Author Topic: contractor died after getting my deposit  (Read 2890 times)

AlanStache

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contractor died after getting my deposit
« on: May 07, 2019, 06:15:43 PM »
I hired a contractor to build a fence at my home, I put down half (550$) as a deposit.  When I inquired today about the schedule the contractors fiance informed me that the contractor had died.  He seemed like a owner-operator who hired labor out as needed and there will not be a company anymore.  The fiance did not say anything about someone else doing the work or a refund; no clue how involved she is in the business.

Can I just stop payment of the check and if no one fights it it will just be a wash?

Do I need to formally ask for my money back?  but to who? 

any pointers are appreciated, thanks.

calimom

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2019, 06:58:57 PM »
Oh dear! Please understand the fiance is quite likely in a state of shock and discussing business matters right now is way at the bottom of her list. Just stopping payment on the check seems like the best course of action for you. It's possible the check will be returned by someone at some point on top of that.

OneCoolCat

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2019, 07:02:08 PM »
I would stop payment and then immediately notify the fiance you cancelled the check so she doesn't try to cash it inadvertently.

Villanelle

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2019, 07:21:10 PM »
If it hasn't been chased, stop payment and let the fiancee know (and perhaps also offer some polite condolences). 

AlanStache

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2019, 07:57:02 PM »
It has cleared my bank, I have not called my bank yet.  Is there likely anything my bank can do?  I am traveling for work till tomorrow night and dont have all the contractors contact info. 


SwordGuy

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2019, 12:07:41 AM »
First of all, how bad do you need that $550? 

Second, is this a company with an office and office staff?   Or just some tradesman doing gigs.

If it was just some tradesman doing gigs and you don't really, really need it, just let it go, especially if that tradesman has kids.  Be kind.  Send a letter to the family with your condolences and make a gift of the deposit.

If it was a company with staff, contact the staff and cancel the contract or have them arrange for someone else to fulfil it.

If you really need the money and he's just a tradesman, you'll need to send a letter to the estate.  Assuming this is the US, there will probably be a notification in the paper of record for the tradesman's estate.  You can send a bill to the tradesman's address right away if you want, but you may also need to send one to the executor of the estate. I suggest the latter letter should be registered.   The tradesman's local county probate office should be able to give you specific particulars about how to handle things.   If you're going to pursue the debt, check with them first.




PS - A fiance really has no legal standing simply by virtue of being a fiance.   




Linea_Norway

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2019, 01:16:28 AM »
Maybe the contractor already bought the materials and needs your check to cover the expenses. It wouldn't be correct if his inheritors would inherit a debt, because your pulled back the money for materials he invested in.
I also think you should send your claim to the executor of the will. You should either get your money back, if there is any left, or get the materials that were bought for the job at your place.

six-car-habit

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2019, 02:10:53 AM »
 ugghh , bad deal for you, worse for him .   Was he licensed and bonded ? - or- just a guy with a pickup truck, some tools and ambition ?
 Is there a contract or just a "handshake deal " ?

 Are you sure he's not out on a bender somewhere and his fiance is covering for him / getting you off his trail - in the worst possible way ??

 I know its a bad thought I've put out here above, but someone had to say it...

thesis

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2019, 11:11:21 AM »
bad deal for you, worse for him .

Agreed.

Fraud does happen, my biggest concern would be whether I had been scammed or not, but I'd probably do my research without contacting the fiancee. I think there's a way to look up death certificates?

Others here have way better suggestions on how to handle this situation, in general, but since your specific cost is only $550, I'd agree with some of the others to ask how much you need this money. Wrangling that money from an estate may cost you more than it's worth, if not in dollars, then in time.

six-car-habit

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2019, 11:11:34 AM »
Government Bond Requirements

 "Depending on what type of industry you are in, you may be required to buy a surety bond for your business. Government agencies regularly require businesses to purchase some kind of surety bond to protect customers. For example, if your business is in the construction industry or in some kind of industry that works in customer's homes, you may be required to purchase a bond in a minimum amount. When you open your business, it is important to check with the local government to see what the requirements are in this area.
How Bonds Work

When you buy a bond for your business, it can provide peace of mind for your customers. With a bond, if you or one of your employees does something wrong, the bond will pay a lump sum of money to the customer. This is designed to help compensate him for his wasted time, and to help him fix the mistake with another company. You pay a bond company for the bond, and then the bond company essentially guarantees the quality of your work."

