Thursday, 30 August 2012

Now let's blow this thing and go home

"You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home!"

I expect the following showdown to take place tomorrow between two trigger happy, gun slinging sides:
Our builder will present us with our house. We will not accept it, though, because there is still evident rain damage in two areas. Currently, the builder is claiming he “did not allow for painting these rooms”, an interesting excuse by any account; then again, shouldn’t he have allowed for adequate rain protection? Reject!
Our builder will invoice us for the work he has done. Most of it would be fine, but there will be two items we will rejecting:
  1. We expect the builder to provide a single invoice for all the house’s paint work. However, given that a significant part of this paint work was done to fix rain damage taking place under his watch, we would like him to demonstrate a separate invoice for his side of the work. He won’t have it – it’s virtually guaranteed he intends to dump all the work on us. Reject!
  2. The builder already told us he would issue us an invoice for painting the house’s new door frames. Great, only that as far as we are concerned this work was already included in the original scope of the paint work; the reason why the builder deems them separate is to do with him ordering the doors gradually in order to cater for his cash flow. This has resulted in the painter coming in to do the painting before the doors were there, and then having to come back again – apparently at extra cost – to paint the door frames. Should we care for the builder’s lackluster project management skills?
    The story doesn’t finish there. The builder further argues the painter did not quote for the door frames in his original quote because he did not know they had to be painted. An interesting argument were it to be true: in actual fact, the painter did paint the door frames upon his initial bout of work; only that he painted the old door frames that were later replaced. Besides, if the builder is unable to properly define the scope of work to his contractors, should we carry the blame? Accepting this invoice could, theoretically, open the floodgates for us accepting further claims on every miscalculation the builder had made. That is exactly why builders ask their customers to pay extra for variations and changes to the original plans. In our case, though, the door frames are no variation because they were included in the scope from the very beginning and did not change. Reject!
The question is what’s to happen next. I don’t know at this stage; if we cannot reach an agreement then there is the possibility our re-entry to our house would be delayed and the builder and us might have a confrontation at VCAT (a tribunal dealing with consumer disputes) or some other conciliation option.
The more interesting question is why did it have to come to this? And even more interesting is the following question: if the builder sees the light and common sense prevails, which is not an unlikely outcome and which is definitely the outcome we are looking for, why did he let us feel as cornered as we currently do? What is he trying to get out of all of this?
My proposed answer to that last question is that the builder is trying to make us desperate and thus allow him to get away with stuff he wouldn't otherwise. Ignoring the poor ethics on display, I would argue this attitude is a bad long term business strategy. Or is it that all builders conspire to be just as bad, an hypothesis that seem to be supported by everyone I talk to?


Image by Garrettc, Creative Commons license

31/8/12: Builder came good, promising to fix remaning issues on Monday. Looks like you might be all clear, kid.

9 comments:

Uri said...

I hope it works out on Monday.

May the force be with you.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Thanks. I'm sure you know the feeling: we just want it over with so we can move on with our lives.

Uri said...

any updates?

Moshe Reuveni said...

Yes...
Went into the house this evening to see what have been done and saw that no fixes have been done (some other thing was fixed, but that was a third party fix).
So I called the builder to ask what's going on, as we've already booked cleaners in. He sounded a bit angry and told me he put a layer of paint in the laundry room; I didn't argue the point of whether he did apply a coat of special extra transparent and incredibly odorless paint or not. I told him the problem hasn't been solved and he said he'll apply another layer tomorrow. Of course, that did not address the two other paint fixes he promised to do today; I just politely reminded him of those.
Seriously now, I don't get it. Why commit to Monday when "this week" would have been fine by us? And why lie so blatantly? What's the point when he know we gave the bank the order to give him his final payment?
He lost me with that lock episode I blogged about before. What's at stake now is more my perception of him as a sane human being. I'll let you know what the story's like tomorrow...

Sarah said...

Not sure if the same applies to renovations as new house builds but we had a 13 week maintenance check where anything that wasn't right the builders had to come back and fix after we moved in. That took some of the pressure off it being perfect once we had paid the final payment. As you say once they have that what incentive do they really have to get things right when you just want your house back? Hope it all works out with few tears.

Moshe Reuveni said...

It applies in our case, too. However, for obvious reasons we would like the painting to be done before we clean the place and fill it up with our furniture.
The point in this case is not really the fix itself, but rather the false promises. Made a promise? Stand by it, and don't lie.
Thanks for the support!

Moshe Reuveni said...

A day later, and...
One paint fix was done, but gave us a demo as to the extent of the water damage inflicted on our roof: the damage is still very much visible under the coat of paint. The builder said he'll apply another coat of paint tomorrow.
Another wall with damaged paint was mildly fixed: half of it was fixed, the other half wasn't.
Me, I lost my patience with the builder and it shows in our communications. He's a good builder but he doesn't know how to finish things off properly, not realizing that his half arsed attitude will be the image that he leaves with us for posterity. "Half arsed" is the key point here, because it will only take a minor effort for the builder to give us a proper solution, an effort that pales in comparison to the rest of the work. Don't ask me what interest he has in not giving us good service at this stage; I would argue that people unable to figure this out should not run projects in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Instead of a "thank you very much", our project is going to end with mutual notes of of "fuck off".

Sarah said...

It is a shame it has to end that way. Why do so many building ventures end this way? I wonder where the problem lies in the process between client and builder?

Is it that as we don't work in the building industry that the client has unrealistic expectations of the builder and much like just because you have been to school you don't actually understand what it is like to work in schools, is it the same here? Or is it that the builder has lost respect and understanding that while he may do multiple builds a year that for the client it will probably be one of the biggest emotional and financial commitments they will make in their life.

Considering how many building projects are engaged in, from personal reports it rarely tends to run smoothly with both parties being happy at the end. I wouldn't have thought it had to be this hard to get it right.

Moshe Reuveni said...

It is a shame. I blame the whole process: between gutless insurance and vague contracts, the builders seem to have implemented their own mechanism for avoiding scope creep. The problem is that they're definition of scope creep seems to be different to ours, or rather: When they apply their mallet to enhancements and change request, ricochets and accidental misses hit the agreed upon scope as well.
In a market where all builders apply the same tactics they can all get away with it. It gets more interesting when a builder comes along and claims to be more user friendly, trying for a competitive edge as a result. That was the approach of our builder, and most of the time he delivered (and often more than needed); at the end, though, he faltered and it felt like we were kinder teachers. Indeed, as we go about we keep finding more and more cases of neglect where it is obvious he could have fixed things with minimal effort if he could only be bothered. Which he wasn’t.
My intention is to eventually post a review of the builder, to be written the same way I review movies and books and to be seen by anyone who bothers googling him. I want to take my time there and cool down to ensure an objective report that’s not enflamed by the passion of the moment. Regardless, for someone relying on word of mouth, that can have a significant effect. The point is that we have our own mallets.

P.S. I have no idea what the code Google wants me to put is...