“Property Owner – Beware!”
“Property Owner – Beware!” Local Structural Engineers play the bait and switch with clients causing unfair business practices and thousands in over-charging….
I own and manage an apartment building in West Hollywood. On my journey to soft story compliance, I have had the ‘dubious privilege’ of meeting some unscrupulous and outright fraudulent structural engineers – to say the least! if you’re in the world of retrofitting your property, don’t flip the page until you read this article – get a load of this:
After months of no communication, lack of response to my inquiries and being kept in the dark, I was finally given a set of ‘approved’ plans along with a quote for construction by the engineering firm I hired to provide plans to LADBS in order to stay within my compliance timeframe.
Everything sounds fine and dandy right? Well, keep reading!
The bid I received seemed on the high side based on a similar property my partner owns and was able to complete for substantially less.
While meeting a few different contractors, I received construction bids that were exponentially higher than the bid I received from the original engineer, all of a sudden their price didn’t seem so high anymore, I felt that every other bid I received was so much higher, I’m talking 80% higher, it was almost impossible to imagine hiring anyone else!
Here’s where it gets good! One of the contractors I met with, Cal Retrofit, pointed out that something ‘smelled fishy’ with the plans I provided them. They quickly pointed out that the remediation method used was over-engineered, over complicated, and not the normal courses of action taken by a professional engineering firm, who claims to be “soft story specialists”.
I started to believe what I was hearing and finally shared the price that I received from my engineering firm for the construction phase of the retrofit.
To my astonishment, I was quickly shown how the price I received was less than the actual cost to other contractors, there was no real chance to compete from the get go! Something was off!
Having experience in real estate development, I wanted to do a little investigation of my own to find out how a leading contractor was not able to give me a quote that was remotely comparable to the one I originally received from my engineering firm!
I took my plans down to The Los Angeles Department of building and safety and sat down with the plan checker that was assigned to my project, when I asked the plan checker to review the remediation method and possibly shed some light on why I was receiving price quotes that varied so much!? He simply re-iterated that a different set of plans, a much simpler remediation method was submitted as a correction to the plans that were originally submitted which I was out there wasting my time bidding.
What? I asked, a different set of plans were submitted? Yes, he answered, though it is common that we receive corrections to original submissions, it is uncommon when a completely different methodology is submitted for the same property by the same engineering firm.
Hmmm? It took me a few moments to think about it, but it quickly became apparent that I was sent out to fail, I was duped! The firm I hired sent me out to waste time and receive bids for plans that were intentionally over done in order for the bidding process to go in their favor, while ‘quietly’ they submitted completely different, a more current and optimized remediation method that would make the entire construction cost less.
They had me chasing my own tail, almost believing, that the price they originally gave me was gold! Come to think of it, you can buy some serious gold with the 34k they were going to overcharge me!
I don’t know about you, but I call that fraud, unfair business practices, and outright theft, oh, and by the way, I don’t intend to go quietly!
Based on legal advice, we chose to keep confidential, the name of the establishment that I’m talking about, but I do want to give credit to CalRetrofit for their honesty, integrity, and willingness to prove themselves and stand behind their word! I ultimately awarded the contract to CalRetrofit. They were able to completely re-engineer my soft story project, thus saving me thousands in construction costs. Their administrative management team’s communication was a breath of fresh air. With them, I truly feel I am in good hands.
Please, fellow property owners, beware of shady engineers trying to take advantage of us!
West Hollywood Property Owner
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