 Figure out if your deceased contractor was licensed and bonded and go after the bond to get your $550 back.  If he wasn't you are probably SOL.
 

affordablehousing

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2019, 11:34:23 AM »
This happened to a friend as well. I think that money is gone. At least it was only $550. This friend lost a $15K deposit.

Goldielocks

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2019, 11:52:52 AM »
Just like any personal loan or debt, being owed by a sole proprietor who passes away -- you need to get in line with the other creditors to make an application to be paid out by his estate.

I am assuming you wrote it out to a person directly, or to a sole proprietor company name.

The recourse is to send a formal letter, requesting the money back from the deceased's estate, include a copy of the check, if you can.  The executor would then pay off debts (like outstanding credit cards and you), and then pay out to the heirs.  This process can take a few months and if there is insufficient funds, you may not get all of it back.   Preferential creditors are paid first (government employee taxes, first line creditors, secured creditors) and then the secondary creditors would normally get paid out from the remaining estate.

You can also notify his bank where it was cashed that he died, you are owed money back and that the bank account, if joint, should be frozen.   (Which is very crappy for the other people living with him, if it was also the main personal household account, I wouldn't do that for $550, myself, and this is why business accounts should be separate from household accounts).  The business account may not have any money in it either, as often deposits from one job are used to cash flow / pay off the labour from a prior job.

A letter should be sufficient if they are working above board.

carolina822

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2019, 09:18:08 PM »


 Are you sure he's not out on a bender somewhere and his fiance is covering for him / getting you off his trail - in the worst possible way ??

 I know its a bad thought I've put out here above, but someone had to say it...

Faking one's death seems like overkill for 550 bucks.

Paul der Krake

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2019, 09:58:38 PM »
Unless information surfaces to suggest that the surviving relative has better knowledge of the business than originally believed, patiently waiting for the estate to do its thing is the only graceful way to handle this. If you even want it back, that is.

Linea_Norway

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2019, 12:47:36 AM »
Unless information surfaces to suggest that the surviving relative has better knowledge of the business than originally believed, patiently waiting for the estate to do its thing is the only graceful way to handle this. If you even want it back, that is.

Agree. Write the letter to the estate, mark the money in your finances as lost and get surprised if they one day just pop up.

Case

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2019, 05:18:32 AM »
Unless information surfaces to suggest that the surviving relative has better knowledge of the business than originally believed, patiently waiting for the estate to do its thing is the only graceful way to handle this. If you even want it back, that is.

Agree. Write the letter to the estate, mark the money in your finances as lost and get surprised if they one day just pop up.

I wouldn't mark the money as lost; this encourages letting it go.  Rather, this is a good thing to write yourself a 'reminder' for, to forget about for a month, and then go revisit after a respectful amount of time has passed. 

six-car-habit

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2019, 11:40:08 AM »


 Are you sure he's not out on a bender somewhere and his fiance is covering for him / getting you off his trail - in the worst possible way ??

 I know its a bad thought I've put out here above, but someone had to say it...

Faking one's death seems like overkill for 550 bucks.

  Carolina822 - Do you know anyone with a drug addiction problem ??   550 dollars buys a lot of meth / liquor / reefer / etc.

 AlanStache-
 1. Was there a written contract ?
 2.  Is the handyman licensed ?
 3. Does your state/locality require bonding for a home-improvement business ?

  if yes to all three, why not go after the bond, instead of hoping for recompense from the deceased's estate.
  if no, to #1 or # 2, "once burnt - twice shy ?"
 

BTDretire

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2019, 11:46:19 AM »
This happened to a friend as well. I think that money is gone. At least it was only $550. This friend lost a $15K deposit.
Ya, I have a neighbor that made a $7k deposit on landscape work, to be started in 6 weeks, 6 weeks passed and contractor says
it will be at least another month, because he got a large commercial contract and doesn't have time for her. She ask for her money back, so she could hire someone else. The contractor said no, we have a contract you can't break it.
 Seems to me he broke the contract. But he has the $7k, bad place to start from.

