MY FIRST PREDATOR
It is a sickening feeling when, after a minor disagreement with our project manager, out of the blue, a predatory builder tells you he is taking you to CCT (now QCAT) and that he is suing your company for rectification of the product we had just installed, a product he had said he was very happy with.
It rattles through your mind, "what the hell is the CCT, what do I do, where do I go from here?"
I have never heard of the CCT, I quickly Google it, the second thing I do is call my solicitor, the cost starts mounting in 6 minute blocks, his advice is as always very sound, he helps guide me through the process to defend what was to become an all encompassing and ever increasing claim against our company.
My solicitor tells me that CCT (now QCAT) has a history of settling in favour of the home owner, this project was the builders own home, (looks like I am in the shit up to my neck).
- The job we did was for $22,000 with no BSA contract (illegal to start with as any job over $3,300 is classed as building work and requires a contract),
- Let’s take a step back, the predator makes late payment to us with his well worn and often used rider “Payment of your account should not be mistaken as acceptance of your work. I reserve the right to hold you responsible for any defective work that presents itself once I've had your work properly inspected, please confirm that I have your acceptance of these terms”.
- It was the first time I had ever received payment with such a clause but obviously not the first time my predator had used it, (warning bells were ringing, Red lights were flashing, sirens’ were blaring)!
- With hindsight I know now that my predator is paying us so that he is seen to be doing the right thing but will full intentions of recovering it through his tried and tested “personal” court in QCAT (let’s now call the CCT by its current name of QCAT).
- The predator claims $8,000 for alleged defects on the say so of his painter (apparently now an expert on glass and stainless steel),
- Two weeks later he increases the claim to $13,000 keeping the pressure on,
- A short time later he increased the claim against us to the full amount of $22,000, this time for replacement of the product after his cleaner found a couple of imperfections on a panel of glass.
- So far we are at the mercy of his painter of 10 years (who the predator says is almost like a partner and looks after his jobs for him) and his cleaner, it would be laughable if it were not so serious.
- By the time the predator had finished with his ambit claims, on a whim he has escalated the amount up to $30,000 simply because he can, its allowable under the system, a system which has worked for him many times in the past so there is no reason why it won’t work again.
- The predator knows that if he claims an exorbitant amount it is the law of averages that he will be awarded approximately what he wants, for want of a better word, his “target” amount.
I am thinking, this has the potential to send our company broke, if it up to 30k already, what is to stop him from increasing it to 50k?
My investigations so far tell me that he has done this many times before, every time my predator increases his claim in QCAT I call my solicitor for advice, the cost is mounting.
For the first time in my business life, I feel totally out of my depth and not in control of the situation.
You think to yourself, how can this be? The job is finished to an exceptional standard (subsequently proven) so how can anyone say or think otherwise?
Almost two years later my predator was awarded a paltry $102.42 to compensate him for cleaning the glass, this amount was awarded because we had been warned off his property and couldn’t perform the cleaning ourselves, all his ambit claims were proven to be baseless and as I said earlier, QCAT almost always awards in favour of the home-owner so with that in mind we were over the moon with the result.
He was thoroughly shamed and discredited when evidence of his past (while inadmissible) was put into evidence to demonstrate that this round of dishonest and deceptive conduct was not the first time.
Through lack of knowing the process in regard to costs, we verbally made a request, had we made a written submission outlining all our costs and the reason for them, the result may have been very different.
My first predator had 3 different claims on this one house, it is quite unbelievable that the system allows this to happen, it is even more unbelievable that the predator could be so incompetent in his job, that he didn't notice these imaginary problems as they happened, after all, he was there all day every day. What does this say about his ability as a builder and project manager?
The thing is that my predator may have appealed had I not comprehensively discredited him and exposed him for the crook he is, an appeal would have been a massive injustice.
By the time it was over, it had cost us:
- $10,000 for legal advice,
- $7,000 in expert and scientific analysis by a metallurgical engineer and others to refute the bogus defects,
- $1,200 for the services of a private detective (god bless him),
- Countless hours of gathering evidence, mounting a defence and deciding how to conduct the defence in front of an adjudicator who was a highly trained Barrister.
Happily, it cost the predator at minimum:
- $110,000 (yes that’s right, $110,000) when his dishonest past was exposed and he was forced to pay two 13 year old debts that he had run away from before he re-invented himself in Queensland.
There was no compensation for our outlay, you just have to cop it sweet and that is where the system let us down. Our costs were extremely high when looked at in isolation but that was because at the time, we had no knowledge or experience in dealing with this type of fraudulent claim.