different type of question for the forum


ChiefUserBigRob
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guys, i have been doing home design on the side for 16 years. i have always used the honor system and take money when the project is done and the client is happy. it has always worked for me. until now. i finished a set of plans for a contractor last week and he was happy with them. he mails me a check and before i even get it he starts acting very shady. he claimed the engineering firm that was going to do their work on it said it was missing a few things like outlets and such. i fix it, no problem. long story short, i deposit the check the day i get it. the day after, i let him know i get the check and he says to hold off cashing it until he is done reviewing the drawings AGAIN. i told him i already deposited it. days later i get a return check fee because he put a stop payment on it. everything went south from there between he and i. he has my plans in pdf form and since i trust people and have never been burned i didnt watermark the pdf "preliminary" or "not for construction". so he has my plans and i cant make him delete them electronically. he has since fired me and found someone else, or so he claims. he has also got my floorplan posted on his website and wont take it down. has this happened to anyone before and how did you handle it? involving a lawyer for $750 isnt' worth my time i assume. this guy is a real jerk and used me to get something for free. i called the engineering firm i he is using that i already established a relationship with and they told me lied about everything, that they could care less about missing outlets. they said he also called up there behind my back and asked for the CAD file (we all know why he would that). do you guys have a contract made up for clients and take money up front to prevent these type of things? apparently, i need to make some changes and count this as a loss. i threatened him with a lawyer and of course he tries to fire back and thinks he can intimidate me. i fire back and he quits responding. i put alot of work into the plans and know some of it is my fault for not stamping it preliminary. if he builds this house i know where the lot is and was wondering if i can request the floorplan later when it's built to see if he did indeed use my drawings. are plans public record or for home buyers only? this is in alabama.

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Does he have a Houzz site where you can write a review about your experiences with him for all the world to see.

 

Threat of a bad review has gotten me paid a couple of times ..

 

Also let him know that you will be contacting BBB, township building dept., state licensing boards, etc.

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i would love to leave a bad review and take him to court. but he knows he is in the wrong and has tried to turn this against me and could do the same on me and leave a bad review.. how many of you who do this on the side part time from home has a business license for it?

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A couple of days ago, a person contacted me via my Craigslist ad that he had a custom home he wished to do and could I help him yada, yada. I said yes and then with only a cursory explanation of what he would like the house to be and look like, no site plan, no physical address for the property but he now wants an "estimate". I told him that there were too many unknowns for me to do so. He then wanted me pay me in advance for my estimated "services" to the tune of "$5,000.00" (I had earlier told him that the custom home plans I had done ran from as little as $2,000.00 to as much as $5,000.00 and the high end was because my clients changed their minds numerous times).

 

To shorten the story, he wanted to pay my fee in advance but with a credit card and then I was to pay his "Surveyor" for him (this sounded totally scammy to me.)  I refused and required only payment via Pay Pal or a personal check directly to me-his surveyor is his problem. I never heard from him again  -- GOOD RIDDANCE.

 

DJP

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i hear ya guys.....i want to crush this dude's business and warn others. he is a rookie who just got his contractor license last year and apparently is already off to a bad start by ripping me off. i thrive on helping others and love doing home design. in the long run, he can easily leave a bad review on google for me if i keep pushing. so, i need to take a break and think about the long term goal for me. everyone else has always been happy with my services over the years. i firmly believe in doing unto other's as i'd have them do unto me. but when you take advantage of me, thats when i am not nice anymore. it wouldn't be so bad if he didnt have the pdf's to my complete set of plans. again, my fault for sending them i guess. i had no clue he would put a stop payment on the check. he probably had a bank loan denied and therefore looked for  a way to back out of the paying me because he seemed ok up until payment time. i want to say live and learn but this has really got me angry. and to have the balls to post my plan on his site like it's one of his homes he will build amazes me.

