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REAL ESTATE 1: Did your contractor lie about being a licensed contractor?

Did your contractor lie about being a licensed contractor?

Defendant appeals his conviction of unlicensed residential builder.  The trial court sentenced to 18 months’ probation, and $6,300 in restitution.

Appeal arises from two brothers retaining defendant to perform repairs on a home in the City of Detroit.  While interviewing contractors, the victim met defendant at the home which required extensive repairs. The victim testified that defendant showed him a portfolio of photographs of his work, and defendant told him that he had been a licensed builder since he was 20 years old.  According to the victim, it absolutely mattered that defendant stated that he was a licensed builder because payment was supposed to be up front.

The victims paid defendant in advance. However, shortly after payment had been tendered, work ceased on the home.  There was also evidence presented at trial that defendant demanded more money for the work he was doing on the home. Eventually an agreement was reached whereby defendant received $6,300 for his work on the house. After the defendant failed to complete the repairs after being paid, the victims contacted the police who discovered that none of the individuals working on the home were licensed contractors.

At trial defendant was convicted as indicated above.  At sentencing, the trial court inquired of defendant what the total amount of money he received. Defendant stated that he had received $6,300. That was the amount of restitution the trial court ordered. On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered him to pay $6,300 in restitution because there is no causal connection between his conduct and the harm suffered by his victims.

Crime victims have a right to restitution under the 1963 Michigan Constitution.  The trial court, relying on the testimony and verdict of the jury, ordered defendant to pay $6,300 in restitution because that was the amount he received in payment for a house repair project that he was not licensed to perform. The trial court also noted that in addition to receipt of the money, testimony also revealed that prior to abandoning the project, defendant left the majority of the work for which he had been contracted unfinished.

The crux of defendant’s argument is that he is entitled to the $6,300 because he did $6,300 worth of work on the home. Defendant’s argument lacks merit because he fails to include the fact that testimony revealed that none of the people hired to perform work on the home would have been hired had it been known that they were not licensed contractors. Defendant’s argument also seeks to negate testimony by the victim that defendant held himself out as a licensed contractor. In fact, the victim testified that defendant told him he was a licensed contractor. Therefore, it is fairly obvious that but for defendant’s assertions and those of the others involved in this case, defendant would not have been hired had he truthfully explained that he was not a licensed contractor. Hence, contrary to defendant’s assertions, there is a causal connection between defendant’s conduct as an unlicensed builder and the payment he received to perform a building project that he was not licensed to perform.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered defendant to pay restitution.

Are you dealing with a breach of contract case?  Seek the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney.  At Aldrich Legal Services, our attorneys provide effective, ethical representation on behalf of property owners, builders, contractors and subcontractors across southeast Michigan.

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