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Beware customers willing to sell out their goodwill

President-elect Donald Trump has been at the center of a tremendous amount of controversy. For some time, the media on both sides of the aisle have had a field day examining how Trump manages to hire contractors who build beautiful, expensive buildings and then pay said contractors a fraction of the agreed upon cost. While this practice may be unethical, Trump is not doing anything illegal. In fact, he’s taking full advantage of existing laws. And by knowing about his tactics, contractors may be able to protect themselves in the future from those who do not wish to pay.

Let’s say that a carpet installer has been hired to lay down carpeting in a new office building. The carpet installer comes in, lays down the carpet, and submits his bill for the agreed upon price of $100,000. Word comes back that the job was not done to the customer’s complete satisfaction and the customer will only pay $50,000.

The carpet installer now has two choices. He can accept the $50,000 and cut his losses. Or he can seek professional help. The customer undoubtedly knows that, should the carpet installer decide to make this a legal battle, the most he can hope to be awarded is the remaining $50,000 because contract law does not allow for the awarding of punitive damages. So he’s hoping that the installer will decide it’s mathematically not worth the legal expense to recoup his losses. He’s also overlooking the fact that the carpet installer is likely to head straight for social media and warn all other carpet installers against ever doing business with this person ever.

Here’s the part that the average customer may not know. There are a lot of legal options. And a good attorney will help the carpet installer understand his best, and most lucrative, course of action. At the first sign of trouble, a contractor may wish to consult an attorney in order to protect his legal rights and recoup as much of his owed payment as possible. If the project is a particularly large one, the contractor may wish to consult an attorney in the first place in order to ensure payment is made regardless, and to save himself trouble down the road.