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I have a civil litigation question. New York. The other

I have a civil litigation...
I have a civil litigation question
JA: What state are you in? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: New York
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: Yes the other party has reported to the police
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I fired a contractor who took half the payment in advance and then wont show up to work. I asked my money back and he wont give me. I confiscated his tools. Now his actions are making me concern for my safety.
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
9/24/2017
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6,515
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today.

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only. What specific questions did you have? I have an idea about your situation, but I don’t want to make any assumptions. Additionally, Most people believe a phone call is the easiest and most efficient way to handle problems. Accordingly, you will receive an automatic phone call request. If you would like a phone call, please click “Accept” when prompted.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
I hired a local contractor after someone in the community recommended him. He took half the job's payment in advance (cash); he only did a couple days’ worth of work over a month period with lots of days without showing up at all. I would have to call him/text him numerous times to get a response and when he would show up, he'd leave in a couple hours making no to very little progress. I got very frustrated with him and fired him. I asked him to refund the advance money and he refused so I confiscated some tools he had at my place. We had never signed a written contract.
I gave him 3 choices at that point: refund my money OR sign a contract with the jobs details that was already verbally agreed upon OR I will confiscate his tools and we are done.He refused to sign a contract or give me my money back. He sent the gentleman who had recommended him to convince me to give his tools back. When I showed that gentleman the progress he had made over a month's period, he agreed that the work he has done is not more than $200-$300 plus it wasn’t done right and I will have to redo that. The gentleman he sent also looked at the tools he had left behind (which were very few) and told me that they are worth not more than $400. When the gentleman returned and told my fired contractor that there is nothing he can do, the contractor threatened me that he is going to come and take his tools if I don’t want him to finish the job. I told him that you can only get back on my property if you sign the contract but if you show up to my property uninvited, I will call the cops for trespassing and harassment. He backed down. I then went ahead and hired a new contractor and got the job done without any hassle, however the new contractor had to redo everything my fired contractor had done.Now after 3 months, a local police officer shows up at my house while I was at work. He talked to my dad and told him that he is here to discuss a civil matter of Mr. XYZ and Me. He told my dad that my contractor claims that I have his tools, my dad replied that yes my son and him have a dispute on money. The police officer told my dad well your son can’t keep his tools and as far as the money matter is concerned, your son will have to take it to a civil court. He told my dad that he will come back at a time when I am home. He left his information behind for me to call him. The next morning I called him, another officer picked up and I left my number to call me back. Two weeks have passed and the officer never returned my call nor did he ever come back to my house.Today, another gentleman shows up to my house asking for me. I went outside and met him. He introduced himself and told me that my contractor (the one I fired) had borrowed a tool (drill) from him and told him that he had left it behind at my house so he is here to pick it up. I told this new gentleman that I don’t know you, my dealing was with Mr. XYZ and he took my money, didn’t show up for work and I had to fire him. All the stuff he left behind, I threw it away and I don’t have anything. I told him that I hired another contractor to finish the job that his friend couldn’t and I am over this. This new gentleman respectfully ***** ***** and left.I felt harassed with this random guy showing up to my place and asking for tools that my fired contractor had left behind. I felt very intimated when I heard that a police officer showed up and told my dad that I can’t keep Mr. XYZ’s tools and they money matter is a civil case.I want to go to the police and tell them to stop my fired contractor of harassing me and sending these random people at my house. However I feel (from the conversation the police officer had with my dad) that they will ask me to return his tools. I am not just going to return his tools when he has embezzled my money and not willing to even talk about the reimbursement. If he is willing to take this to court, I am willing to see him in court aswell.
Customer reply replied 2 months ago
I want to understand five things in this situation:
1) Can the police just force me to return his tools back to him as the officer told my dad that I can’t keep his tools.
2) If the police can force me to return his tools then can’t they force my fired contractor to reimburse my money as well?
3) I haven’t met or talked to the police officer myself and there was no written contract between me and my fired contractor, also I paid him in cash so there is no trail of money as well. If I don’t have proof that he had received the money then he doesn’t have proof that he had ever left his tools at my place or even worked for me. Although we both have witnesses that can testify that he worked for me, left his tools, received money from me, got fired, didn’t reimburse the money and got his tools confiscated and I hired a new contractor to redo what he did and then finish the job. The point I am trying to make is should I tell the police that he didn’t finish the job and wouldn’t return me the money so I confiscated his tools (that weren’t still worth the money he took from me) OR should I say that I have no idea what tools is he talking about or he got paid for those tools (in terms of advance) and we are done?
4) It’s not a big money case and I don’t want to take it to court if I don’t have to. I had already put this behind me. I am worried for my and my family’s safety so I want the police to be involved. Although his tools weren’t worth much but I wanted cheat contractors like him to know that they can’t just keep conning people. If he returns my money (minus the $200-$300 useless work he had done), I can give him his tools back.
5) Should I tell the police that I still have the tools or should I tell them what I told that random person that when I fired Mr. XYZ, I threw all his stuff away?

