The mainstream media isn't always kind to contractors. But what about difficult homeowners? What about homeowners who are even worse than that?
On August 28, a homeowner near Tacoma, Wash., fatally shot a contractor during an argument over tile work. Yoon Myong Bang, 73, was charged with first-degree murder for the death of a 52-year-old contractor who had been remodeling Bang’s bathroom, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. Bang pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $1 million.
The victim, whose name has not yet been released, was working in Bang's bathroom alongside another contractor who witnessed the events, according to court filings. The other man reported that the project had been going on for about a week with Bang and the victim arguing repeatedly over the quality of his work. On the 28th, the victim and Bang got into an altercation over a leaky toilet that the victim had reinstalled, and the witness reported that Bang asked the victim to leave and said that he would not pay for the work.
According to the probable cause filing, the contractor stated that if he didn't get paid, he would destroy the tile he installed with a hammer. He then retrieved a hammer from his truck and hit the bathroom counter with it. At that point, Bang threatened him with a handgun, stating that if he "busted up" the tile, he would be shot. The victim then left the bathroom, Bang followed him, and the witness said he heard a shot. He ran into the master bedroom and saw the victim on the floor with a gunshot wound to his head. The filing then states that Bang told the witness to call 911, acting "like it was no big deal." When the police arrived, Bang calmly informed an officer that he had shot someone and that the gun was in the living room.
A Lesson in Tragedy
This is a tragic story for obvious reasons. I think about the grief that the contractor's family must be feeling. Did he have kids? Are his parents alive? Are they replaying his last moments in their heads?
I also think about how vulnerable anyone is in the home services industry. There is no way of knowing who you are dealing with other than the information they give you. It's important to stay vigilant, trust your instincts, and avoid emotional outbursts. If a situation starts to get out of control, do everything possible to deescalate the conflict. Use your contract to protect you against nonpayment.
I know plenty of remodelers who have turned down projects because they believe the homeowner will be unreasonable, or sometimes just because they get a bad feeling. It takes confidence to decline work, but it's almost always worth it.