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We began talking to an architect in April of 2018 about putting an addition on our house: a project that we had been thinking about for more than three years. A contract was signed with the architect, with the comment that, at adding only a mudroom and a bedroom, we should be done with the entire construction project “by the end of summer, or early fall.”

The architect ended up being an absolute nightmare to work with, and it was late summer before we even had a completed drawing that we could submit for a permit. However, I found a great contractor and — even with more delays from a survey company — thought that we would be wrapped up by the end of February.

A hole went into the ground, walls went up, the architect had made an error in the roof drawing that required a correction, concrete was poured. Even with winter days that did not allow for any work done due to dangerously cold temps, we were cruising right along.

I had heard so many horror stories from people with their construction projects, but everything was going so well, I thought “Are we the exception?”

No. No we weren’t. Once the main bulk of the work was done, and a main portion of the contract paid based on percent complete, everything slooooowed to a snail’s pace. One or two workers would come out maybe once a week, twice at best, to do all of the interior finishing work. That was supposed to be the fun part! Instead, we watched as a wall would get painted one day… outlet covers put on the next day.

We weren’t given any advance notice when a crew showed up to knock through the wall from the addition into our existing kitchen. And given that this was a LOUD part of the project and I work from home, a head’s up would have been nice.

I complained to the contractor as the days moved into April, and ended up getting my kitchen painted for free, but the pace did not improve.

It was the end of June before final inspections were scheduled, and then inspections were failed and some more work had to be done and inspections rescheduled.

But finally everything was ready, with a final inspection of smoke detectors scheduled for July 3rd. I had a final invoice in hand, and sent a final payment that same day — as soon as the city inspector left the house.

For years, I have sent checks using my bank’s online bill pay system. The money for the check is withdrawn from my account immediately (which I prefer), I don’t have to use my own stamp, and it is a “certified” check from the bank. Every other payment I sent to the contractor was done in this way.

The following week, the contractor contacted me and said that he had not received payment. Well, I have found the USPS to be very slow lately, and also there was the 4th of July holiday in there, so I asked him to sit tight and wait for it to show up. A few days later, still nothing.

I called the bank. Whether a marketing ploy, or because I have been a customer for so long, I was told I was being “priority routed.” A very nice service rep told me that I should allow up to 10 business days. Even though every other check I’ve sent has never taken that long, I relayed that to the contractor. The time passed — still nothing.

I called the bank again and asked to put a stop payment on the check. Since it was their own certified check, this should be easy to verify that it had not been cashed, but since the funds were already withdrawn from my account for the certified check, I was told it would be another 3–5 business days to see a credit issued.

The contractor asked if I could put a new (personal) check in the mail to him, so that it would arrive by the time the credit was issued. I understood that he wanted to be paid. But I told him that since I work in the banking industry, I can’t do that: both checks would technically be valid until the stop payment was issued, and without knowing what happened to the other check, I couldn’t take that risk.

Honestly, I had a little schadenfreude going on. He made us wait so long at the end, and now he had to wait.

Finally, the credit was issued. I popped the payment in the mail AT THE POST OFFICE to cut down on travel time to him.

I went to the City building department and requested a Certificate of Completion, which is for our records that the project is officially over and the permit is closed.

Now if that personal check could just land in his hands and be cashed, this project that we thought would be over “in a few months” and has now been nearly 16 months will finally be done.

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