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after a couple of cases I went to a full retainer system just like lawyers use

 

deposit X with me and I work until X is depleted or nearly depleted

then they deposit another round 

 

this allows me to share everything with them at anytime since they are always current

 

even then I had to "fire" a couple of them and return their balance

 

there are ALWAYS "those" people out there

 

as for the times in the beginning I would send a "demand" letter 

what I called a "cannon shoi across the bow"

 

pay what you owe or else - and I would list the else

 

the fact that he gave you a check proves he owed you the money

go to small claims and you will probably prevail 

someone on this forum stated a few times they would call the permit office and notify them that you had a legal claim on the plans

and the office would refuse to issue the permit

 

at one point I let our primary client owe me over $12 K

then he disappeared from me and his partners

I was able to get all of that paid over time except for $1700

 

Lew

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thanks guys, i think i will go for it. i do not have a business license yet but advertise online. is this an issue for me? can he use that against me?

i work plans on the side at home. i have a day job and have not grown no where near big enough to go solo thus the reason i havent applied for a license yet.

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Is the total cost for this job $750? If so, that is a cheap lesson to learn. I would not try to slam or fight the contractor. That is a lot of bad Karma to put out there and the time you spend chasing that money might be better spent on your next (good) job.

 

I don't work without a contract and a contract is invalid without an exchange of funds. I get payments during the project and always start with a retainer. My jobs are higher dollar numbers so I generally have a $1000. deposit. If the client balks at the retainer, they are not the right client. If you are working on a $750 job, ask for $250 to start the job (min.).

 

PM me and I will send you a copy of my contract. Feel free to use it at your own risk. I am not an attorney or even an exceptional business operator. Just another guy swinging and sometimes missing the ball.

 

P.S. Your signature states "Structural". Be careful of the words you use to sell yourself. I read that you do structural drafting. Someone else may think you have sold yourself as an engineer.

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Happened to me so know I get a retainer, a payment when I do a preliminary plan for them and a final payment and nothing goes out the door or do they get a pdf until the final payment, the client that did this to me I took to court under quantum merrit meaning you should be compenstated for the work you did, he can with his lawyer and I went myself and I won the case he paid me and court cost, the laughing part of this he put me down as a recommendation to be a state trooper and they called me to ask me questions the last question was if he ever stopped me what do I think would happen I told he he would do everything in his power to have me arressted and I did a job for his parents no problems and advice on a garage to where he didn't need plans at no charge and then this.

 

Retainer, preliminary, finals that is my policy and it has been working haven't gotten stuck since. I do my proposals through emails so I have a standing record of it

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18 minutes ago, Gawdzira said:

Is the total cost for this job $750? If so, that is a cheap lesson to learn. I would not try to slam or fight the contractor. That is a lot of bad Karma to put out there and the time you spend chasing that money might be better spent on your next (good) job.

 

I don't work without a contract and a contract is invalid without an exchange of funds. I get payments during the project and always start with a retainer. My jobs are higher dollar numbers so I generally have a $1000. deposit. If the client balks at the retainer, they are not the right client. If you are working on a $750 job, ask for $250 to start the job (min.).

 

PM me and I will send you a copy of my contract. Feel free to use it at your own risk. I am not an attorney or even an exceptional business operator. Just another guy swinging and sometimes missing the ball.

 

P.S. Your signature states "Structural". Be careful of the words you use to sell yourself. I read that you do structural drafting. Someone else may think you have sold yourself as an engineer.

i agree, maybe i should redo my sig. structural designer is my title during the day at the shipyard. residential design at nights and weekends at home.

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14 hours ago, DavidJPotter said:

...he wanted to pay my fee in advance but with a credit card and then I was to pay his "Surveyor" for him (this sounded totally scammy to me.)

DJP

This is 100% a scam.

The way the scam works is they pay you in advance with a forged cashiers check. You bank cashes the check. You pay the "surveyor" or other third party who is actually the scammer. Your bank discovers the forgery and deducts the funds from your account. You are out the amount you sent the "surveyor".

 

I had a similar interaction with someone renting an apartment we had.  I was supposed to send the balance of an over-payment to the "travel agent". It seemed fishy to me and someone at my bank explained the scam.

