A week is a long time in a building dispute

TreeSometimes you deal with professional and courteous types who are honest and hardworking. Other times, you have the misfortune of being forced to deal with people who are anything but professional.

This was originally published as part of a 52 week short story challenge, but it was essentially also a way for me to vent due to the idiotic behaviour of a particular building company. I’m leaving it online as a cautionary tale for others, but sans links to the other stories. They’re meant to be enjoyable, whereas this was nothing but painful.

As friends of mine knew all too well last year, I had a major running dispute with my insurance company (NRMA) and their appointed builders (AJ Grant) over getting my property properly repaired so that I could return to it. What should have been a three week job took nearly six months in the end, and caused me a very large quantity of missed work, stress and discomfort. It was poorly handled, especially by the builders.

I was going to use the final week of the builder’s work as the backdrop for a more humorous take on what had happened, writing up using full fictional names for the participants, because in many ways what happened did have the elements of a classic farce. I figured writing it up in proper farce style might be slightly cathartic. After all, the events in this story are absolutely why I was too stressed to write an original story back in week twenty-six, and instead used my last “banked” story that week (and really, that’s minor compared to the overall stress of that week. 2015 will not be missed by me.) So a semi-fictional story based on real events.

Then in the more recent Sydney storms (i.e today), the bathroom they’d ‘fixed’ started leaking, as did the front eave from the roof they’d ‘fixed’. So why play nice? Everything here is as per my notes at the time, and while the conversations (mostly phone, as you’ll see) are paraphrased, they’re one hundred percent accurate. All this junk happened to me thanks to AJ Grant builders, and this was just in the final week of months of trying to get work done. I don’t really see a reason why I should keep quiet about that.

So to qualify; while the conversations are from memory, they’re quite accurate from my recall, and the events themselves are not open to dispute. Open to ridicule, and tearing out of hair that I don’t in fact have, but not dispute.

A week is a long time in a building dispute

Friday

“Hi, Chadd. Just leaving you a message, as you don’t seem to answer your phone. Or return calls all that often. Just checking that we’re still good to meet at the property on Monday morning to go through the final list of things that need to be done. We’ll give you the checklist then, OK. If you could call me back that’d be great.”

Monday

“Right, so it’s agreed. You’ll have the painting finished this week by Thursday so that the carpet can come in on Friday. The guys are booked to be here painting all week. You’re going to get a cleaning crew in early on Friday so they don’t interrupt the carpet laying, but you’re totally confident that everything else can be done. That’ll include properly putting that back door in plus the security door, and fixing up the broken plaster in the bathroom, fixing the broken concrete on the front, cleaning the damaged curtains and general cleanup. You’re going to collect the curtains to have them professionally cleaned and they’ll be back this week as well.

You’re sure about this now? Sure, it’s a fair bit of work, that’s why I’m concerned. You’re confident it’ll all be done. OK, then.”

Tuesday

“Hey, it’s me again. You know how you said the painters were booked to be here all week? They’re not here at all today. Nothing’s been done whatsoever as far as I can see. Please call me back.”

“OK, you don’t seem to want to call me back. Fine. I can call you multiple times if needed. Nobody attended the house today, and given this has stretched on for five months now for what you assured me was a “simple 2 week job”, I’m getting frustrated with it all. Please. Call. Me. Back. Also, we’re meant to meet tomorrow, as per our agreed schedule, and it’d be good to have that absolutely confirmed.”

Wednesday

“You called back? I’m surprised. Oh. You can’t make our meeting today, but you’re ‘sure’ that the painters will be there, and the remaining small building works will be completed on time. No, I’m not happy with that. I’m going to head to the property to see if anything is being done.”

“It’s me again. Yeah, I’m not happy, because as I predicted, there’s nobody there getting the necessary work done. I’d like to remind you that we agreed three weeks ago that you could get the work done in two weeks, but we’d give it an extra week in case there was rain or some other problem. There hasn’t been — except that your workers don’t seem keen on turning up.”

Thursday

“Hey Chadd. Call me back. Be aware, I’m not happy with the fact that I have to keep calling you, so I’m not going to wait for a callback. Expect another from me in a few minutes if you don’t.”

