Drive 57 LLC

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Never hire as a general contractor, construction manager, or millworker
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PURCELLVILLE, VIRGINIA -- Note: Contractor is referred to as “DV” in this complaint.

We hired DV to renovate our basement beginning in May 2010. His business is located in Purcellville, Virginia.

He said the project would take 6-8 weeks. It took nearly 7 months, and was worst contractor experience we ever had.

Among the problems:
1. DV was apparently in serious financial trouble when he took the job and did not tell us. About 3 weeks into the job, he said that because he had been underbidding his jobs, he had to get a full time job, but would complete ours and another job first. A week later, he admitted he had already started the job. A week after that, he said that he decided to finish the other job first, because it was further along. We had absolutely no say in any of these decisions, and believe that withholding information about his situation and need to get a full time job was an omission of a material fact on which we relied when we agreed to the job.
2. He hired an inexperienced laborman whose work resulted in having to re-do significant parts of the job. When DV inspected the subpar work, he said nothing, but left it up to us to find the mistakes.
3. Even the experienced workers (electrician, painter, carpenter, second tiler) made numerous mistakes that we had to point out to DV because he would not identify them himself
4. He visited the project very rarely and left the subcontractors to work without supervision, except sometimes by another subcontractor who was doing his own work at the same time and who we did not hire to be an overseer.
5. Almost all of the workers were incredibly inconsiderate of our home and landscaping, and rarely cleaned up after themselves. Although we have no proof of theft, a number of our tools have gone missing about the time the workers were here from cabinets in a room to which they had access.
6. He repeatedly made promises to meet deadlines, and usually missed them.

Even one of his subcontractors told us that because of the way DV treated him and us on this job, he never wanted to work with DV again.

Finally, we asked DV to pick a definite date that it would be finished and he agreed to put it in writing. Even then, the project went 13 days past the deadline until it was completed.

Within a month after the job was finished, some of the millwork began to fail. He refused to even come by to look at the problem or fix it without a significant extra charge. He does not stand by his work.
     
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User Replies:

Alain on 2011-02-15:
You'd better have the work inspected for code violations. Also, you may want to go to http://www.oag.state.va.us/consumer.htm to file a complaint.
PepperElf on 2011-02-15:
Is that the name of his company?
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
Any time you get into major repairs or renovations that will take several days or weeks you should always include a monetary penalty clause if a completion date is not met.

Always withhold at least 10% - 15% until EVERYTHING is completed.

Sometimes placing money in an escrow account is beneficial when things do not appear to be going properly.
Anonymous on 2011-02-15:
Chuck I like where you're going but penalty clauses are generally unenforceable unless they comply with ucc 2-718 which by my definition makes it not a penalty clause. Also penalty clauses leave you wide open for suit.

I get around that by taking a different approach. Instead of having a penalty clause I offer a 'bonus' if the work is completed on time. Then I adjust the base contract price accordingly so in effect it is a penalty clause just stated in a different way that affords me protection from suit.

Also contractors go for it because most are confident they can giterdone on time.
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
Lawsuit for a penalty clause? There is no more risk of a lawsuit from that than anything thing else one may want to sue for.

Exactly why do you feel protecting one's own interests is a detrimental thing? The worst case here is a contractor may not agree to it. In which case you find another contractor.
Anonymous on 2011-02-15:
I'm not nuts at all Chuck. I know what I'm talking about. Okay let's forget being sued for a second. You try to exercise a penalty clause then in most states the contractor can put a lien on your house for non-payment without even going to court. In order to get that lien removed you’ll have to prove that your penalty clause complies with UCC 2-718. You better hope it does because if it doesn't not only will you be paying the withheld payment but you’ll probably be footing the contractor’s legal fees as well.

Why put yourself at risk when you can simply reword the contract with a bonus clause.
madconsumer on 2011-02-15:
it is customary to only pay 50% until the job is completed. then once satisfied, pay the final 50%.
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
LR, I think a court will look at the "reasonableness" of the penalty. Obviously they would not enforce a $500 per day penalty on a 2 month $5,000 contract.

They would likely allow $50/day if the client could show reasonable damages or inconvenience.

Your approach with a bonus is also viable but that implies no loss to the contractor whether he is 2 days late or 2 month late.

In the case the OP has presented here a penalty clause would have been beneficial.
Anonymous on 2011-02-15:
"I think a court will look at the "reasonableness" of the penalty" ~~ Depends what court but if your talking some fashion of small claims court then who knows. Those judges can be crazier than the TV judges.

Again chuck penalty clauses are generally not permitted. That's not me talking that's the law. The law basically says if you hold back money from the contracted price then it has to be compensatory to your actual harm.

§ 2-718. Liquidation or Limitation of Damages; Deposits.
(1) Damages for breach by either party may be liquidated in the agreement but only at an amount which is reasonable in the light of the anticipated or actual harm caused by the breach, the difficulties of proof of loss, and the inconvenience or nonfeasibility of otherwise obtaining an adequate remedy. A term fixing unreasonably large liquidated damages is void as a penalty.