Goldielocks

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2019, 04:54:11 PM »
This happened to a friend as well. I think that money is gone. At least it was only $550. This friend lost a $15K deposit.
Ya, I have a neighbor that made a $7k deposit on landscape work, to be started in 6 weeks, 6 weeks passed and contractor says
it will be at least another month, because he got a large commercial contract and doesn't have time for her. She ask for her money back, so she could hire someone else. The contractor said no, we have a contract you can't break it.
 Seems to me he broke the contract. But he has the $7k, bad place to start from.
Contractor probably gave a finish date.   If he substantially misses the finish by date, neighbor can with hold the final payment (10%) and he woudl have to sue to get it back.

AlanStache

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2019, 07:29:29 PM »
Thanks for all the info.  after getting back from my work trip I looked into things a bit tonight.

Pertinent updates.
* I had a written contract with the mans company. 
* The check was written to him personally.
* He is listed with the state contractors registry but as an electrician journeyman starting in 2001 and valid till the end of this year.
* There is a death notice and services announcement in a local paper, says he died the day after I met him and wrote the check.
* I dont see a web searchable Virginia death listing hosted by the state govt. 
* The business website has been taken down. 
* 'Internet Wayback Machine' has the first listing for the business site in may 2017 (I checked this before hiring him).
* Address listed in IWM for the company is a residential address - I assume his home.
* 550$ does not change my life in any way.
* I have no reason to believe there are any other full time employees of the company. 

I had planned on asking a friend to request a quote from the company to test if my guy resurrected and wanted new deposits.  But with the site down that is less plausible. 

Taking down a two year old website to con 550$ seems a bit much or at least short sighted.  But as they say 'drugs can be a hell of a drug'.

So it seems very likely that he really did die and there is no fencing company left. 

I have not called my bank.  Online I can see the cashed check but cant see what bank it was deposited into.  I will see about calling my bank and then his bank tomorrow.

I dont have high hopes for getting the money back. 

As he died some two weeks before he said the work would start there are probably not construction supplied allocated to my contract laying around.  I guess I could text the former fiance: "Rather than returning my deposit can I pick up 550$ of fencing construction supplies that may be laying around the deceased house." That seems rather uncouth. 

I am going to guess that his bank is going to say there is nothing they can do.  So my only real option is to send a letter to the estate. 





SwordGuy

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2019, 08:44:30 PM »
Regular folks can't generally submit obituary notices to the newspaper of record.   It's to cut down on prank announcements.

If you are going to pursue getting your money back, you'll need to send a letter to the estate.   Once a legal notice advising creditors is published in the paper, a countdown starts.   Bills received after the countdown ends can be ignored.

Undecided

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2019, 10:27:27 PM »
Was the check deposited after the day he died?

Dicey

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2019, 05:53:29 AM »
Slightly different scenario: Long before it was a thing, I did No-Spend Februarys. It's amazing how much you can sock away with laser-sharp focus. Per usual, I had no plans for the money beyond adding it to my 'stache.

I was speaking with a friend who was undergoing cancer treatment. She needed to be hospitalized and was worried about paying her rent. My stache had grown by exactly enough to pay two months rent with a little more for groceries. I sent her a check, which she was thrilled and surprised to receive. Unfortunately, she never came home from the hospital. She died a few weeks later. I know she didn't spend all the money, because she had set it aside for rent. She left everything to her nephew. I met and spoke with him at her funeral. He was taking her cat, so I figured the unspent money would keep her beloved kitty well fed for some time. I never said a word to him about the money. Not gonna lie, it wasn't easy. However, it made me ridiculously happy and even proud that my frugality helped ease my friends burden at what turned out to be the end of her life.

If the money truly isn't a hardship, send the fiance a note of condolence and forgive the debt. I'm betting you will be glad you did.

Le Poisson

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2019, 06:01:35 AM »
My first step would be to google for an obituary. Either that or ask the fiancee for the funeral information so you can go to pay your respects.

Too many shady folks out there.

If he has passed away, then I would likely let it go out of compassion for the family, I the $550 was a big deal to me, then I would get in touch with the executor to put in a claim on the money, but as others have said, have low expectations since everything else needs to be paid out first, and traditionally fence & deck guys are not the high income contractors.

acepedro45

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #24 on: May 10, 2019, 10:03:43 PM »
I disagree with a lot of the advice being doled out on this thread.

First of all, I'm amazed at the number of people who suspect this poor guy of faking his own death. I had the same thing happen to me with a roof guy I engaged who died in a tragic accident before he got to our house. I never paid a deposit, but it never would have crossed my mind that it was a con if I had.

