks seems applicable here:
Originally Posted by mdshunk
* There is a certain group of people who don't like governmental interference, and it gives them great pleasure to hire unlicensed people

Whatever the attraction to undocumented labor, unlicensed handymen, exploited internships, expendable apprenticeships / temps, and perhaps family members, little can rival the primal exchange surrendered by indentured servitude.

The exception with civilized Owner/Builders in Germany, may come from that country's strict record keeping for taxes, severe fines for meter tampering (changes in demand), and public notices for the prosecuted, village idiots.

Without similar regulation, contractors in the lawless Owner/Builder world must try harder to adapt to the wild, or try harder to prevaricate.

Roger Ramjet
Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
Interesting perspective. FWIW, I've know two folks who made 'getting away from governemnt' major principles in their lives; their refusal to do things like file wills led to the government getting 100% of their meager assets when they passed on. Kind of ironic; they sure beat the system!

Though it can certainly seem like it as we prepare our year-end tax accounting, government is not a one-way street. For the contractor, playing by the rules means:
1) He can file liens, thus getting paid;
2) He can sue -and collect- , thus getting paid; and,
3) He pulls the permit, removing the customer from the decision, again helping him to get paid (no pay, no inspection, it all gets shut down).

There are advantages for the customer, as well. These include:
1) Some evidence - the license and bond - that the contractor has the minimum competence and stability;
2) An independent party - the inspector - to help ensure work is done properly; and,
3) Some additional resources should the job go bad.

I'd also like to point out that 'government' is not just some anonymous bureaucracy. In many ways, our contracts govern our work. Absent a clear contract, a job can be too easily mired in confusion and dispute.

The lack of a contract, spelling out the scope of the work and the schedule, was another of the basic errors in the situation that led to this thread being started. Have a contract. Get those change orders signed. Get it in writing.
Finally, make sure you can enforce the contract. If you do not have the required licenses and permits, the courts will not be interested in enforcing it.

As our victim also found, there also exists a certain group of people who seek out weak or illegitimate contractors for exploitation. They never have any intention of paying for the work, or plan to squeeze as much out of you as they can. Nothing is ever done well enough; no price is ever low enough.

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