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Bob:

 

You  should file a DBA (doing business as) with your county for your business name

 

the county requires this - it is mandatory

 

if you visit client sites you should talk to you insurance agent and get a general liablity insur. plan

this protects the homeowner if you trip and fall thru a window or off a deck etc

 

if you are signing and submitting permit plans then you need E&O insurance

if you only draw "pretty pictures" for a builder or other clients and they submit the permit

then E&O is not as important and could even be a liability

 

the more education and certificates you have and put on your business card and website etc

the more liabilty you take on - 

 

your contract should state what you do and what you are responsible for

create a disclaimer stating this and have the client sign it

 

liability can be transferred to a higher authority like a builder or an architect or engineer

it can never be transferred to a lower authority like a home owner

 

some home owner clients like to act as their own GC

make sure your contract has disclaimer stating that they have the responsibility of having the plans

reviewed and approved by an architect or engineer

 

file the paperwork to become an LLC

this can be done via the internet and doesn't cost much

this protects your house and personal property from lawsuits

 

as long as there is not fraud or gross negligence on your part concerning the client

it is possible to "pierce the veil" 

 

above all "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

 

Lew

 

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10 hours ago, ChiefUserBigRob said:

i agree, maybe i should redo my sig. structural designer is my title during the day at the shipyard. residential design at nights and weekends at home.

 

Would be highly advised to look at how you describe yourself to avoid any misinterpretations by potential clients. Be careful as certain terms(descriptors) are only to be used by those who have specific professional designations, it is illegal to use these designations if you don't really meet the requirements regardless of whether or not you have the knowledge to do the work.

 

As recommended by other respondents, you need to prepare a proper contract that properly describes the services being performed, the method of compensation and the terms and conditions. Personally, payment for drafting/design work should be retainer based, keep in mind that once you send them the drawings you have instantly lost most if not all of your leverage should you need to collect on outstanding balances.

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Also, don't assume that just because you drew up the drawings that this automatically implies that you have some form of ownership rights to the drawings. Ownership rights are highly dependent upon who is actually in control of the design/creative process. If the client is directing you in all aspects of the design process then you may have little or no claim of ownership.

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5 hours ago, TheKitchenAbode said:

 

Would be highly advised to look at how you describe yourself to avoid any misinterpretations by potential clients. Be careful as certain terms(descriptors) are only to be used by those who have specific professional designations, it is illegal to use these designations if you don't really meet the requirements regardless of whether or not you have the knowledge to do the work.

 

As recommended by other respondents, you need to prepare a proper contract that properly describes the services being performed, the method of compensation and the terms and conditions. Personally, payment for drafting/design work should be retainer based, keep in mind that once you send them the drawings you have instantly lost most if not all of your leverage should you need to collect on outstanding balances.

 

Let's no focus too much on my sig on this forum. Its the only place i add my day job title. Im on google and only describe myself as a residential designer and let every client know i dont stamp drawings and refer them to a firm that can. They have already stamped a couple of my drawings.

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14 minutes ago, ChiefUserBigRob said:

Do i need to apply as an LLC and get a business license? 

not to uphold a contract, though an LLC is always a good idea, I personally work freelance on the side and don't bother ...then again I've never been sued(crosses fingers)

I do plansets that get through county without the stamp using prescriptive measures. I don't carry a business license and I let the owner get an owner/builder permit or the contractor handles his business license and pulls permit

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  • 10 months later...
On 7/22/2019 at 5:41 AM, lbuttery said:

file the paperwork to become an LLC

this can be done via the internet and doesn't cost much

this protects your house and personal property from lawsuits

I TOTALLY DISAGREE. These DBA, LLC, Corp, and whatnot are all symbolic and for tax purposes only. If you come to the point where Lawyers are involved you are at the mercy of your assets, not your well-written contract. These lawyers can pierce the veil of your entity especially if you the one at-fault and squeeze the juice out of you.

 

The best defense is to never get involved with a lawsuit unless you are the Jeff Bezos of the world. Lose some now and win some later. Just my 2 cents.

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