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Richard - Bizlaw
Richard - Bizlaw, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 10629
Experience:  30 years of corporate, litigation and international law
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This has to do with a matter of construction . . . is this

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This has to do with a matter of construction . . . is this a business law question or a real estate question? We had someone build something and it went south. They are asking for more money.

Richard :

Hello, I will try to help you. Please remember I just report or interpret the law, so the outcome may not be what you hoped for. Could you describe the circumstances and the specific question you have?


Yes . . . we put together a narrative in anticipation of having to go to court . . .



I met N at Starbucks and we discussed aquaponics systems. He presented an estimate and I signed on 7/31/2013.

We discussed several items. I thought the labor charge of $60.00 per hour was high and I was told that this was for two people. We also discussed that esthetics was important for this project. I felt that I did not have the skills to build an attractive structure and that was my purpose in hiring a consultant. As experienced tradesmen cost around $30.00 an hour, the estimate seemed reasonable. I gave him a check for $1,500.


Nick had the wood delivered. I wrote him another check for $1,500.00. As work progressed, it was clear that Nick was not an experienced tradesperson. He arrived without the proper tools (cutting wood on the ground without sawhorses) and did not work diligently or quickly. Work was progressing very slowly. I supplied for, and paid, another laborer (Eric) to help Nick build the system.

I looked at the plan that he showed me and told him I wanted all the barrels under the system and not behind it. Nick said that was fine.


On day two, progress was still slow. Nick acknowledged that he had underestimated the amount of labor the job would take. And, that he would have to eat a lot of the labor. Since it seemed that he was honoring his estimate, it did not seem important at the time to point out that his overall pace was too slow to justify his hourly rate. Since he was honoring his estimate, I figured he was using this as a learning opportunity and that it was going to take him a lot longer to complete the project.


As the project proceeded, I noticed that they actual construction of the project looked off. At this point I asked Wayne (a contractor) to drop by and look at the system. I paid for Wanye to assess the integrity of structure and to provide assistance with some basic construction concepts to Nick. At that time the structure was over-spanned, and as it would be holding at least 100 gallons per table, Nick needed to change several aspects of the structure to make it sound. Please note that in Aquaphonics, quite a bit of time is spend underneath the water filled growing tables working on the plumbing, It is important that the structure be sound. So, more expense, and more time, but since he was not asking for money to fix the problems he created, we continued.

At some point in time, I noticed that the system when beyond the dimensions that we had discussed. Nick did not communicate that this was happening. I had wanted the structure to be flush with the house. But, now, it was (how many inches) over. I was not happy with it, but I told him not to move it because if he did the downspout would be in line with the post & pier foundation and would cause erosion of the foundation. He went ahead and moved it. Now the downspout is directly in line with the foundation.

Date (Tuesday?)

The table part of the structure was built and now it was time to put on the roof. It was at this time that it became apparent that the roof support were not level. This would necessitate climbing the structure and using a skill saw. Wayne came over again (at my expense) and we discussed the roof. After discussing it with Wayne, I felt that Nick did not have the skills to finish the system safely. From his obvious lack of skills in construction, he did not have any insurance for his business. Nor, did he have any idea of “industry standards” as to the time it takes to customarily finish projects.

At this point I told Nick that I was going to have Wayne finish. Wayne told me that the whole job was doable in around two days, or around 16 man hours.

I hired Wayne and he finished the roof structure in 9 ½ hours.

At this time, Wayne made us aware that the structure was a little over 120 square feet. And thus, would require a permit.

I did expect that a consultant charging market rates would have brought that to our attention before the project was started. Given the set-back used, it is not possible to get a permit.

However, Nick did buy materials. I did not want to stiff him the money he was out. I have reimbursed him for materials.

He did come and build something. It would not be right to pay him nothing. So, since his estimate outlined (amount) due for labor. I made sure he got that.


I had Nick come and take some material to return worth $350. I wrote him a check for $420 for a total of the amount in his estimate for labor. I consider this matter settled.

The Trays

Before starting the project, we discussed which hdrophonic trays to use. I wanted to use “True Four by Eight” trays. Nick said that the Tray Hugger brand would fit. So, we went with Tray Hugger.

I measure the trays that were on-site and measured the structure and saw that the Tray Hugger trays would not fit. I brought this to Nick's attention and he said that we would have to cut them to make them fit. And, that the mistake was due to the internet improperly listing the outside dimensions. I took the time to investigate, and the information is readily available. I hired Nick to help me with construction and to create an esthetically pleasing system. Hand-cutting the trays was not a part of the planned esthetic.

I told Nick that he could cut the trays if he wished, but that he would be responsible for replacing them if it did not work and he declined to cut the trays under those conditions.

The Wood

Additionally, at no time did Nick discuss the proper wood for the project. Pressure treated wood was used. This wood has cooper and cooper can kill ht fish. I would again expect a consultant charging market rates to bring this up before the project was started.


I am considering taking the structure down. It is made of pressure treated wood, does not fit any of the commercially available trays, and can not be permitted. I have paid for the materials, I have paid for labor, and I have paid for an expensive learning opportunity for Nick. Additionally, I am not sure that Nick is even aware that construction jobs over $500 cannot legally be done by unlicensed and uninsured individuals.


So, long story short . . . they want 1500 in additional labor. The bid was for 700 or so . . . which we paid in returned merchandise and cash. But, they want more . . . 1500 more for not much . . . I have a picture - if you need it.

Richard :

If the contractor is not licensed, that is a complete defense to any claim for compensation he might have. I would simply point that out to the contractor and that if he pursues the issue, you will sue to recover all the compensation you paid him. That should terminate the matter. If it does not then pursue recovery of all amounts paid to an unlicensed contractor plus the unnecessary expense you incurred because of his errors. If I have answered all your questions, please rate my answer excellent as that is how I am compensated. If you have more questions, please let me know. If the answer was especially helpful you can provide a bonus.


My husband is a financial services professional and he cannot have anyone alleging that he owes money. O.k. to just pay alleged amount and then get signed release and then sue for all compensation? Even the materials?

Richard :

Your husband should not pay the disputed amount. By paying it and getting a signed release and then suing creates more headaches. Just refuse to pay and inform the contractor of his exposure if he pursues it. I believe he will just go away and not pursue it. You want to end this and not get into a lawsuit. If I have answered all your questions, please rate my answer excellent as that is how I am compensated. If you have more questions, please let me know. If the answer was especially helpful you can provide a bonus.


I am drafting a letter to them . . . where can I find the law to attach to my letter?

Richard :

It is Business & Professions Code Section 7031(a) and (b). Here is a link to the statute.

Richard :

If I have answered all your questions, please rate my answer excellent as that is how I am compensated. If you have more questions, please let me know. If the answer was especially helpful you can provide a bonus.


Thanks! XXXXX!

Richard - Bizlaw and other Business Law Specialists are ready to help you
Hi Julie I was just following up to see how you made out. If you have any additional questions or I can help on a different topic let me know.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Oh my god . . . he just served us in small claims for the amount he alleged we owe him. I have a question . . . when is it required that someone building something for you have a contractors license?


He must have the license at the time the contract is signed and when he does the work. Just put in your answer that he was unlicensed and is owed nothing.
Richard - Bizlaw and other Business Law Specialists are ready to help you