Silver Spring, MD asked in Consumer Law and Contracts for Maryland

Q: I have hired someone to replace an old deck with a flagstone. he said he'd hire 4-5 worker and finish it in 2-4 weeks.

He did not hire anyone and tried to do it by himself and one assistant. Unfortunately, no contract was signed, and the original agreement was $11000. I have already paid him $8000 plus a $500 Home Depot gift card for extra materials that he needs (in case I am not available). He did not put on a wall (which was part of the job), and we asked him to do something else. I told him twice I would give$2000 extra for the extra job (regardless he did not do the wall). He shocked his head and did not have any issue with it. Now he asked for $8000 more, and he also wanted to pay for the wall that he did not make. I just informed him I would not pay the extra $8000.

I'll be more than happy to pay him an extra $4000 to finish the job and get done with it. What can I do to get off this mess?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Let's start with the legal issues first:

(1) Did the contractor pull a building permit for this job, if one was needed? How high was this wall supposed to be (walls over a certain height require a permit)? It is the non-delegable duty of the contractor to obtain all permits and pass all inspections.

(2) Is the contractor licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC)? You can run his name and his company name on the Maryland Department of Labor website to check for license status. If he does not have an MHIC license (and I doubt seriously that he does), then his contract is not enforceable by him, he cannot sue you for any money under it, and he has committed a crime. If he is, or is not, licensed by the MHIC (note: a general contractor's license is NOT sufficient t perform a home improvement job, and a patio installation is a home improvement), then you can file a complaint with the MHIC aganst him for an incomplete, unwormanlike or deficient job, or for simply performing a home improvement without a license (in which case he'ss be prosecuted criminally).

(3) All home improvement contracts are required to be in writing, contain reasonable estimated start and completion dates, bear the MHIC license number on the contract with the phone number and webpage of the MHIC stating where complaints may be filed, and contactors may not charge more than a third down on signing the contract and another third at the time of commencing the contract. If a homeowner sufferes a monetary loss on account of a poor or incomplete home improvement by a licensed (not an unlicensed) contractor, then they may recover their losses up to $20,000 against the Maryland Guaranty Fund, after filing a complaint against the contractor with the MHIC.

(4) If you want this job completed and legally compliant, you need to get an estimate from at least one or two MHIC-licensed contractors as to the cost of completing the job, and for redoing any deficient work, and then pay one of those contractors to do it, because my guess is, your contractor is neither licensed nor likely to complete the work in accordance with building codes or industry standards.

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