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Overbilled for my closet repair! Should I sign this release agreement?

Problem Solved

After Laurence Bauman's closet collapses, he hires Beltway Builders to fix it. But soon afterward, the closet collapses again. Now the company wants him to sign a nondisclosure agreement. What's going on?

I recently found a contractor on Angi to fix my bedroom closet. I reached out to the recommended company, Beltway Builders, and they sent a man named Texas Greg to give me an estimate.

Texas Greg quoted me a crazy price of $1,350 for the job. When I asked why it was so expensive, he said it was the day rate for two handymen. I accepted it because my wife was freaking out that her clothes were all over the floor.

Only one person showed up for the job. He took four hours to finish. I complained to Beltway and told Texas Greg that I should get a $500 refund for getting only four hours of labor while being charged for 16 hours. Texas Greg said I was wrong and that they undercharged me. He said my bill should have been $1,650.

Shortly after the work was finished, the shelves in the closet collapsed. This time, I fixed it myself. They offered me a $100 gift card to Outback Steakhouse and made me sign a nondisclosure agreement that I couldn’t disparage them or their work any further.

I would like a refund for the second repairman who did not show up. Can you help me?

Laurence Bauman, Pikesville, Md.

A contractor should do a competent job at a fair rate. So much went wrong with your experience, I don't even know where to begin.

When you research a contractor, you can certainly use Angi as a resource. But you don't want to rely on it exclusively. Ask around and get a good word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or relative.

Also, if someone quotes you at a rate that's too high, you're under no obligation to say "yes." (As it turned out, you finally decided to install the shelves yourself for free.) I realize your wife was upset about the closet, and you needed to get the job done quickly. But you didn't have to go with the Texas Greg estimate.

Texas Greg gave you a Texas-sized estimate for the closets. I might have requested several estimates for the job.

I see from your correspondence with Beltway Builders that there was some additional communication with the company and that you involved the BBB. That probably irritated the company, leading it to send you the gift card offer with the nondisclosure agreement.

A nondisclosure agreement is a legally binding contract that prevents you from revealing certain things about a business relationship -- in your case, it would be anything relating to the job Texas Greg had quoted you. It would include your comments on the closets and the images of the collapsed closet that you sent me with your complaint.

Again, though, no one was forcing you to sign the contract. You can walk away from a nondisclosure agreement and do whatever you want, including complaining to a nationally syndicated consumer advocate.

I reviewed the job, and I don't think you should have had to pay $1,350. I would have asked another contractor for an estimate or just fixed the closet myself.

I contacted Beltway Builders on your behalf to see if I could negotiate a truce. A manager called and apologized. He said both of the people involved in your repair have left the company. And he agreed to refund you the $500.

As for the nondisclosure? Well, the $100 gift card turned out to be worth $50, so I would say your agreement is probably voided.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (https://elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at https://elliottadvocacy.org/help/

© 2024 Christopher Elliott

 

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