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paying a contractor for work not finished

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I am having a new deck built and bought all the materials, etc. After the first weekend I was asked for $1000.00 so this young man could pay his rent. The following weekend, he didn't show up, after many calls, he finally called me back mid-week, apoligized and said he would be here with "help". They worked Memorial Day weekend and again he asked for money to pay his help. Well, needless to say, I have overpaid him $1293.00, he would not return my calls (cell) and he has been in town the last two weekends. What was supposed to be finished in three weeks, is 1/2 done, and I am out the money. I hired another contractor to finish the job (this has been going on for 6 weeks now, so I am taking him to small claims court. I want to know if I can ask for the money that I have spent on all the phone calls ( not to mention sitting here four weekends waiting for him to show up, and all the aggravation)and the extra I now have to pay to have the deck finished $1000.00. Sorry this is so long, I could go on for hours about all the lies he told me. Thank you for any help. I am filing tomorrow. LKS


Senior Member
In small claims court you can certainly ask for everything. However, based on your message, most Small Claims courts are mainly 'money courts'. This means that they usually will not consider claims for 'waiting time', 'aggravation', emotional distress, lost work, etc.

You can usually recover only the actual damages that you incur. In your case, you had to pay another contractor to complete the work that the first failed to do. The difference in the two costs could be considered damage. (Example: if the total labor for completing the deck would have been $2,000.00, and you had to spend $3,000 to actually get it done, then your damages are the $1,000 difference in costs.) Additionally, you can probably recover the 'reasonable and necessary' costs incurred in trying to get the 1st contractor to complete his contract, including the phone calls.

One thing that you need to consider though. The courts will sometimes take a dim view of someone who seems to be just 'nickle and diming' the issue to death and that can affect your credibility. I would consider all the factors (and costs) when determining your damages.


Thank you very much for your good information. You can bet I would never nickle /dime the court ( one of my best friends is an attorney!!), I was just trying to get a point across, I did everything I could, gave him every chance.I will ask for the additional $1000.00 I am having to pay this new contractor. He started today and it's looking great! Maybe it is the age thing, an older (around my age) person makes a commitment and usually follows through! Thank you again. LKS

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