Legal Question in Construction Law in California

I'll try and make this as simple as possible but so many details involved. My parents neighbors asked if id be interested in remodeling there kitchen after they saw the work I did on my parents rental property next door to them. I excepted the job and gave them a written estimate for the cost of materials and labor. They called me back and excepted my offer with the understanding that I was not a licensed contractor. So I started the job with a partial payment of 2k dollars for materials that they paid with a check with my name on it. Half way through the job they asked me to also do several other things around the house they needed done. We had a verbal agreement on cost and both agreed to the terms. So I did those also. Then got to 80% done with the work on the kitchen and the elderly lady that owns the property that agreed to do all this went into the hospital and so the tenant of the back guest house who the kitchen remodel was for was basically my point of contact now on updating her on the job. He (the back house tenant) went to the hospital and picked up another check from her for another 2k dollars for me. Shortly after she was released from the hospital 2 days prior to me leaving for vacation. At about 95% completion I took my family on a weeks vacation in which they both were aware of prior to starting the job. And both of them were very happy with the job up to the point i left. When I returned back to work, she was back in the hospital and unaware that now the tenant in back had told me I was no longer to do the job. Claiming I reported them to section 8 for the mess and unsafe conditions of his house in back. And also claimed that I was gone for 3 weeks and so he assumed I had quit. Which both claims weren't true. So then he asked me to remove all of my tools and anything else of mine from inside his home. At that time I didn't have my truck only a 4 door car. So I told him I would have to come back the following day. I immedietly left his house and went to the hospital to talk to the elderly home owner. She had no idea of anything he was claiming and was still very happy with the work that had been done up to this point. Wasn't aware of any problems period. So she told me to give it a couple days and she would find out what's going on and get back to me once she was out of the hospital. A week goes by and no word back. So I went to the hospital and she had been released. So went to her house and knocked on the door of her house and he answered her door claiming now that while she was in the hospital recently, that I broke into her home and stole 60 dollars and also that he found drugs in his house that I had dropped. Again so very untrue. Truth of the matter was that I had found drugs sitting out about half way through the job and brought it to his attention that he had left them in the area I was working in. And he asked me to not say anything to her. So I didn't say anything. Basically he was trying to reverse that incident in fear that I was going to use that against him... hr refused to let me speak to her personally and threatened that if I don't leave her property he would call the police. So I asked for my tools and he said there isn't anything of mine there. That I had already taken everything. Which I didn't. Cops informed me that I would have to file a lawsuit against him for my stuff cuz there is nothing they can do because they don't know what is mine and what exactly is his. I have tried to call the home owner a couple times and he answers the phone and refuses to let me speak to her. When I went to the hospital the first time I explained to her that I didn't quit the job and everything he had claimed was untrue and she agreed that he does have mood swings like this and knows something is going on with him but didn't know exactly what he was using to cause these types of things. She asked me how much more did they owe me and at that time I didn't have an exact price. And I told her that I wasn't there for the money and didn't want the remaining balance until I finished the job to prove that I didn't quit the job, wanted to finish the job, and wasn't trying to screw anyone over. But he wouldn't allow me to finish. So my concern now is that if I try to take him to court over my tools and for the work, and not getting them to sign the work order prior to starting the job, will I be able to be compensated for my tools he has and for the unpaid balance? And the next question is can he file any type of lawsuit or anything retaliation over for not being a licensed contractor even though they were both aware of it ahead of time and the fact that they came to me about the work and I was very upfront about it then. At this point I know she will not testify that any of these claims are true. And I'm more concerned about my tools then the roughly 800 dollars still owed to me for the work. He's my main concern. He does take care of her and has for the past 7 years but has no legal rights or any type of power of attorney over her. But is very controlling of her in fear that she has no one else to take care of her. Which in my opinion needs to be looked into for elderly abuse among several other reasons I've witnessed. That I will be filing here soon also that I'm concerned about for her. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Asked on 7/21/13, 3:57 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Nick Campbell Builders Law Group

You are not legally entitled to any money for work, material or labor as an unlicensed contractor. In fact, you could be sued for reimbursement of all money paid to you. There is no exception unless the work was under rhe statutory minimum, so I would be really careful about pushing them for money. As for your tools, those are your property but under the circumstances I'm not sure how far you want to push it. Also keep on mind there are potential criminal repercussions for contracting without a license.

Read more
Answered on 7/21/13, 5:06 pm

Nick Campbell Builders Law Group

By the way, taking $2,000 upfront, even for materials, is an illegal deposit. I'm sorry to say but based on the facts you presented, you're more in the wrong than right, even though I understand you did everything in good faith.

Read more
Answered on 7/21/13, 9:40 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Construction Law questions and answers in California