Danny Williams’ woes are instructive

Brian Jones bjones@thetelegram.com
Published on May 10, 2013

Danny Williams doesn’t do anything small. No Major Junior A hockey team for him. He goes pro, or he goes home.

And speaking of homes, even when Williams is into something exceedingly common — such as a legal spat with a contractor — he has to go grandiose.

No bickering over 20 grand here or $30,000 there for him. Those amounts might be typical for commoners’ lawsuits, but they wouldn’t suit Williams.

According to news reports, the former premier and dam-daddy is in a multimillion-dollar legal fight with a contractor he hired to build a house for him.

Williams says he contracted the company to build his house in Outer Cove for $5.5 million, a sum that was later revised to $5.78 million, presumably by mutual agreement.

When construction slowed to such a point that the contractor apparently couldn’t give Williams an estimated completion date, Williams fired the company. He says he has paid the company $6.2 million. The contracting company claims in a lawsuit Williams still owes it $811,000.

We don’t know who is right. A judge has not yet heard the evidence, let alone ruled on it. As reported in Wednesday’s Telegram, Williams is preparing to file a counterclaim.

Let’s not prejudge either party to the dispute. Certainly, let’s not gloat or relish that Williams is apparently caught up in a homeowners’ hell that haunts so many lesser livyers.

On the contrary, I bring this matter up only because it is so instructive.

Anyone who has ever hired a contractor and then experienced a serious dispute can only wonder, “If even Danny Williams runs into problems with a contractor, what hope did I have?”

 

Common occurrence

Williams, of course, was accustomed to high approval ratings in his old job, reaching into the 70 and 80 per cent range.

His recent actions will likely garner an approval rating of 100 per cent among the subset of the homebuilding or home-renovating population that has had a falling out with a contractor.

No offence intended to the company involved, but contractors generally, on the ladder of public respectability, are only a few rungs above used car salesmen and lawyers (and if they look slightly further down, they’ll be able to see the fingertips of some journalists).

As has been pointed out many times, any shmuck can throw a nail gun and some power saws into the back of a pickup and claim to be a contractor.

 

Hard to play it safe

Occasionally, you’ll come across an article purporting to give advice on how to hire a contractor. Those who have hired a contractor, and then a lawyer, can only laugh.

“Get it in writing!” all such articles say. As if putting plans on paper will automatically forestall disagreements about schedules, money or quality. “Um, before you drive that nail, can I have it in writing that you won’t puncture the plumbing?”

“Don’t make any advance payments,” an article will advise. “Pay only when the work is complete.”

Sure. Follow that one. Maybe you’ll find a contractor by 2023.

But there is a valid reason for these articles.

Hordes of homeowners share common experiences: the day they first saw their dream home; the day they moved in; the day they brought Baby home; the day they decided to renovate and found a contractor; the day they hired a lawyer.

Williams’ statement of defence to the company’s lawsuit says he will have to spend another $1.5 million to have the house finished, and extra money to “repair, replace and rectify poor quality of construction.”

The rest of us can only gasp. On a $5-million house, did they use recycled nails and lumber from the bargain bin? We eagerly await details from the impending court case.

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.