By Nicole Arbabzadeh
In 2014, I finally was able to save enough money to landscape my backyard. As a first-time homeowner, what should have been an enjoyable experience that resulted in the increase of my home’s value quickly turned into an ongoing nightmare wrought with loss and a backhand from the legal system.
I had hired a licensed contractor who had earned my trust with his 28 years in business and persuasive promises and reassurances. After agreeing to the pricing and layout of the yard, I was surprised with a contract that contained a forced (or pre-dispute binding mandatory) arbitration clause. He read only parts of the contract and none of the arbitration agreement. When I had inquired about the contents of the agreement, he stated that it was one, mutually beneficial, two, the most economical option, and lastly, did not involve lawyers.
At the time, I was unaware that none of these claims were true. I later discovered through research and inquiry that forced arbitration, in actuality, strongly favors corporations, is oftentimes much more costly than court and the agreements usually contain an attorney’s fees provision, as did mine.
It is hard to overstate the contractor’s recklessness. The contractor’s failure to measure the yard resulted in a significant increase in the prices of each item contracted for by several thousands of dollars. Ultimately, this mistake resulted in him being unable to provide some of the items, and others only at significant additional cost. He charged for a shipment that was never delivered and for an order that was never made. He also denied ever hiring his subcontractor. Having already been charged an excessive downpayment — for services not rendered — I eventually stopped the work. However, by that time, I had already handed over a large sum of money.
To make matters worse, the contractor did not obtain permits and damaged my property with the improper installation of an electrical conduit that violates local fire safety law. I was left with property damages and a few unfinished, improperly installed items — but mostly with a large, expansive field of dirt in my still desolate backyard.