Hello, one moment while I review your situation...

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Okay, thank you for your patience. The answers to your question are in bold.

I want to understand five things in this situation:

1) Can the police just force me to return his tools back to him as the officer told my dad that I can’t keep his tools. Yes, unfortunately. Unless you and the other party agreed that you would keep his tools if he breached the contract, then you won’t be able to keep them.

2) If the police can force me to return his tools then can’t they force my fired contractor to reimburse my money as well? No. The reason is because the keeping of the tools and the breach of contract by the contractor are separate issues. You will have to go through small claims court to get your money back from the contractor if he does not give it back voluntarily.

3) I haven’t met or talked to the police officer myself and there was no written contract between me and my fired contractor, also I paid him in cash so there is no trail of money as well. If I don’t have proof that he had received the money then he doesn’t have proof that he had ever left his tools at my place or even worked for me. Although we both have witnesses that can testify that he worked for me, left his tools, received money from me, got fired, didn’t reimburse the money and got his tools confiscated and I hired a new contractor to redo what he did and then finish the job. The point I am trying to make is should I tell the police that he didn’t finish the job and wouldn’t return me the money so I confiscated his tools (that weren’t still worth the money he took from me) OR should I say that I have no idea what tools is he talking about or he got paid for those tools (in terms of advance) and we are done? Even if you tell the police that he didn’t finish the job, they’ll still require you return the tools if there is no written agreement that allowed you to keep the tools. Thus, my recommendation would be to return the tools or risk a police investigation that may be a bigger pain that it's worth.

4) It’s not a big money case and I don’t want to take it to court if I don’t have to. I had already put this behind me. I am worried for my and my family’s safety so I want the police to be involved. Although his tools weren’t worth much but I wanted cheat contractors like him to know that they can’t just keep conning people. If he returns my money (minus the $200-$300 useless work he had done), I can give him his tools back. Understood. But keep in mind that unless you and the other party agreed that you could keep the tools in the event of a breach, you won’t be able to keep the tools.

5) Should I tell the police that I still have the tools or should I tell them what I told that random person that when I fired Mr. XYZ, I threw all his stuff away? I would have the tools returned ASAP and try another route to get your money back.

This appears to be a breach of contract based on the failure to perform within a reasonable time by the contractor. Courts regularly look toward the Uniform Commercial Code as their guide, since many states have adopted this code into their own statutes. Under UCC Section 2-309(1), the law says that each party has a reasonable time to perform if it is not expressly stated in the contract. What is considered “reasonable” is a matter of fact and depends on the circumstances, but it is an argument that you would have to make that it is unreasonable. Regardless, there is a legal basis for your particular claim. To facilitate your situation, there’s a site that I’ve used in the past where you can find a good template for advising of a breach of contract (click here). It's a bit easier (and cheaper) than going through litigation and I have seen it be effective in the past.

Also, although I provided an initial answer, it’s important that you are 100% satisfied. If you feel I have done so, please rate me 5 stars and let me know if you have any follow up questions. As a side note, you can also click here in the future to request me individually.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
How can he prove that he left so and so tools behind? What if I return all his tools and he still tells the police that he had more? In the same context, what if I just return one or two items and tell him that this is it. I can't let con artists like him just walk away from this. This will just encourage him to con more people and yet brag that he tuned a homeowner with the help of the law enforcement when clearly he is the one who breached the contract.

I can understand the situation you are in. Keep in mind that he wouldn't be the one to prove it if it were a criminal issue of theft. It would be the state that would have to prove it. They would try to prove it by asking the contractor what tools he brought and what tools are missing and use that to prove their case. This is the case whether you return some or none of the items. If you return them all, it is probable that the state would not pursue any charges against you at all since the other party would be vindicated in that situation. You don't have to let this person get away with it if you take the suggestions I provided by sending them a letter or potentially going to small claims to get your rights restored.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Okay I can return them all but I don't trust this contractor one bit. I am concerned that I will return all the tools, he cries wolf to the police that there are still some left and name some random expensive tools and I have to go through a police investigation and face charges from the state even when I have returned everything. How do I protect myself in this case if I am returning all the tools he left behind?

I understand what you mean. what I would probably recommend is that the contractor verify that all of the tools you returned are all of the tools and that they agree that it is all of the tools. Thus, if for some reason he cries wolf, you can show them the agreement that you had to prove your defense.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Okay Thank you. Your advice is appreciated.

It is certainly my pleasure. Best of luck to you!

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