What steps can I take if I believe my parents were taken advantage of by a remodeling company?

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My parents, ages 78 and 89, commissioned a remodeling company to remove their existing tub and install a fully functional handicap shower. The work was very shabby requiring multiple post construction fixes, not to mention they pay in excess of $9000 (with no shower door). The company wants my parent to pay another $1400-$1500 for a door for the shower. Is it me or does this seem extremely pricey? When speaking to my parents neither of them seem to know what they signed and agreed to in the contract. All they can articulate is what they expected and the fact they did not get it. Any layperson can speak to my parents 5 minutes and realize they do not quite get it. Is there some type of law against practicing business in this manner?

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Top Answer
Dear Nitaboo,

I'm very sorry to hear what happened with your mom and dad. It is reprehensible to how some contractors take advantage of the elderly. I don't know if you can go through the Better Business Bureau in your area. Other options include the police if there is fraud involved or going to see an attorney. I know some news station have a Consumer reporter, so that might be another avenue to get some resolution for your concerns.

I would call around to other plumbers and contractors to check on the pricing and work to have a better idea if the price is right.

I hope your parents get their money back or at least get the shower they wanted.
Thank you, so much for your speedy reply. I have contacted the BBB and yes! my recommendation to my parent is instead of paying the company another $1400-$1500 retain an attorney to seek a full refund.
BBB is always a good route, and it’s important to help them compile complaints for any future prospective customers. 
Ask the company for a copy of the signed contract, if they expect anything more from you they must be able to produce that... and then you’ll have more of the info you need. 
If they have a website (or find their business card), look hard for any professional organization they say the company or any of the staff belong to, and contact that/those organizations for advice.
SUCH a hassle and so sad, sorry and good luck!!
I totally agree with cdnreader below. I would also call your local Office of the Aging. They may know some additional information. I know when my Dad passed 6 years ago my two half brothers asked and took about $100,000 of my mom's money who mentally failed after Dad's passing. I called Elder Abuse many, many times. I showed checks written to those boys, (ages 48 & 42) , one check for $21,000. They did nothing. The local police do not and claim they cannot do anything. I was beat up by one of my brothers twice .(drinking). Nothing was done on that except hospitalization for him. I took mom and myself and moved out of state. I think it is horrible to see elder's be taken advantage of. You go girl and I think that is an outrageous price. I need a new tub and under half price you mentioned. Bet they already have a bad record for this type of bad behavior. Honestly, feel your parents should get money back. Hugs and hope you get this resolved. Thank God you are there...
Keep in mind that ALL the BBB does is act as a data gathering center. They are NOT a regulatory agency and have ZERO power to take any action against anyone. Your best bet is for your parents to seek compensation in civil court. Bear in mind that few lawyers will take a case on contingency (only pay if you win), but they are out there. If you can't find one, their legal fees will be, of course, out of pocket and up front.

I'm so sorry this has happened. I'd like 5 minutes alone with whoever did this to your folks.
Messy. Our local office on aging is unable to help in such matters but we do maintain a list of local people...total remodels, I'm not sure. You would be going it alone, but might be able to use the local small claims court process depending on the dollar figure involved. There are in some places, if you do the research, (much of this is on line) laws that protect consumers from unfair business practices and as I recall here in Ohio, there was a section on taking advantage of someone's mental capacities. The challenge will be that you are fighting the battle ON BEHALF of your parents and you may need your parents to go to the court proceedings to prove your points. You must make a strong case for yourself. You need pictures...and best of all would be a local contractor who inspects the work and can attest to the poor workmanship. You will need to itemize the expenses you incur...to get this expert witness and testify (and you may have to pay him/her for their time). Is it worth it? Depending on the dollar amount and your sense of justice AND wanting to spare others the same grief who don't have a good daughter around to advocate... I can tell you I had a wonderful attorney at one point who loved me for my sense of what was right and wrong...but a case I wanted him to handle...he said it wasn't worth his time...but that I could do it, and he pointed me to the right section of the law. At that time one was entitled to 3 times the amount of the actual damages or some dollar amount I can't recall....you can't really get lost time, and you must PAY to file the case, though should they rule in your favor, the court costs will be reimbursed. Also, in small claims, it might go through a mediator first. If it is a company, they may want to settle out of court. In fact, a letter to them indicating your intention to go public to a news channel prior may inspire them enough to make good on the deal. In my case I documented the damage to my car and brakes due to faulty tire installation. I tallied up all the parts/labor it took to undo the damages, and per the law, multiplied by 3. The magistrate wanted to know how I arrived at the figure and I had my paperwork to hand to her. I also took the service manager from a car dealership I regularly patronized as a witness (and compensated him for lost time). When it came to court time the schmuck who had done the damages and refused to settle prior was a no-show which did not help their case....and it was ruled in my favor.

Not to defend the workers, and understand you have said it is very clear your parents are not totally together...but sometimes with "new" people the elders can appear quite normal, or hide their issues quite well. My mother had signs of dementia that even we overlooked for a long time..but more to the point her own physician was totally unaware until I wrote out a list and shared it with him which prompted him to do a mini-mental exam. My mom can have conversations with some people that seem quite normal. And this is someone who scored 7/30 on a cognitive assessment...
Wishing you all the best...it would be great to nail them...
Ok so I'm going to tell you something you don't want to hear. While the company is responsible to fulfill their contract to the best of their ability, and shoddy construction is not acceptable, $9000 is not an unreasonable price, depending on your area of course. A fully accessible handicap shower can cost $3-4k in materials alone. A general estimate of labor is double materials. I would encourage them to have you discuss it with the company as their representative. A lawyer/lawsuit to get a refund would cost them $20k. It's much better to ask for copies of the contract, pre-bids, and discuss with the owner of the company to make sure all repairs are made. In my area Small Claims has a cap of $5,000, so you'd have to take it to a greater court. If the original bid included the shower door, then insist it be installed, if not and you didn't already have your parents diagnosed with some kind of cognitive decline, then you will have no luck back dating a contract. Trust me, don't involve lawyers until you have to.
I’m not lawyer but this is what I would do.

I suggest filing in small claims court. They have up to $10000 as their limit. Look on this chart for your state.


 This type of thing is what it's for. Take pictures of the problems, write one page or less about what your complaint is, and show all the paperwork passed back and forth. Keep your complaint simple and it in your own words about what your asking him/her to make a judgement on.

IMO, you have three points to make; First is the method used to pressure your parents to buy what may be considered work that requires a new contract to complete without advising them fully of that point... and their ability to understand this. Second is failing to complete the contract in a reasonable and acceptable manner that would be fulfillment of the contract. Third, I would get two statements from other contractors about the condition of the project and cost to fix any problems. Courts like to have numbers to base their decisions on as it makes their job that much easier.

Have your parents there because the judge will want to talk to them to understand their current ability to make a reasonable decision that applies to this type thing. Any good court will have seen this more than once before and ask the right questions.
Tell those aholes to come and do the job right or they will not get one thin dime from you. If they want to take you to small claims court, that's OK; you tell the judge that these creeps are incompetant
$9,000 is even more than remodeling for the entire bathroom. I changed bath to just shower & had bars installed for much less

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