(2) Where the seller justifiably withholds delivery of goods because of the buyer's breach, the buyer is entitled to restitution of any amount by which the sum of his payments exceeds

•(a) the amount to which the seller is entitled by virtue of terms liquidating the seller's damages in accordance with subsection (1), or
•(b) in the absence of such terms, twenty per cent of the value of the total performance for which the buyer is obligated under the contract or $500, whichever is smaller.
(3) The buyer's right to restitution under subsection (2) is subject to offset to the extent that the seller establishes

•(a) a right to recover damages under the provisions of this Article other than subsection (1), and
•(b) the amount or value of any benefits received by the buyer directly or indirectly by reason of the contract.
(4) Where a seller has received payment in goods their reasonable value or the proceeds of their resale shall be treated as payments for the purposes of subsection (2); but if the seller has notice of the buyer's breach before reselling goods received in part performance, his resale is subject to the conditions laid down in this Article on resale by an aggrieved seller (Section 2-706).
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
"(1) Damages for breach by either party may be liquidated in the agreement but only at an amount which is reasonable..."

I believe that is what I was saying.
Anonymous on 2011-02-15:
Chuck you left so much out.

"(1) Damages for breach by either party may be liquidated in the agreement but only at an amount which is reasonable in the light of the anticipated or actual harm caused by the breach, the difficulties of proof of loss, and the inconvenience or nonfeasibility of otherwise obtaining an adequate remedy. A term fixing unreasonably large liquidated damages is void as a penalty. "?

Notice at the end of the sentence where it says 'void as a penalty'. Do you know why it's worded like that? Because the law does not allow penalties in contracts.

We're violently agreeing on the destination here Chuck. We're just arguing is it better to take the freeway or a dirt road.
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
Agreed. Let the readers decide their own best course of action.

You left out the "...unreasonably large..." at the end of your position.

However, "Because the law does not allow penalties in contracts." is blatantly untrue. What do you think a "late fee" is?
Nohandle on 2011-02-15:
You guys can debate until the cows come home but I know of cases when the homeowner deliberately held back a percentage with no intention of ever paying it. There was always something wrong and the business finally decided to heck with it. That's what the homeowner was banking on but the word got out. Honor among competition. After a while the homeowner couldn't find a soul to set foot on his property for any reason.

This is an entirely different situation. I found this review helpful. It appears an attorney must get involved for any business transaction just to make certain everything has been taken care of beforehand.
madconsumer on 2011-02-15:
very true nohandle, I have seen it too. as well I have seen contractors place liens against homes for services not completed.
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
Nohandle, we aren't talking about intent to defraud.

madC, if the services were not completed then the contractor is not entitled to a lien. Assuming the contractor has no actual monetary loss. You can go to court and get such a lien lifted at the contractors expense.
Anonymous on 2011-02-15:
I think a late fee is unenforceable in many courts in this country. I know that for a fact. Been there, done that, got the 'not allowing that' t-shirt to prove it. I got a lot of them 'not allowing it' t-shirts in the closet.

You can write anything you want into a contract. Heck look at the banks. Doesn't mean you can enforce them because like I said penalty clauses are generally unenforceable. Or at least that's what the MAN says.
Anonymous on 2011-02-15:
" I know of cases when the homeowner deliberately held back a percentage with no intention of ever paying it."

And in the state of Oklahoma if you did that to me I'd put a lien on your house. It would take me all of fifteen minutes to do so.
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
LR, we can agree on "writing anything into a contract".

Look what banks, satellite TV and cell phone companies put in their contracts. And then attempt to bar you from the courts with an arbitration clause. But the courts will back them because they are the "big boys" in the game.
momsey on 2011-02-15:
Did you get permits for this work? Has it been inspected independently? Did you have references for this contractor?

Reviews like this are priceless as long as people do their research before they hire contractors. There are so many inept and unethical contractors out there and you're at their mercy once you put out any money.
Nohandle on 2011-02-15:
Understood Chuck but some do it and I expect it's hard to prove. Case in point locally. A prominent family has become quite noted for stiffing locals. The landscaping company, pool builder, tennis court contractor, painting contractor and anyone else they can find. I actually had a landscaper call me and ask about a particular family and I simply told him to bid high. He did, got the job and when it was all over and done he smiled.
Slimjim on 2011-02-15:
In this particular case though, the contractor did (finally) finish the work, and assuming was paid his balance then. It was a full month later that faulty work started being revealed. There is no way you can try and put any balance owed in escrow and expect a contractor to wait out a long period (or any period) before being paid.
I believe the poster couldn't have done anything different and this review is certainly valid as the story paints a seriously poor experience. The question now is how to get reparations. A BBB and/or AG complaint would be a start to see if DV wants to try to make it go away. After that, a suit may be in the making, depending on how strong the poster feels his case would be in court.
M&K on 2011-02-15:
I was the original poster -- Wow! Great comments. Here are answers to some quesions: Yes, we checked several references, including a personal acquaintenance. He had excellent reviews from prior clients and they all stood by their comments. Apparently he was good when he was still in business, but let things go when he had to get a job. We checked for complaints, too -- nothing.
Yes, the name of the company is DRiVe57 -- that will take you to his website.
Yes, the work was inspected and passed by Fairfax County, VA. We always insist on permits for everything.
We paid him 30% at start of job, 30% after close-in inspection, 30% at end of other agreed-upon jobs, and 10% when he completed the punch list. Yes, we tried to withhold more money, but he threatened that his subcontractors may place a lien on the place. (We did negotiate the price down a bit when we pointed out all the egregious mistakes and violations of trust.)
We did get him to sign an agreement about a definite finish date closer to the end (he picked the date). We included a "liquidated damages" clause of $50/day past that end date.
tnchuck100 on 2011-02-15:
Excellent! Thank you for returning with that additional information.
momsey on 2011-02-15:
Wow, M&K, thanks for coming back and giving more info. Sounds like you did everything right and still got screwed! That sucks!
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