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Michael L. Chapman

Michael Chapman’s Answers

25 total

  • Can I get around a Non-compete if one of my other businesses solicits/ performs work for an end client of a general contractor?

    I am a 3rd party contractor, doing business through one of my GA companies. Will I violate the Non-compete between Business "A" and General Contractor if I would like to conduct business through Company "B", but I won't be performing the work? The...

    Michael’s Answer

    Honestly, this is way too confusing. You need to sit down with your lawyer and review the exact terms of the non-compete agreement and discuss the various company structures involved. There have been some recent amendments to the statutory law that make it easier for Georgia companies to enforce the terms of non-compete agreements. Also, trying to do indirectly what you cannot do directly is generally a bad idea. This is classic case where you really do need legal counsel to keep you out of trouble.

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  • Can I file a theft by taking charge against a contractor who took my money to complete a job and had no license .

    He wasn't able to get the architectural drawing to submit for the permits. I had to pay someone else over 1000.00, He didn't buy the hot water tank and other items I paid him for and he had those written in a the contract.. He did tell me he had ...

    Michael’s Answer

    Well, there is a lot going on here and I would suggest that you speak to your lawyer about the problem. I would not automatically default to filing criminal charges in this situation. Most prosecutors will treat this as a civil dispute. Of course there are specific criminal charges that can arise from fraud and false statements made in connection with a construction project but to me, this seems more like a commercial dispute. Obviously you received at least some value from the work that the contractor performed even though you were unhappy with the results, and rightfully so. Depending upon the nature of the work, which I am assuming is residential or light commercial, it is not surprising that an architect or other design specialist might be required to prepare drawings. Have you asked the design professional to look at the contractor's work? It is good that you have a written contract. If the contractor violated the terms of your contract then you likely have a valid contract dispute that you can take to court or arbitration. Disputes under $15,000 can be litigated without a lawyer in Magistrate Court. Even though you can proceed without a lawyer, I recommend that you consult with a lawyer about the specifics of your case and map out a strategy for how you want to proceed. Georgia law now requires that contractors must be licensed in order to perform certain types of residential and commercial contracting. You can use the links that I have provided to determine if your contractor is licensed and to file a licensing complaint. You should consider the implications of the Georgia Right to Repair Act before you file suit. I have given you a link to the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection that discusses that statute and provides a link for filing a complaint with that office. I am so sorry for your bad experiences with this contractor, but you do have options.

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  • Am I legally responsible for "overages" incurred during construction of my home for which I do not have a change order?

    We built a custom home and closed on it in October 2013. At the time, the general contractor signed the Contractor Affidavit attesting to the fact that he had been paid in full. He had not completed the punch list and so we retained the check for...

    Michael’s Answer

    You should consult with an experienced construction litigation attorney in your area to review your construction contract and discuss the facts in more detail. From what you say, you appear to have a reasonably good chance of prevailing in a contract dispute with your general contractor. Most construction contracts provide for a change order process and if you did not mutually depart from that process then you should be protected from unauthorized change orders. Allowances for items like fixtures and carpet are normally merely estimates and the contract usually makes the owner responsible for the actual cost of allowance items. An unconditional contractor affidavit issued at closing provides important protections for the owner, but adding conditions and exceptions to the affidavit can limit the value of the affidavit. Withholding retainage to pay for incomplete punchlist items can also complicate the legal picture. If there are unpaid subs and suppliers you may end up with mechanics' liens on your property and of course the general contractor may also try to file a lien. You can also file a complaint with the Georgia Board of Residential and General Contractors at the link I have provided.

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  • Commercial Real Estate; Fire; Insurance. Do I need to hire an atty and file suit? Reasonable fee amount? Can the fee's be added?

    I have leased my commercial property to a retail store for over 15 years. According to fire reports they overloaded a power strip that caused a fire. There is security footage of the entire event. The tenant has a "Business Owners Policy" that ...

    Michael’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    I recommend that you consult an attorney in Albany and have that attorney write a demand letter to the insurance company. I would look for a litigator who would do this on an hourly basis to see if the matter can be settled without filing a lawsuit. The insurance company will treat an attorney letter more seriously than a demand from an unrepresented business owner. An accurate evaluation of the cost to repair the fire damage plus some loss of value in the building due to the fire would be a reasonable starting point for the negotiation. This should be estimated by one or more experts, perhaps by a general contractor and a local realtor who specializes in the sale of commercial buildings. You may be able to secure a settlement without filing suit, but a suit filing may be necessary to recover the full value of the loss. Under some circumstances the attorney fees you incur can be added to your claim but most lawyers will not give you any type of absolute assurance that their fee can be recovered from the other side. Depending upon the circumstances, this may mean that it is better for you to compromise the case at a level that approximates what you would recover after the expense of litigation. This is a reasonable target unless you want to slog through the courts to get a verdict from a judge or jury. From your description it sounds like you would prevail but a court case can take quite a while to make it to trial and sometimes a compromise today is worth more than a complete and full recovery down the road. That is your call.

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  • Can I file a miller lien against the surety company?

    The general contractor failed and the surety company stepped in to complete the federal project. Now the surety company has been seized and is being liquidated. Can I file a Miller Lien? Will filing a Miller Lien help?

    Michael’s Answer

    In my view you should proceed with your Miller Act filings to perfect your claim on the bond. Most surety companies are participants in one or more programs that will liquidate claims against an insolvent surety. Georgia's insurance insolvency pool will probably provide for at least some relief. There may be a right under the SBA bond guaranty program as well. You really need to consult with a lawyer who can find out more information about the situation and determine possible remedies.

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  • Do I have appear in superior court for my motion hearing?