“Ah, you can return a call. Look, there are serious problems. It’s Thursday afternoon, and your painters have only been there today. That’s since Monday, so only two days this week, and this is pretty much the last day — as you yourself agreed — for painting to be done. They’ve got the paint wrong in several rooms, and have no idea about the mould proof paint for the bathroom.

So much so, in fact, that my wife’s had to head out to the hardware store to procure the right shade. Otherwise it would not have been done. The painters seem convinced that they were only hired to paint two rooms, which makes me wonder what they think they’re doing. It certainly doesn’t seem to be painting.
It’s getting late in the day, and I’m entirely unconvinced that you’re going to be able to finish the work.

What’s that? You’re sure you’re going to be able to do that? How, exactly?

Oh, you’ll work on it ‘all night’ if you have to. Right, well, I’m going to head to the property and stay there myself while work is done. It seems like the only way that things will happen. We’re still good to meet tomorrow to do final checking, right?

What?

You can’t make it tomorrow? Oh no.

No.

No, you see, that’s not going to fly. Not going to fly at all. We had an agreement to meet three times a week at the house, and you’ve missed more than half those meetings. You will be there tomorrow morning, and I will, and things will be finished. Have no doubt about that. No, no excuses. No, I don’t give a single damn if you’ve got a “big job” down in Bowral. That means nothing to me when you’ve been avoiding my calls, lagging on the work and providing promise after promise that don’t seem to be happening. Remember that checklist we went through earlier this week? None of it has been done. None of it. At all. I’ll be at the property shortly and check with the painters then, and call you back.”

“Right, so, what’s happening? Oh, the painters have left? Right, I’ll get onto the phone then.”

“Hi Chadd, it’s me again. Yes, call me back. Please do so right now, because your promises are tumbling away.”

“Right, so you blokes are going to be doing the painting instead. You’re builders, right? Not professional painters? Just checking.

Oh. You’re just ‘waiting’ for your boss to get back with the paint. OK. Sigh. I’ll wait here as well. No, I will wait. I want to see what happens next.”

“Right, so let’s get this straight. It’s 10:30pm, and you’re finishing up. You don’t have the main bedroom or ensuite finished, but everything else is ‘done’, and when the carpet guy turns up tomorrow morning, you’ll get him started on the upstairs bedrooms while you quickly finish down here. OK then. I’ll be by around 8ish.”

Friday

“Hang on. What the hell is going on? Why are you painting in the upstairs bedrooms? Why is anything happening here at all?

No, please STOP. No, I’m saying STOP. Yeah, this is my house. I think I’ve got some say here. A carpet layer is due soon, and this room was NOT meant to be touched. NOT touched. Is any of this getting through?”

“Ah, Chadd. So nice of you to turn up. Now, there are serious problems here, not the least of which is that your builders lied to me last night about being “done” with these rooms and that the carpet layer would be done. I’ll remind you that today is meant to be the last day that work’s being done.

What?

Sorry, WHAT?

What do you mean you never agreed to that? What? Are you serious? You can’t be… what? Next Tuesday? Where did you pull that from? No, that’s just a flat out lie.”

“What? The carpet layer’s already been, but because nobody could tell him why people were painting upstairs rooms at 6am, he’s already left? Oh for ####’s sake…”

“Yeah, you’re right I’m not happy.”

“What? ‘This is just how the building industry works?’. It’s pretty bloody clear that this isn’t ‘work’ as anyone would describe it, and that you’ve been lying to me for quite some time.”

“What? This is *my fault*? Because of my ‘rush’ to get back into the property?

You do recall agreeing that this was only a two week job, right? That you’ve had three weeks to… and there we go with the Tuesday lie again. Right, well, I’m stuffed for today. What is still to be done? Oh, you’re off, are you? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Chadd then left, and a little while later, surprise, surprise, his boss showed up.

“Oh, you were ‘just passing’ and heard I’d chatted to Chadd earlier. Well, yes, I did. I’m not happy with the work that’s been done.”

“Oh, again this is ‘my fault’ for ‘harassing’ your builders? You do realise I’ve just been trying to get them to do what they’d said they’d do, right?”

“Oh, ‘that’s just how the building industry is’, is it? Does that include lying?”

