Question
A few months ago I hired a contractor to do a little bit of painting around my home. Unfortunately, I paid him without checking the job adequately. Also, based on what’s happened since the painting was done, it looks like he used an inferior quality paint. I called the contractor and he just got angry with me, now he won’t even answer my telephone calls. I only paid a few hundred dollars for this job but now I’m going to hire somebody else and pay again to have it done properly. Is there anything I can do?
Answer
With disputes of this magnitude, I rarely recommend that someone hire an attorney. The attorney will often cost you more than the amount in controversy. An attorney can never guarantee he’ll be able to recover the losses for you. There are number of other options available to you before taking additional financial risks on an already bad situation.

The Jefferson County Dispute Resolution Center can be helpful in situations such as this. The Dispute Resolution Center provides mediators trained to help you work with the other party in resolving disputes. Although they can only help if both parties are willing to enter the process in good faith, they do have an excellent track record and I encourage you to contact them. Their phone number is (409) 835-8747.

Another excellent resource is the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit group funded primarily by member businesses in your community. They can be helpful in working with you to resolve these types of disputes. In the future you might want to consult with the Better Business Bureau about the contractor prior to employing them. Although the Better Business Bureau can make no guarantee about a business, you can be assured that a business who is a member of the bureau takes pride in their ethical standing and reputation in the community. Our firm is a proud member of the bureau.

If neither the Better Business Bureau or the Dispute Resolution Center can help, consider filing suit in Small Claims Court. Your local Justice of the Peace will preside over a Small Claims Court case. The only expense is a $50.00 filing fee. The court is set up for people without attorneys, and is very user friendly. You don’t have many of the same strict rules of evidence and procedure that apply in other courts. Generally the Justice of the Peace is going to hear from you and the other side, look at any evidence you may have, and issue a ruling. If you are interested in using Small Claims Court, most of the JP’s have a form you can use to begin the process.

If you would like to submit a question for “You and the Law”, call us at 1-800-833-9151 or contact us online. While we will not be able to answer all questions sent in, we hope to answer those that impact the greatest number of readers. In reading this article please remember we are providing general answers to broad questions, your individual situation is unique and cannot be dealt with throughly in the space of a newspaper article.

When you are facing a serious legal issue, you should always consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances and how they impact the general principles discussed in this article. You should not hesitate to call me directly at Waldman Smallwood, P.C. and I will be happy to visit with you.

If you have any questions about a legal matter call Waldman Smallwood at 1-800-833-9151 or contact us online.

Tom Oxford, Attorney
Waldman Smallwood Law Firm, P.C.

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