The subject line of Steven Schiebler’s recent e-mail to Bamboozled got our attention.
“Never pay in full when a job is not done. (I’m stupid).”
He told us the tale of the painter he hired — Coddington Contractors of Hillsborough — to paint the interior of his 2,000-square-foot bi-level home in Branchburg.
The contract, signed in May, was for $3,500, and Schiebler gave a down payment of $1,750 to Thomas Coddington when he signed.
The contract included the removal of wallpaper in a recreation room, two coats of paint throughout the house, and prep work such as spackling the walls. Not in the contract was putting up a section of plasterboard in the laundry room, but Schiebler said he had a verbal agreement with Coddington for that part of the job.
The work began on Monday, June 4.
“During the five days he was working, we would talk and he said he was an honest contractor who believes his word is his strongest quality,” Schiebler said.
Three days into the job, Coddington asked for $500 more for supplies. Schiebler gave it to him.
The job was supposed to be completed on Friday, June 8. That afternoon, Coddington told Schiebler some spackle needed to dry before it could be painted.
Schiebler said Coddington promised to return on Monday to finish that room and complete some other touch-ups.
Schiebler had a good feeling about Coddington, so he gave the contractor the final $1,250 payment.
“I made several mistakes. First, I trusted him. I usually don’t trust people,” Schiebler said. “The second mistake was … the $500 for materials. Lastly and my biggest mistake, I paid him in full when the job was not completed.”
The contract, reviewed by Bamboozled, stated $1,750 after completion.
GETTING THE JOB DONE
That Monday came and went and Coddington didn’t show up.
“I called him. He told me he got tied up on another job, and he told me he would come Wednesday,” he said. “Once again he never showed up.”
Schiebler said he called again, and they scheduled a third date for the next week.
Again, Coddington was a no-show.
“Since the week of June 10, I have called him every day on my days off, leaving a message, asking when he will come to finish the job and to call me,” Schiebler said. “He never returned my calls.”
During that time period, Schiebler said, his wife got through to Coddington once. She was given a new appointment date — a date Schiebler couldn’t recall — but Coddington didn’t appear then either.
We asked Schiebler the extent of the work that needed to be completed. Sounds like more than touch-up to us.
According to Schiebler, in the family room, Coddington was supposed to fix a spackle area that came out “bubbly.” In the recreation room, he spackled a section of wall but that area was never painted. Other areas needed a second coat.
Also not done was caulk in the bathroom around the sink and tub. And even though it was not in the contract, Schiebler is still waiting for the plasterboard to be installed in the laundry room.
“He even bought the Sheetrock and it has been in my garage since June,” Schiebler said.
“I am upset because he told me he believes in his word and stated he is not like other contractors, but then he did a typical contractor thing by forgetting about me because I paid him is full before the job was done because I trusted him,” Schiebler said. “I would like for him to come and finish the job. No hard feelings. I just want him to show up.”
ASKING FOR COMPLETION
Before calling Coddington, we took a look at the company.
The Division of Consumer Affairs has no complaints against Coddington. He has a valid home improvement contractor registration with the state, listed as Coddington Contractors LLC DBA New Jersey Window Pros in Flemington. Neither company name has a listing with the Better Business Bureau.
The contract, including the company information that’s often seen as a pre-printed letterhead, is handwritten. That in and of itself is not a problem.
The problem is that this paperwork is missing some very important information, which means it doesn’t meet the standards required by the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
The law says that on any contract over $500, home improvement contractors must include the home improvement contractor registration number and the company’s insurance information. That information is missing.
Also missing is the legal language that describes a consumer’s three-day right of rescission — the time during which a consumer can decide to bow out of the contract without penalty.
Those are violations of the law.
We called Coddington, who said he remembered the job, and that he performed many duties for the homeowner that were not part of the contract.
He said he also remembered getting a call from the homeowner a day or so after the job was completed, but he said Schiebler asked for some new spackle and items that were not in the contract.
He didn’t answer why he never returned to the home.
Coddington said he didn’t return Schiebler’s calls because he received what he called “harassing” phone calls from Schiebler.
“He was saying if you don’t do what I’m asking you to do, he was going to call Consumer Affairs and call a lawyer and I was fine with that. I didn’t do anything wrong,” Coddington said.
When we asked about the unpainted spackle spots and other parts of the job that Schiebler said were unfinished, Coddington said he didn’t remember.
“I’d rather just go back there and do the right thing,” he said, promising he would call Schiebler to see what additional items needed completion.
Then we asked if Coddington realized his contract wasn’t legit, and we pointed out the vital parts that were missing.
“You’re teaching me things I don’t know. We’re not lawyers,” he said. “It’s a good thing I called you. You probably just saved me a lot of trouble in the future.”
Coddington said he would look at the regulations and make sure future contracts were up to snuff.
Schiebler said he’s looking forward to hearing from Coddington so the job can be completed. He also said he’s glad he could help give a warning to other home improvement customers.
“[It would be] good if you can write my story so people can learn from my stupid mistake,” he said.
It’s not stupid. But it’s common.
Before you hire a contractor, first check with Consumer Affairs to make sure there are no complaints against the company, and also make sure the firm is properly registered with the state.
You can do that at newjersey.mylicense.com/verification or call 800-242-5846.
If the company checks out, do a quick Google search to see what, if any, consumer complaints arise.
Depending on the type of work the contractor does, the firm should be covered by liability insurance — and the policy number should be stated on the contract. Call the insurance company to make sure the policy is in good standing.
Then, check out the business at the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org, or call (609) 588-0808.
Finally, make sure the contract has what’s required by law.
And when you do hire someone, don’t pay in full until the job is completed. Totally completed.