Second, many posters are advocating the OP just call it a loss and move on. Eh, not my advice. There are just a few close relatives where I'd consider kicking in $550 bucks in a go-fund-me this-family-has-experienced-a-terrible-loss kind of way. I would never even consider it for a contractor who I didn't know aside from giving me a quote. It's a rotten thing yeah, but there are rotten things happening every day.

I would wait a respectful two weeks more (so that it's been a good month if I'm understanding the timeline correctly) and then text the fiancee and ask politely about repayment in the context of winding this person's affairs up. Maybe feel your way through that conversation and offer the construction materials for $550 forgiveness swap depending on how the dialogue goes.

If I felt like I reached a dead end through the informal channels and had no other recourse, I would contact the estate by letter as others have suggested and not feel guilty about it. When I go, I don't want anyone out there to be stiffed out of money they've got coming.

civil4life

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2019, 10:56:57 AM »
I know for credit cards you usually can challenge a transaction.  The bank may have some option for checking.  It definitely helps you have a written contract.

AlanStache

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2019, 12:13:32 PM »
Called my bank (Schwab), took a bit but I finally got the answer that they could not do anything for me.  Money left my account after all. 

I will have to dig into how to find the executor tonight. 

Dicey

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #27 on: May 13, 2019, 05:53:40 PM »
I disagree with a lot of the advice being doled out on this thread.

First of all, I'm amazed at the number of people who suspect this poor guy of faking his own death. I had the same thing happen to me with a roof guy I engaged who died in a tragic accident before he got to our house. I never paid a deposit, but it never would have crossed my mind that it was a con if I had.

Second, many posters are advocating the OP just call it a loss and move on. Eh, not my advice. There are just a few close relatives where I'd consider kicking in $550 bucks in a go-fund-me this-family-has-experienced-a-terrible-loss kind of way. I would never even consider it for a contractor who I didn't know aside from giving me a quote. It's a rotten thing yeah, but there are rotten things happening every day.

I would wait a respectful two weeks more (so that it's been a good month if I'm understanding the timeline correctly) and then text the fiancee and ask politely about repayment in the context of winding this person's affairs up. Maybe feel your way through that conversation and offer the construction materials for $550 forgiveness swap depending on how the dialogue goes.

If I felt like I reached a dead end through the informal channels and had no other recourse, I would contact the estate by letter as others have suggested and not feel guilty about it. When I go, I don't want anyone out there to be stiffed out of money they've got coming.
Well, we agree on your first point.

I also don't completely disagree with you on point #2, but how much is your time worth? To me, it just doesn't seem worth the time or the stress.

Finally, the poor woman just lost her partner. Since they're not married, she's not responsible for his debts anyway. Why hound her? Showing some compassion for a situation that's completely out of her control is also a completely reasonable choice. In the grand scheme of things, $550 is a spit in any good mustachian's bucket, including the OP's, as they have indicated.

But you are free to spend your life energy chasing down every last cent. Just don't call the person who chooses not to wrong.

Oh, and when you go, I guarantee you there will be things left undone. You can't control all the details. Who knows? Perhaps someday, someone will advise one of your loved ones to do the very same thing some of us are advocating here. But you won't know, because you'll be gone. Life is for the living, and so is compassion.

homelesshobbit

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2019, 07:16:58 PM »
trust but verify. if you find that he truly has died, i would not worry about the $550. like someone said above, write a nice condolence and state the $550 to be a gift.

partgypsy

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #29 on: May 13, 2019, 09:35:38 PM »
I guess I'm different. If someone paid me to do a job, and I didn't do it, I would like that person paid back (yes, even if I was dead). It's not my money.

By the River

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Re: contractor died after getting my deposit
« Reply #30 on: May 14, 2019, 10:35:45 AM »
Only had 1 thing similar...years ago had rented a townhouse (from VRBO) across the street from the beach.  A deposit of one night's rent would be returned if no damage.   A hurricane was brewing in the gulf when our stay ended.  A few days later, they took a direct hit.  We saw a picture of the townhouse with serious roof damage.   We decided to not request our deposit back.  Was it legally ours? Yes but thought the owner probably needed it more.  (It appears that this was the owner's only rental unit on VRBO not a corporation).