“Oh, you don’t like being called out on that? You’re going to finish up by 4pm today, entirely? Fine by me. I’ll deal with the insurers for all the work you’ve failed to do. Now, what about the scaffold that you’ve left on the front of the property — should I just put that up on eBay?”

“Sorry, what? Leave the property? Because it’s “your building site”? No. Absolutely not. No way, not after everything else. This is my house, and I’m not leaving. No, I can’t go sit in my car; I don’t have one here.”

(the action now switches to a Twitter conversation with my wife; I would have used my phone but for reasons that will quickly become apparent, I was in fear for what might happen if I’d done so. Everything here is literally exactly as typed. My wife’s responses are in bold.)

Twitter:
Now being threatened by AJ Grant. Told to leave property. Can you call NRMA please. NOW>

Quickly please.

calling

do you need police to get them off?

I don’t know. David is stating that Chadd did not lie, that we were unaccepting and that we rushed work. I disagree. He has told me that they will not return; I pointed out scaffold. He then stated “do not touch scaffold or there will be consequences”. I ignored him, just as chadd has ignored me.

He has then claimed that it’s his building site, and that I must leave. I refuse to leave.

I’m calling the police

He seems to have backed off. Appears to be hollow threat.

on the phone to police right now
They are going to send a car around – they know you are owner and dispute with tradies.

Fine. I have no transport — they suggested I go sit in car — so they said “tough, just walk away then”
It’s only David who’s aggressive. Other guys are fine.

Can you head here NOW with the kids? Chadd is apparently 10 mins away and I’d like witnesses. Just in case.

(the police did attend, but by then David, Chadd’s boss had left. Never saw him again, and that’s just fine by me. Thankfully nothing physical did ensue, but I’ve never felt quite so scared in my own home as I did then. Nobody should have to go through that.)

“Right, so you’re back, Chadd. What’s that? The curtains ‘weren’t all done’ and so some will have to be dropped off tomorrow? How’s that going to work given that your boss was here and stated nobody would attend the property after 4pm? Why did that take so long anyway? I’d been chasing you for literally weeks on it.”

“Sigh. I’m not surprised. Right, now, there’s a lot that hasn’t been done. What’s the state of play with concrete path you broke putting a skip in? Not done. I see. What about the front guttering flashing fix? Not done. Security door? Oh, you haven’t even ordered that yet? Why am I once again not surprised. Oh, you didn’t view a door that goes into the inside of the house as being part of the inside of the house… not sure I get that.

Look, there’s two things left to sort out. Your guys have lost bits of the internal wardrobe — that’s the one that was going to be rebuilt from the original until you decided to scrap it entirely without discussing it with me — and it won’t fit back together. No. No, it won’t. Look, come up and have a look. Be my guest. If you can get it back together from the parts that are left, you’re more than welcome to do so.

Yup. Bits missing. Again, on your watch. Fine, frankly, today has been astonishingly crap and I just want it over and done with.

Look, there’s just one thing left to attend to, and that’s the keys. I did try to look for them earlier. They didn’t seem to be in the lockbox, where you assured me they’d be kept. The keys. The ones you’ve had ‘secured’ for months now. I’d very much like them back, and I really would rather not see anyone from AJ Grant on this property ever again.

No, they’re not there. Go look for yourself. See?

Sure, we can look around the house. I’m kind of interested in the security of my own property.

See? Not there. Not at all. So where are they?

What? The painter “accidentally took them” this morning when he left? Well, he can bloody well return them then! Oh, “he’s in Bondi and will drop them around tomorrow morning”.

No. That’s totally unacceptable. How am I meant to know what the hell he’s done with them in that time?”

“Right, so I have to call for an emergency locksmith. Of course I do.”

(the emergency locksmith was excellent, especially for late on a Friday night, for what it’s worth.)

Epilogue:
And that’s where we close our scene. To their credit, the NRMA did settle with us for replacement locksmith keys and the remainder of the work not done including the full cost of painting and full replacement curtains, because whatever the hell Chadd had done to them caused them to severely fade and shrink several inches to the point of being completely unusable.

It’s worth noting that AJ Grant continues to trade, although how I’m not entirely sure. What I am entirely sure of is that they were, without doubt, the worst building firm I’ve ever had to deal with, and I would strongly advise anyone against utilising their services.

 

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