    I have an motion hearing scheduled next month I'm just wondering do I need to be present or my attorney which is a public defender who is hard to contact can show up on my behalf

    Michael’s Answer

    You need to be there, particularly if it is a criminal matter. Call him if you have a question about this.

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  • My parents have a lien on their home from a subcontractor saying he wasn't paid. What kind of law is this?

    My parents had their home painted and the exterior damages repaired in May 2013. They paid the contractor, who in turn was supposed to pay the sub-contractor. But he says he wasn't paid and filed a lien on their home.

    Michael’s Answer

    Georgia law provides that subcontractors and suppliers who are not paid by the general contractor may file a claim of lien against the owner's property, provided that they fully comply with the complex requirements of the lien law. These liens are called mechanics' lien. The lien law can be found at O.C.G.A. § 44-14-361 and the sections that follow. Georgia law says that your parents, as the owners of the property, have the responsibility to supervise their general contractor and to make sure that the GC pays the bills for labor and material incurred to complete the contract work. If bills remain unpaid, then the property can be subject to a mechanics' lien by the unpaid subs and suppliers. This lien must be filed within 90 days after the completion of the sub's work. There are licensing and other rules that also apply. The GC is responsible for paying the bills incurred on the project and should be asked to take the lead in seeing to it that the lien is removed from the property. You should carefully review the contract with the GC to see if there is a provision that requires the GC to be responsible for liens against the property. Often, lien waivers are obtained as payments are made and this may provide you with an opportunity to challenge the lien. The best practice is to obtain a contractor's affidavit at the time of final payment to the GC stating that all subcontractors and all bills for labor and material have been paid in full. Georgia law gives the owner the ability to "bond off" or remove any liens that are filed on the property by posting a bond that substitutes for the real estate. This does not eliminate the lien claim, but instead shifts the dispute from the real estate to the proceeds of the bond. This allows the property to be sold or re-financed, for example, free and clear of the mechanic's lien. Liens are complex. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about how handle this situation.

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  • Can I get amount I paid for outside building built, parts and labor, contractor says he will give part back and take building?

    I had building built, contractor did not use treated material building buckling. I asked for invoice, he will not give me an invoice. He says he buys his material in bulk. I paid $1865. I have complained and finally told him that I thought he ...

    Michael’s Answer

    If you are not satisfied with the quality of the builder's work because of his use of inferior materials, by all means sit down with him and try to work out a fair resolution of the dispute. You paid $1865 for a building that is buckling, and I gather that this is because the contractor did not use pressure-treated lumber. Buckling usually takes a little time to develop, so what you may be describing is a building that has been completed for a time and now is failing. If you initially accepted the building and paid for it, and this problem developed later, then you have what lawyers call a warranty issue. Your contention is that the contractor did not build the project in a workmanlike manner because he failed to use pressure-treated lumber. Evidently you asked to see an invoice showing that the contractor purchased pressure-treated lumber for the job, and he does not have that proof. It very well may be that the contractor does buy his materials in bulk and keeps them in storage until needed. This is a common practice. He should be able to tell you if the lumber used is pressure-treated, but failing that the lumber itself contains markings showing whether it is pressure treated. I have attached a link that you can use to explain the markings on the lumber used in the building. In this situation, the contractor has provided a product that you appear to have used for a period of time. This would suggest that the contractor has provided at least some value to you, even if the building ultimately proved to be unsatisfactory. The contractor also has to go the expense of removing the building from your property and then must try to re-sell the storage building to someone else. He very well may have made purchases of hardware, shingles or wood, but ordinarily you would not have a claim on these materials because you were purchasing a completed storage building, not the raw materials that went into it. Given the amount of money in dispute and the hard feelings on both sides, I think that the two of you should try to work out something that is fair to both sides, understanding that neither side is likely to be happy with the final result. Pay him something for his time and labor and your use of the building, and be satisfied with a refund of most but not all of your money. If you cannot work something out, consider filing a claim in Lowndes County Magistrate Court. You can reach them at (229) 671-2610.

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  • What concerns should a 3rd party should be aware of when preparing and filing HOA liens for several HOA or management companies?

    I was a previous title abstract and know how to research deeds and legal descriptions. I know attorneys do not have to file liens in GA but many HOA's are drowning in attorney fees. I would like to help out my local HOA's and have a part-time ne...

    Michael’s Answer

    I have attached a link to the State Bar of Georgia's rules and statutes on the unlicensed practice of law.

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  • I WORKED ON A JOB, FINISHED, GENERAL CONTRACTOR PAID ME PARTIAL, BEFORE 90 DAYS, I FILED LIEN,STILL DID NOT GET PAY,WHAT'S NEXT?

    I SIGNED CONTRACT WITH GENERAL CONTRACTOR ON MAY 05 2012, LAST DAY WORK WAS JUNE 11 2012, FILED LIEN ON SEPTEMBER 05 2012

    Michael’s Answer

    At this point you really should be working with your lawyer. Never lose sight of the fact that the main goal is to get paid. You should be negotiating with the general contractor and using the lien as leverage in the negotiations. Each step that you take to pursue perfection and foreclosure of the lien is an opportunity to increase the pressure on the general contractor and the owner to get you paid. Assuming that you have filed and served the lien correctly, your next legal step will probably be to file suit to perfect your claim of lien. You will have to make several legal filings in order to do this properly. You can refer to O.C.G.A. Section 44-14-361.1 for more information about this. The lien laws are complex, the deadlines are strict, and it is easy to make a mistake. Talk to the GC and look for opportunities to resolve the dispute as quickly and inexpensively as possible. If you get on a payment plan it is possible to reduce the lien by the amount of each payment that you receive.

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