In this case study, the homeowners of a Fairfax, Virginia property contacted Matthew Furlong of Först Consulting Group because of a construction dispute involving issues with a contractor they had chosen to work on their home. In their claim:
- The contractor was not licensed or qualified to perform as a general contractor in Virginia;
- The contractor started work on the home, abandoned the project and left the work in seriously deficient and incomplete condition;
- The contractor left live wiring exposed, holes in the house open to wildlife and elements, and the house without heat or air conditioning;
- The contractor attempted to charge the homeowners in excess of $36,500.00 for extra work; and
- Work was so deficient that demolition and reconstruction will likely be required to bring the project into compliance.
The original contract between the homeowners and the contractor called for a scope of work described as interior alterations of the first and second floor, a second story master bedroom addition above an existing garage, and a new kitchen addition. It included relocation of the HVAC system and kitchen, new flooring for the addition and bathrooms, and a full remodel of three bathrooms, with complete framing, plumbing and mechanical.
Demolition began approximately one week after Fairfax County approval, and approximately two weeks later, the contractor ceased work in the middle of construction, claiming that certain scopes of work, such as plumbing due to changes in the new plans, were not included in the contract.
Not knowing exactly what to do next, yet understanding that they needed outside help to assist in resolution, the homeowners turned to Matthew Furlong to be their homeowners’ advocate.
Following completion of a forensic inspection (“investigation”) of the construction issues, Furlong was retained to render a preliminary opinion regarding:
- The property’s condition;
- Evaluation of overall construction work;
- Building code compliance assessment;
- Deviations from recognized industry standards;
- Best practice for product installations provided by the contractor; and
- Breached requirements due to poor workmanship, improper product installations, and/or failure to complete the project.
After a thorough review and analysis that included review of the building plans, visual surveys, physical measurements, site conditions, and searches for defects, observations were recorded and an opinion was rendered.
Investigation Results: Construction Deficiencies Found
The following issues were among the construction deficiencies discovered, and available for use in the case against the contractor:
- Rough-in plumbing not installed below the concrete slab and before prep work for kitchen, laundry or bathroom. Consequently, all prep work must be removed.
Building Code Violations
- In most cases, the contractor failed to meet basic minimum building code standards, and failed to follow manufacturer’s installation instructions will all installed products that were inspected
- Construction failed to conform to industry standards and approved design plans
Footer depth does not conform to frost protection code requirements
- Missing slab edge insulation
- Inadequate slab base
- Slab reinforcement missing required support
- Concrete reinforcement was placed directly on grade
- Footer thickness was 8” thick when design plans required a footer thickness of 12”
Licensing & Contracts
- Contractor claimed to possess a Virginia Class A Contractor’s License, but was licensed to perform only trade plumbing, gas, and HVAC work
- Contractor listed the homeowner as the contractor in order to obtain required building permits, without knowledge or agreement of the homeowner
- Contractor claimed significant changes in the scope of work and requested an additional $36,500.00 to proceed. Findings showed that only minor changes were required, and were not considered substantial or “Macro Changes” as claimed by the contractor.
Construction Dispute Findings & Recommendations
As a result of the contractor’s conduct, the property was deemed not habitable and in a condition that can be described as dangerous. Results included:
- Several uncapped and exposed live electrical wires;
- Large debris piles throughout the house;
- Partially-demolished kitchen and bedroom; and
- Holes in exterior wall that allowed birds to enter the home.
Upon forensic investigation, it was Furlong’s opinion that the homeowners were overcharged, that the work was deficient and incomplete, and that the contractor owed a refund back to the homeowners.
The project showed ominous signs of serious neglect, basic and fundamental installation techniques were ignored, and approved plans were not followed. The contractor did not execute the project with a reasonable level of knowledge, quality, efficiency, or in a workmanlike manner, and left several work scopes seriously deficient and incomplete.
The gas supply for the house and furnace, and the outdoor air conditioning unit were disconnected since construction began, risking burst water pipes in winter, and possible microbial growth in summer. The home is not sellable or habitable in its current condition and will require additional time and expense to correct issues.
Furlong also estimated that less than $20,000.00 in work had been performed against the advanced sum paid by the homeowners of $20,000.00, and an additional $24,000.00 in work would be required to correct the deficient work. A refund to the homeowners of at least $20,000.00 was recommended.
Construction Dispute? Rely on your Homeowners’ Advocate in Först Consulting Group
If you have issues with a contractor or construction disputes, there is an advocacy resource to turn to: Först Consulting Group. From Construction Contract Review, to Construction Defect Inspections, to Litigation Support, Först is here to help.
For more information, or to discuss your options on resolving a construction dispute, contact Först Consulting Group.