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      03-04-2019, 11:06 PM   #1
capt_slow
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Help with a troublesome contractor

Long story short: In late July 2018, I signed up to install solar in my home. Little did I know at the time that it would take over 200 days to get it up and running. I'm trying to see if I can claim breach of contract and damages. Seeking feedback.

The details: My solar saga has been a nightmare. I'm not sure how to start this, so I'll probably bullet it out...
  • We spent 70 days in permitting (11 of which were with the county)
  • We spent 60+ days in inspections (inspector came 4 times and contractor fails to fix the stuff they marked on the first visit)
  • Contractor fried my fridge twice
  • We started making payments on the system before it was running
  • While the system is now working, it took over 200 days to get here

Between repairs to the fridge, payments, and lost production, I think I can claim about $2k. This doesn't include meal costs while the fridge was out.

The contract says work will be done within 60 days, not including delays out of the contractors control. But I feel 200+ days is a bit excessive, especially considering the county was quick in turning around corrections and the contractor failed to fix stuff the inspector found on the first visit.

When approached about this, my contractor said the delays were my fault since I asked them to perform unrelated electrical work mid-project that required getting an extra permit. However, it took 10 days from the time I requested it to the time the permit was issued. All of which occurred after we got the solar permit and started construction. Throughout the entire ordeal, the contractor was difficult to work with, wasn't very knowledgeable, and provided us with false information.

To their credit, they offered to pick up the repair costs of the fridge and interest accrued on payments, but not the principal itself.
  • Am I being unreasonable for asking $2k or should I be done with it and accept their offer?
  • Is the contractor in breach of contract for not delivering the system in time?
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      03-04-2019, 11:33 PM   #2
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Thinking the contractor should compensate you for lost savings for not having the system running is laughably unreasonable. This is the exact reason I got out of selling to end users. People come up with amazing concepts of fairness.

Take the offer the contractor provided. If you're that unhappy with their performance then write a review online. A negative review is surely more penal than the $2k. Perhaps you can suggest "hush money?" lol
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      03-05-2019, 07:10 AM   #3
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Sounds like a typical contractor. Almost all of them suck and none seem to care about it.

If they are paying to repair the fridge I'd probably accept that and move on from a purely practical perspective. If you are prepared to go the legal route to try to recoup the difference when they inevitably decline (and potentially change their mind about fridge repair costs) then go for it if you feel strongly about it. We have no real way to predict how successful you will be but if there was a delay you caused, no matter how slight, it will be used against you and the payments made / lost production are probably more difficult to recover vs. hard cost of fridge repair. You will likely incur additional aggravation and time. For me, a max upside of $2K probably wouldn't be worth pursuing (which is easier to say when objective rather than upset about it happening to me).
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      03-05-2019, 09:04 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capt_slow View Post
Is the contractor in breach of contract?
Well, what does your contract say? Go read the contract and you tell us.

I agree with glennQNYC and RickFLM4 , take their offer and go enjoy your new solar system. Installing a solar system is not like installing a doorknob. It's complex, sh*t happens, there will be delays, mistakes will be made. They didn't burn your house down out of negligence. They didn't defraud you. They screwed up and caused some delays and they seem to be making a reasonable effort to make it right with you.
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      03-05-2019, 09:09 AM   #5
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Yes you are being completely unreasonable. Permitting is outside of their control (70 days) and you asked them for extra work in the middle of the job (10 days for permit and ?? days for the actual extra work).

If they offered to pay for the fridge repair take it and be thankful they are willing to pay for that without fighting about it.

Taking them to court will also have the potential side effect of having other contractors be very hesitant about coming out to do any work on the system if it has issues, if that contractor talks with many other people in the trade.
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      03-05-2019, 09:26 AM   #6
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Anyone care to make a bet that this contractor is also part of a different forum and has created a thread entitled:

"Help with a troublesome client"

Seriously - take their offer and go on your way.
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      03-05-2019, 09:46 AM   #7
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Yes you are being completely unreasonable. Permitting is outside of their control (70 days) and you asked them for extra work in the middle of the job (10 days for permit and ?? days for the actual extra work).
Contractor is probably a misnomer, this was a turnkey solar installer. Not that it makes much of a difference.

