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Case Study: Waldo Canyon Wildfire
In this matter we represented homeowners whose home was damaged in the 2012 Waldo Canyon Wildfire. They signed a series of contracts/proposals with a Colorado Springs construction contractor: CONSTRUCTION PROS, LLC. The homeowners paid the contractor nearly $30,000.00 most of which was paid in advance. The roof and HVAC were replaced. Homeowners have no apparent problem with the roof and the only issue with the HVAC is a dispute as whether or not a humidifier was part of the replacment package. Like most construction projects it started okay, however, halfway through the project problems arose. All of the windows and exterior doors in the home were to be replaced as well as all of the exterior trim. Additionally the fireplace exhaust was to be replaced and the entire exterior was to be primed and painted.
A dispute arose between the contractor and homeowners regarding the quality of the workmanship, the scheduling and whether or not additional payments were due and owing or were not yet due because certain milestones had not been met and certain work need to be re-performed. The homeowner expressed concerns to the contractor regarding the quality of workmanship as it related to the installation of the windows and the exterior/interior paint job.
The contractor claimed that there was nothing wrong with the window installation and that the paint and other items were simply incomplete and that once completed the job would be of very nice quality. A meeting between the homowners and contractor was held at the project. The contractor admited certain portions of the work needed to be comptleted and/or re-performed. The contractor demanded that the homeowners needed to pay approximately $7300 immediately. The homeowners claim that the contractor actually demanded an additional $10,000.00. The homeowners advised the contractor that no further payments would be made until the contractor completed work that was already paid for in advance and certain work of unacceptable quality reperformed. The contractor refused to perform any additional work without further payment. The homowner agreed to pay an additional $3000.00 to keep the project going. The contractor advised the homeowners that she: “Would see them in court!” The contractor sued the homeowners and both parties have hired attorneys. The homeowners are represented by Gerlach & Winegar, LLP and the contractor was represented by a local attorney on thier claims against the homowners and a large national law firm to defend agasint the counter-claims brought by the homeowner against the contractor. Mediation failed and the caproceeded to trial in February 2014.
Some of the problems with the contractor’s work from the perspective of the homeonwer include:
1. Under the contract the contractor was requried to replace all of the exterior trim however it appears that less than 200 linear feet were replaced.
2. The fireplace exhaust was to be replaced however it appears that the old one was simply painted with high temperature paint.
3. The quality of the paint job is according to a construction expert retained by the homeowners is “some of the worst” he has ever seen. Additionally, the exterior paint is incomplete, slopped on the new window trim/frames,and bleeding through in places.
4. The windows appear protrude beyond the trim and appear to be placed in the wrong location within the wall cavity. The caulking around the windows inside and out is missing all together, incomplete or of poor quality. Some of the windows are damaged several windows do not meet local building code requirements due to the fact that the contractor failed to provide proper egress windows in some locations and failed to provide tempered glass in certain locations. At one location you actually see exterior light around the edge of the window from inside the home. One window was removed to observe the installation process by the contractor. It was apparent upon removeal that the contractor had only used 4 screws to secure the window and had failed to clean the window opening prior to installing the new window. There was debris and broken glass in the opening. Additionally, the contractor failed to insulate around the window frame and failed to caulk between and around the window frame and window trim.
5. The interior paint job was of poor quality including bleed through and the contractor’s failure to to cut in the edges where the wall meets the ceiling and/or trim boards.
The contractor’s code of conduct that it provided to the homeowners assures the homeowners that the contractor requires its subcontractors to perform background checks on anyone that they may have work on the project and specifically prohibits any felons or sexual offenders from working on the project. In this case the contractor’s project manager is two-time convicted felon with at least one of those felonies being a felony theft conviction. It is unknown if any other workers on the project have criminal records because the contractor has not been able to even provide last names or contact information on several of the workers it allowed to work on this project. Additionally, it was discovered that the contractor herself has been arrested multiple times for offenses involving domestic violence and alchohol related driving offenses.
The Wado Canyon Wildfire damages the homeowner’s home in June of 2012. The case did not get to trial until February of 2014. In the meantime the homeowner was unable to repair her home and had to live with the unfinished and poor quality work as well as the uncertainty of litigation during that time. In the end both sides spent nearly as much in legal fees as is in dispute…not to mention the energy, emotions and frustration involved.
How could this have been avoided?
Having a competent construction attorney review any construction contract prior to its execution is important. Few, if any, construction projects go off without a hitch however, when building or remodeling your home or any other project spending a little in legal fees on the front end of your project can save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run. Other things homeowners can do is to interview several contractors and ask for and follow-up with references. Additionally, basic background checks can be obtained online quickly and relatively cheap. Never sign a contract without carefully reviewing it and understanding each and every word. There is a huge difference between “may” and “shall”. Look for and address any terms or conditions that are vague, open-ended or transfer decision making authority to the contractor. Remeber, this is your home. Don’t be afraid to press the contractor for details, references, proof of insurance and changes to the terms and conditions of the contract, the good ones will not be offended.
You Be the Judge
We have uploaded several photos taken of the project after demonstrating the quality of workmanship and illustrating the issues with the contractor’s work which the homeowner believes to be unacceptable.
Disclaimer: Remember, in this particular case study we represented the homeowner. The contractor sued the homeowner and the homeowner counter-sued the contractor. The homeowner claims the work was incomplete, of unacceptable and poor quality and that the workers often worked on the project oat night presumably after working all day on other projects. The contractor claims that either the work was of acceptable quality or that the contractor was willing to correct and complete any work that was incomplete or of poor quality. The homeowner claims that the contractor refused to continue working without being advanced additional funds and the contractor claims the homeowner terminated the contractor and would not allow the contractor to complete and/or correct the work on the project.
OUTCOME AT TRIAL
After a Multi-Day Trial the Court found in favor of our clients, the HOMEOWNERS! The Court found that Construction Pros, LLC Breached the Contract and awarded the homeowners more than $21,000.00 in damages.
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