Did this guy take advantage of me?

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-2006
Did this guy take advantage of me?
Sat, 10-12-2013 - 7:02pm

sorry this is long but just to give enough details so you can make the right assessment.

I met this guy through at a couple of singles meetup hikes about 1 1/2 yrs ago. He was interested in me. Right off the bat, I knew he's not someone I wanted to date and I clearly told him that. He hasn't had a steady job since the economic downturn  in 2008 He has an MBA and used to work as a consultant.to non-profit corps to help them raise funds. He's 57. Has a 17 yo son that lives the x-wife. She was particulary nasty, emptied out the bank acct. He also let her have the house. so basically he has nothing. Rents a room in a house in a beach city (an expensive room IMO - $900/mo). But he was easy to talk to and it's good to have guy firends. He came over for dinner one day and helped me put a couple of small trees in the back yard (they didn't survive but that's another matter). 

We talked from time to time. We were able to have good conversations most times. I thought he was nice. He did mentioned to me he helps different friends with handyman work to make a living supposedly he's been doing home improvement since he was 13 yo. He's also working on inventing products (with someone who provides funds for materials but they don't pay him for labor - so no income form this work). A few weeks ago, he sent out an email saying he's starting a handy man service. This came at an opportune time since I've been thinking about putting my house on the market but havent' had time to call around. I thought it would be convienient. I would be giving work to a person that needs it and get something I need done. He told me he charges $50/hr. I thought that was a bit steep but trust him that he wouldn't take advantage of me. There were five skilled things I needed done and one easy thing. The harder tasks are: 1) painting the front doors, 2) touch up paint on the stairway- there's an area about the size of 2 palm size where the paint came off and needs to be retouched, 3) a light that wasn't centerd over the sink b/c the electrical box wasn't centered, and 4) building a stand for my water heater, and 5) fix the opening the the attic and make a new cover. The rim around the opening looks ragged. The easy task was filling in some nail holes  ( about 20 of them from running TV cable) on the outside wall and touch up paint, and painting a cover of an electrical pannel (outside of the house).  As far as centering the light in the bathroom, a harder thing is the move the electrical box but he didn't do that. He made some holes on the light fixture so the point of attachment is not right in the middle of it so it still center over the sink.

The first day, he spent 5 hours and I paid $250. Next day, on a Sat he wanted to charg me for 8.5 hours. At $50 per hour that would come out to $425. I complained that was too much so he reduced to $305 (or $35/hour). Still didn't get done. Next day came and worked 4.5 hours, so another $225 (at $35/hour). Still didn't get everything done. All along, I kept asking him if he could give me an estimate of how much longer b/c I can't keep paying him indefinately, he kept saying he can't do it b/c he absolutely didn't know how long a job was going to take. I found that strange, if this person is experience, how come he can't even tell me well into a project how long it's going to be? Even after the third day and $755 into the project, still things werent' done. The situation with the attic wasn't practically not done, the door painted but a few small spots need touch up both on the outside and inside, the stairwell, while not looking bad but would look more professional with a little smoothing out of the paint.

Now I pressure him to really let me know how much longer and I want to cap it to another 3 hours at most to finish everything perfect. He said OK but then backpaddle when I tried to pin down exactly what needed to get done with the attic opening. At this point, he made a cover (not yet painted BTW) that not only didn't fit the opening perfectly  - has noticeble gap on all sides - IMO but the rim of the opening wasn't not fixed. He now told me I never asked him to (I disagreed, I have told him repeatedly I needed that done) and he doesn't know how much longer it would take to fix theopening. I asked him to take a look at it to see and he said he has no way of telling me until he starts the work. So 3 hours only cover painting the attic cover and finish touch up on the doors and the stair well. So this would work out to about $860 (with material this works out to $1000 to me).

So if I agreed to this new arrangement then I would have paid him $860 ($1000 with material)  to get a stand for my water heater, center the light in the bathroom, repaint front doors, touch up the spot ont he stairway, and filling 20 nail holes and touch up paint on the holes and paint electrical pannel cover.  Please note all of the paint I already have color matched and ready at home except for the paint for the stairway so it's not like he had to go shopping for paint.