The extra work was already part of original scope. It was completed by the time I requested the changes. The change was to get a permit for it.

I agree that permitting and inspections are out of the solar installer's control, but at what point does it become excessive? It was 70 days total to permit, 11 days plans were with the County for review, 59 with the installer for corrections. As for inspections, it generally went about like this:
Inspector: Fix A, B, C, D
Contractor: We fixed B, C, D, lets get another inspection
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      03-05-2019, 09:59 AM   #8
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If you subtract the 70 days to permit from the 200 total you get 130 vs. 60 they quoted. 2x+ quoted time is long but far from the first time that has happened. Personally, I never expect any contractor to finish a job when they say they will finish at the start of a job. So in my mind I would have started with an expectation of at least 90 days + permitting instead of the 60 (particularly since it sounds like this was running through holiday season).

Anyway, like I said earlier, its up to you. I'd just move on if the project was completed properly and they fix the fridge. The only time I'd really think about pushing a contractor to make something right / taking legal action is if they did not complete the work, or did it incorrectly and it became problematic.
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      03-05-2019, 10:56 AM   #9
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These are the kind of stories that keep me up at night as I consider getting solar for my house.

Post your review online! Seriously
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      03-05-2019, 12:12 PM   #10
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The OP seems to be in California. Our Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB: cslb.ca.gov) is an invaluable and 100% free resource for Californians. There is nothing a contractor fears/respects as much as the no-nonsense CSLB.

In three of my homebuilding disputes in the past decade, the CSLB did an initial quick intake assessment of facts to determine the merits of my cases, and then managed all aspects of resolution with the faulty subcontractors. They have recovered nearly a quarter million dollars for me, and put two deadbeat contractors out of business in this state. Again, zero cost to use their services, including hiring experts to inspect and testify at CSLB hearings, if necessary.

Any victim can also attempt to recover damages from the mandatory bond that all licensed contractors must carry ($15K limit now, I believe). Not an easy process, however, unless you already have a CSLB verdict to stand on.
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      03-05-2019, 01:08 PM   #11
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Based on what i read you should accept it and move on. I understand you think he breached the 60 day term, but it has an out which is going to be hard to win against "delays outside contractor's control." Even if you win on that aspect, what are your damages? What you listed seems to be fairly speculative and they agreed to pay for the better damage claims. Move on...
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      03-05-2019, 04:03 PM   #12
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The 60 days of inspection is in the contractors control. If the contractor continually failed inspections by improper installation and not resolving the items in a timely manner I would say that they are at fault.

Imagine building a house and the builder says "sorry I took so long I just kept failing inspections because I didn't install things correctly"....contractor is completely at fault and probably not competent to build a house.
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      03-05-2019, 08:54 PM   #13
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The solar installer has already committed in writing to reimbursing the fridge repairs. They also offered to reimburse interest paid for the loan while they were still building it out.

The feedback was good. Accepting their offer and filing a complaint with the CSLB is probably the best route.
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      03-06-2019, 08:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpTXX5 View Post
The 60 days of inspection is in the contractors control. If the contractor continually failed inspections by improper installation and not resolving the items in a timely manner I would say that they are at fault.

Imagine building a house and the builder says "sorry I took so long I just kept failing inspections because I didn't install things correctly"....contractor is completely at fault and probably not competent to build a house.
If he has evidence that the contractor was failing inspections by improper installation etc. then i agree. Honestly though the real issue is his damages dont seem to be any more than what the contractor is already offering.

Last edited by infinitekidM2C; 03-06-2019 at 08:30 PM..
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      03-06-2019, 08:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by infinitekidM2C View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by wpTXX5 View Post
The 60 days of inspection is in the contractors control. If the contractor continually failed inspections by improper installation and not resolving the items in a timely manner I would say that they are at fault.

