Monday, December 17, 2007

Finder's Keepers Loser's Weepers

I hated that expression as a kid. It was usually used to taunt somebody who mislaid something temporarily. It's really not a very good philosophy to live by.

A contractor in Ohio (an adult) is claiming this as a reason that he should keep a hefty sum of money that he found while doing renovations at a client's home. The contractor, Bob Kitts, was doing demolition in the bathroom of Amanda Reece, who was paying him a fee to renovate her bathroom.

Those of you who have hired contractors do bathroom renovations know that this is an expensive proposition.

From what I've gathered, Reece offered Kitts a 10% finder's fee (a standard, if somewhat miserly offer). Kitts insists he deserves more, Reece won't budge. So, in order to ensure that neither of them get any money, Kitts has lowered the bar and brought in the lawyers.

Does the money belong to the homeowner? Yes. She bought the house and it's contents. The money was in the walls of the house she bought. It's hers.

Does the money belong the contractor who stumbled on the money? No. Unless you want a bunch of litigators to dissect every nuance of every argument, the answer is 'no.' Of course the litigators can interpret everything every which way -- and they will. And each argument will cost the litigants more money.

But, think for yourself: you are hired to work in my home, you find a box of money; whose is it? Or, think of it this way: you hire me to work in your home, and I find a box of money; whose is it?

I think it's the home owner's money. Reece wins hands-down in my book.

Now, Reece is an asshole for not being more generous, but that is a different issue. It is hers to do with as she sees fit. And she sees fit to give ten percent of it to the guy she was already paying. I have not read that Kitts is offering to surrender the money for the renovations, so there is no holier-than-thou situation here. He wants to be paid for his work AND get a cut of the home owner's money. I'm feeling the asshole word come forward again.

Reece is also an idiot. Why offer so little? Why not split the money? Or at least offer 25% (which probably would have been an acceptable offer before that asshole Kitts brought in the lawyers).

I predict that the lawyers (the ultimate assholes in cases like this) get more than half of the money, Reece doesn't get her bathroom renovated, and Kitts loses more money than he gains.

I am on the home owner's side, here. She's a jerk for being so stingy, but it's her house and her money, and she doesn't have to give Kitts a penny.

In fact, homeowners in the greater Cleveland area might want to ask themselves what Kitts would do if he was in their home and found something valuable. His reaction here leads me to believe he might keep what he finds (which I believe would be larceny), so you might not want to let him in your home.

Contractors in the greater Cleveland area might want to ask themselves if they would do business with Reece. If you go above and beyond the call of duty, chances are you'll be lucky to get a 'thank you.'

Still, I take Reece's side and hope the courts award her all the money, and force Kitts to pay all the legal bills.

Where will Reece ever find someone to finish her bathroom renovation?

Contractor, homeowner at odds over fortune found in bathroom walls, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Contractor, owner feud over hidden cash, AP article at Yahoo!

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1 comment:

Jesse said...

I read somewhere that Kitt's, without the permission of Reece, went back to the house and put several new holes in the walls looking for more money. No wonder he was only offered 10%. She is going to have to pay to have her house done, all of it now. She will also have to pay taxes (what 50% ?) and will probably have to pay to have someone auction off the money. So 10% sounds pretty good for not having to do any of the work. I think the contractor will have a hard time getting work because I know I would have him sign a contract just to clarify that anything found in the house is still mine. He is greedy, and should get nothing now.