House of horrors two
Just when you thought it was safe to walk under the scaffolding
This article is an update to the original article on building a house in Thailand, posted in November 2009
Here's an update on the contractor fiasco.
Well, for starters, I have returned to America and I am teaching at a university in my hometown. I came back to save the money to finish my house. Because the contractor had not cancelled the contract on my house while I was there, I couldn't continue building it. No one would even give me a price until that was done.
I returned to America, got a job, and asked my wife to join me. She told me on the phone that the contractor and the lawyer had come over to the house two weeks after I left and brought a document with them saying that the contract with me was cancelled. Duh! However, my wife went on to say that they still wanted the 290,000 THB. She told them they would not get the money because I had paid as per the contract. The lawyer told my wife that since I was a farang and she was the lawful owner of the house and property, she could be in big trouble. Blah blah, blah. Not wanting to argue, my wife told them she wasn't concerned and they finally left.
One day before she left to come to America, a laborer who had worked on the house came over to talk to my wife about hiring him to finish the house after the contract was cancelled. He was a local man that lived in the next village, so she knew of him. He told her that the problems I had had with the contractor were typical. The laborer told my wife it happened with all of the projects he had worked on with this particular contractor. He continued to tell her that the contractor had a gambling problem. and he takes the money from one project and puts it into another when his gambling debts get too high.
To get further proof, my wife went to talk to the owners of another house-build project which this rogue contractor had worked on. The owners told my wife the same sad story.
I assure you that when we return and continue building our house, I will be there every time a brick is laid. I have learned my lesson. The amount I have spent should have almost paid for a completed house but "we live and learn"
We are now saving up money so we can come back in a year and finish our house.
Even though there are things I don't like about Thailand - the positive things outweigh the negative. And we both miss Thailand terribly.
Update Tuesday 20th April
Well...I am back in Thailand. I finally saved enough money while in America to, maybe not complete my house, but earn enough money to make the house livable and I can work completing it a little at the time.
Now that the rogue contractor has cancelled the contract, we have another one that is eager to bring my house up to the standards I expected. This contractor wants me here to tell him exactly how I want the house built. He is committed to doing it right and exactly the way I want it - something the other contractor never did nor wanted.
Of course I am skeptical but the work he has done so far is the way it should be done. When he came out to my house to look at what I wanted, he was amazed at what had to be redone because the other contractor failed to do it the right way and the way I asked him many times. Half-built walls needed to be torn down to reroute the water, sewer, and install vent lines and the roof needed a lot of work also. Now, the reconstruction is almost finished and his crew is working on the walls. Of course it will cost me more money because of the rework, but in the end I'll have the house I want, the way I want it.
My handicap seemed to be getting worse, so I was forced to retire from teaching. Retiring will make my handicap easier to manage and I will also be here every day to monitor the progress..
I'm still not completely finished with the rogue contractor though. When I returned from America I had a letter waiting for me from the courts telling me of a court date to hear the case. I am looking forward to seeing him in court and getting this settled.
This fiasco has taught me a lesson, as hard as it has been. I have learned four basic rules that I should have known, but I was too trusting. 1) If a contractor doesn't do what is asked of him, get rid of him immediately. 2) Buy the building materials yourself so you know exactly what your getting and the cost. 3) Be meticulous on being there every day and constantly monitoring the contractors work. 4) Demand quality.
I would advise anyone building a house to follow these four very basic rules so they wouldn't have the problems I have had.
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It is normal to get bad craftsmanship in Thailand. Getting good work the exception, and requires a lot of effort. Uneducated people do not have the standards that a Westerner would expect. It is better to buy a ready-made home, from this point of view. And get it checked.
By Jim Peters, Bangkok (15th January 2011)
Sad story, hope everything works out for you... but you're right the same happens all over the world, not just in Thailand !
By Adam, Asia (10th July 2010)
There is a good deal of money involved in building a house and one needs to be very careful of hired help especially including the contractor. its just too easy for these people to pad their wallet at your expense. i have built 2 homes in Hawaii and needed to be present everyday as part of the building process. jumped right in there and worked along side everyone so i knew exactly what was needed and who was and wasn't doing their job. Luckily here the law allows the owner to be the primary contractor, which allowed me to have total control of the entire process. the best advice i can give is that if you question someones building skills or ethics....fire them immediately. A good qualified worker proves him/herself quickly. good luck! viva thailand!!!
By suzanne, big island, hawaii (6th July 2010)
Thank you Anna for the support. Yes, it is sad that people had rather try to take advantage of people than to be honest. In my case, I really didn't have a choise weather to fight or not. I had put a lot of money into the house and I was determined not to let him ruin my dream at any cost. Sometimes, a person has to take a stand on principal if nothing else.
All is not lost though. I did learn some very important lessons about doing business in a foreign country.
Sadly, these types of people are all over the world, not just in Thailand. I know many truly wonderful people in Thailand, so I will not let one bad egg make me sorry for making Thailand my home. All I can do is be much ore careful next time I do business.
The new builder I have is a dream come true. He's doing a wonderful job and doing it the way it should be done.
Again, thanks for your support.
By Ralph Sasser, Nashville, Tennessee (17th May 2010)
I'm Thai and I live in Bangkok, Thailand. I've read your story from part 1 and is very happy to see part 2- how things are working out better. I am not so happy with how terrible things went for you and your wife. I've been noticing how things are in Thailand more and more lately... I'm not being mean on Thailand and Thais (and judging on my own nationality lol) but.. sadly there are a lot of ppl out there trying to take advantage of you. I've worked with Thai employers before and they were just terrible to me- they look down on my age, tricked our family into doing business with them and in the end really wasted our time and money trying to help their business. It's sad how ppl can do that to you, but keep your head up and stay strong just like you did. I admire anyone who can fight against what they believe in and come out with a great feeling and result. I hope that contractor gets what he deserves!
By Anna C., Bangkok, Thailand (9th May 2010)