Imagine building a house and the builder says "sorry I took so long I just kept failing inspections because I didn't install things correctly"....contractor is completely at fault and probably not competent to build a house.
Ok it might be his fault technically, but legally you'll need to establish negligence (i.e. that his work fell sufficiently below the standard of care for the industry). It's always hard to establish that the service fell below the standard of care.
Actually not in this case. If a government inspection entity such as a building department issued multiple deficiency reports and/or red tags relating to work not meeting code it is pretty easy to prove in a court of law. Of course most construction related claims never go to court but often end in arbitration or mediation depending on what method the contract assigns as first resolution. Trust me I do this every day....
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      03-06-2019, 09:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpTXX5 View Post
Actually not in this case. If a government inspection entity such as a building department issued multiple deficiency reports and/or red tags relating to work not meeting code it is pretty easy to prove in a court of law. Of course most construction related claims never go to court but often end in arbitration or mediation depending on what method the contract assigns as first resolution. Trust me I do this every day....
I trust you. I'm just wondering what evidence OP has. I would be shocked if there wasnt an arb agreement btw.
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      03-06-2019, 10:07 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by infinitekidM2C View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by wpTXX5 View Post
Actually not in this case. If a government inspection entity such as a building department issued multiple deficiency reports and/or red tags relating to work not meeting code it is pretty easy to prove in a court of law. Of course most construction related claims never go to court but often end in arbitration or mediation depending on what method the contract assigns as first resolution. Trust me I do this every day....
I trust you. I'm just wondering what evidence OP has. I would be shocked if there wasnt an arb agreement btw.
Yeah you would have to have clear proof such as red tags or reports from city inspectors etc. If the evidence was clear I would make a claim for loss of use and also for a new refrigerator. But it sounds like the OP is ok with the offer he received.

I do want to caveat all the above by saying the OP probably signed a pretty one sided agreement favoring the contractor. Fine print kills claims! Never be in too much of a hurry, too excited or anxious etc. to read every sentence of a contract that could have large financial ramifications. And if you don't understand a portion of an agreement/contract consult an attorney or at the very least google it to better understand what you could potentially agree to. And if you don't feel comfortable weigh the risk, negotiate and if all else fails walk away.

I don't know how many times I have seen or heard about people signing a contract for their "big purchase" in an excited state of mind and they just want to close the deal so they skip to the signature block and sign...wow
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      03-06-2019, 11:04 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by infinitekidM2C View Post
I'm just wondering what evidence OP has.
E-mails, summary of phone conversations e-mailed to all parties, red tags, screenshots of the County permitting portal showing timestamped submissions and rejections, etc. E-mails like the installer telling me the house will be powered during the breaker panel replacement, were saved.

A lot of the numbers I had in my OP were traced out of e-mails and/or some other document. So there is some form of substantiation against it.

And yes, there is a clause in the contract for forced mediation.

Between what could "technically" be claimable and what was offered is actually quite a big difference, by about 85%.
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      03-07-2019, 01:49 AM   #19
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A failed inspection, once corrected, has no significance.

Even the best contractors will occasionally fail inspections.
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      03-07-2019, 06:23 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevenvillatoro View Post
A failed inspection, once corrected, has no significance.

Even the best contractors will occasionally fail inspections.
That isn't really true. A red tag or multiple red tags that cause the project to cease moving forward, if not corrected in a timely manner, can establish a timeline of delay by contractor. For example a red tag issued on "Day 1" and finally resolved on "Day 45" could establish a 45 day delay due to contractor negligence.

I agree that contractors receive red tags and deficiency reports everyday. If resolved in a timely manner (1-3 days) it shouldn't have much of an impact on schedule. Waiting 45 days raises some eyebrows and one could argue the contractor was negligent in not resolving the items in a timely manner.
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      03-07-2019, 09:57 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpTXX5 View Post
That isn't really true. A red tag or multiple red tags that cause the project to cease moving forward, if not corrected in a timely manner, can establish a timeline of delay by contractor. For example a red tag issued on "Day 1" and finally resolved on "Day 45" could establish a 45 day delay due to contractor negligence.

I agree that contractors receive red tags and deficiency reports everyday. If resolved in a timely manner (1-3 days) it shouldn't have much of an impact on schedule. Waiting 45 days raises some eyebrows and one could argue the contractor was negligent in not resolving the items in a timely manner.
I think this is fairly reasonable, unless the contractor can prove the 45 days were due to something outside of their control like weather.

The repeat red tags is another point too. I looked at ours and at least 4 items were repeats. I looked through some red tags some were surprising like "label circuit breakers" and "provide a ladder for roof access"
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