The attic cover looks like a piece of junk (two drywal pieces screwed on top of each other) and didn't fit the opening perfectly. Since he refused to give me an estimate of how much longer or how much it would cost to fix ragged opeing and re-doing to cover, I told him to just give me a discount for it and I will get someone else to fix the entire thing for me (make new cover and fix the opening).

He adamently refused. An argument broke out. at one point he screammed at me and started coming up the stairs towards me. I got very scared and ran into my bedroom and told him I was going to call 911 b/c I was afraid he would hit me.  He then told me I didn't need to and he called 911 himself thinking the police was going to make me pay him. Anyway, to make a long story longer, they came, heard the story. They told him to leave. I didn't pay for the last day ($225) b/c he didn't agree to take off money for the (junky) attic cover.

As it stands right now, he's charged me $756. I have a new stand for my heater, light over the sink centered, 20 nails holes patched and painted, and a painted electical pannel, stairwell touch up mostly done. Front doors mostly done but have a few spots for touch up stairwell spot could use some sanding and another coat of paint to smooth out.

I actually have a few other things I wanted done but seeing how he just kept going and going without any end in site, I didn't want to keep paying.

What do you think?




iVillage Member
Registered: 09-29-2010
Sat, 10-12-2013 - 9:52pm

Did he take advantage of you? Yes, but only because you made yourself an easy mark. I guess you figured that because you were "friends" with him that he would be more honest with you, like admit that he didn't completely know what he was doing? I'll bet your so-called handyman ex-friend is desperate for money so he'll say he can do anything, and hope that he can wing it.

If you had put this post on a remodeling and home improvement board, what you would hear would be something like: instead of just hiring him based on his word that he was experienced you should have gotten some references and checked them; you should have gotten a written estimate before any work started, and gotten bids from at least one other handyman so you would know if his bid was reasonable. And then, if you decide you want to use him, you hire him for one job--not the easiest or hardest---and see if he does it well and within the time expected.

If you don't like the way he does the one job then you don't have to hire him for the others. He may be angry and the friendship ends but at least you're not gouged. I don't know if what you paid is reasonable or not, it depends on the complexity of some of the tasks and the going rate in your area. You'll know when you find another handyman to finish up after him, and do the other jobs.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-16-2001
Sat, 10-12-2013 - 10:39pm
Absolutely he did. Either that or he has an inflated sense of self-worth. The last handyman I hired was also a beginner and he charged far less for doing more than that. It's a small town, but still. A lot of the things you had him do were simple repairs that a skilled home owner could do (painting/filling nail holes). Maybe since you were asking him to do easy stuff he thought you were naive too.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-2006
Mon, 10-14-2013 - 5:29pm

I think he was really milking it. I noticed he was also a prima donna. For example he claimed the weather was too cold, He couldn't be painting outside when it's 65 degrees. Because of this the doors were left unfinished on the third day, when I really wanted him to get everthing done. He also did not take any responsibility for his mistakes or would do things I didn't ask him to do even when I repeatedly told him what I really needed to get done.

Since he got paid by the hour, anything left unfinished is to his advantage so he could come back and do more. When I demand him to give me credits for things he didn't do right or things he did extra that I didn't want done, he gets very uppity about it.


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Mon, 10-14-2013 - 7:59pm

When I hire someone to do home improvements, I show the person the job and ask him to quote a price--I would never say that I'll just pay the guy by the hour because as you know, then they can juust take a long time about doing it.  An experienced handyman should be able to estimate for himself how long a certain repair job should take and if he underestimates, then it's on him.  For ex, I recently hired a man to replace a board right under the roof line because there was a big hole there (squirrels were getting in).  This was something I obviously could not do myself so it cost $200 including materials--I went to work so I don't know how long it took him.  Also if you hire someone to do certain work, why would the person be doing things that he was not hired for?  it's not up to him to decide to do extra things that you didn't tell him to do.  And the work should be done in an adequate manner.  If he did a shoddy job on the attic cover & it was not what you wanted, he should not be paid at all for that work.