Contractor From Hell, What to do Now? : HomeImprovement

TLDR: Got fucked over by a hardscape contractor, what to do next?

I was under contract with a company to install a privacy fence and patio in my backyard. The agreement was that the total would be $X, I would pay 1/3X initially, 1/3X upon starting, and 1/3X upon completion.

They started the project 2 days ago. After working for 6 hours they had 3 panels and a gate partially up. I went outside to look at how it was going (I work from home so was busy in meetings for most of the day), and noticed that the line of fence they had put up was about one foot on my neighbors property line. After a lot of complaining they agreed to take it down and start over the next day.

The next day they came out and worked a lot faster. After working for around 8 hours they had most of the fence up, so I went outside to inspect. The gate was on my property line however there were numerous issues:

  1. the gate they were trying to use was way too big, so the weight of it was pulling on the post and causing the gate to dig into the ground. It wouldn’t even open up half way.

  2. they apparently had a tough time trying to figure out that the gate was too heavy because they had drilled 9 different holes in my post trying to hang it up.

  3. overall the fence just looked very janky. As you can see in this picture the left panel slopes down while the two panels on the right slope up slightly.

  4. I didn’t have time to take any pictures of it (you’ll see why in a second), but every single post was slightly crooked.

I told the owner who was on the job that they needed to remedy these issues, including lowering that second post 1-2 inches so that it was more level. He said he could fix the gate by using something smaller, would use caulk to fill the holes (not sure how good this would’ve looked on a brand new fence), however he would not lower the post as that was a professional job and that’s how professionals do it. I told him that it looks like someone’s first fencing job. He said if that’s how I really feel we’re done here. He then proceeded to tell his crew to take it down. Right in front of me he ripped up the entire fence rather than lowering the post 2 inches.

This is how they left my yard:

I think it might be a blessing in disguise that it was torn down. I read online that fence posts are supposed to be 2-3 feet into the ground. Some of my posts were barely 8 inches into the ground. Also some articles seemed to indicate that a small amount of concrete should be poured into the hole before the post is pressed down, so that concrete goes up and under. They clearly didn’t do that.

So my question is, what should I do now? I’m a new homeowner so very inexperienced with this kind of stuff. I put the 2/3 deposit I’ve paid so far on a credit card, with the plan to pay it off as soon as the job was completed. I hoped that this would give me a little more protection, and I guess I’m going to find out. I sent an email to the business last night documenting my concerns, asking for a refund, and including a picture of how they left the yard. Can I just issue a charge back through my credit card? Do I need to wait? Will this end up in small claims court?

I guess on the bright side I learned a lot of lessons from this.

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