Beware of Unscrupulous Subcontractors

Many contractors use subcontractors to get work done quickly, professionally, and with great quality. Whereas a general contractor might have to focus on many aspects of a complicated job, subcontractors tend to focus on a specific task or skill. This gives the customer the benefit of a dedicated expert. However, when a subcontractor fails to perform their job correctly, it can really derail a project. Usually, the general contractor takes the fall and makes things right. But in one case, the contractor did very little to help out his customer. You can find out more about that case here.

Contractor vs. Subcontractor

It may appear at first that a contractor and a subcontractor are basically the same thing. Both are business owners who take responsibility for a particular project on a contract basis. As contractors, they are not employees, which means the person who hires them is not responsible for their jobs or employment benefits. Instead, a contractor of any type is hired for a specific job or project. The only agreement between the contractor and the customer is what work will be done, how and when it will be done, and how much the customer will pay.

But there are important differences between a contractor and a subcontractor. The biggest difference is who the contractor or subcontractor works for. There are also big differences in the scope of responsibilities for a contractor versus a subcontractor.


A contractor, sometimes called a general contractor, works directly for their customer or client. They are responsible for getting a project done, but they also have other responsibilities. It is their responsibility to work with the customer on an ongoing basis to ensure that the customer is informed, updated, and ultimately happy with the job being done. A contractor needs skills like customer service and business acumen. A contractor also needs to know how to negotiate a job and take into account all of the business concerns to make sure that the customer is treated fairly and the contractor makes a reasonable profit.


A subcontractor does not work directly with or for the customer who commissioned the project. Instead, the subcontractor’s only business agreement is with the contractor, who is solely responsible for delivering the final product to the customer. A contractor does not have to deal with customer service, logistics, cost to profit margins, or any of the negotiations that go into working with a customer. The skills a subcontractor needs are much narrower and often focus on a certain set of expertise

Unlike a general contractor, subcontractor is able to specialize in a particular skill or product without larger business concerns. They don’t need to worry about finding customers or managing client relations. Instead, a subcontractor usually receives work by developing a network of contractors. If a subcontractor is able to do their specialized job well, on time, and professionally, they can expect regular work from contractors, without a lot of customer service or other concerns. However, if a subcontractor works on a job site, they still represent the contractor, so courteous professional behavior is a must. Also, a subcontractor needs to be reliable and dependable to the contractor, since the contractor is making promises to their client based on the expectation that a subcontractor can get the work done.

When A Subcontractor Fails to Perform

Occasionally, a subcontractor will fail to perform the services for which they are hired. This can be a major headache for the contractor. The contractor has already made promises to the client or customer to get work done. That means that when a subcontractor fails, the contractor has to find some other way to meet the expectations they have set. This usually means finding another subcontractor to do the work. Since the subcontractor doesn’t work with or for the customer, the subcontractor is not responsible for meeting the customer’s needs or expectations. Instead, it is up to the contractor to manage their subcontractors to get the work done for the customer.

The Role of a Contractor When Subcontractor Can’t Deliver

The only relationship the client or customer has is with the contractor. As far as the customer is concerned, the contractor is getting all of the work done, and the client shouldn’t have to worry about how the work is getting done. So if a subcontractor fails, that is of no concern to the customer. Instead, if the customer is working with a reliable contractor, they can have confidence that the final project will be done on budget and on time.

Meanwhile, a contractor may be put in a very tough position by a bad subcontractor. The contractor is still obligated to deliver a project, regardless of the subcontractor’s ability or inability to perform. So finding the right subcontractors can make the difference between a contactor building a successful business or not. Usually, when a subcontractor is unable to meet expectations, the contractor has to find someone else to do the job, and find someone fast. This may cost the contractor money out of their own pocket, and can even affect the profit margin of the final project. If a contractor is regularly having to pay to correct the work of their subcontractors, that contractor may not be able to stay in business for very long.

When a Contractor Won’t Take Responsibility

The worst nightmare for a contractor is having to repair damage done by a bad subcontractor. But he worst nightmare for a customer is having a contractor who won’t fix the damage done by their subcontractor.

This is exactly what happened with Rebecca Elrik. Rebecca hired a contractor to cut down some trees for her. After the contractor performed the job and cut down the trees, Rebecca asked about some landscape work. The contractor replied truthfully that he doesn’t do contract work. But he said that he had a contact who does landscape work, and he could get the work done through that contact.

This is where things started to go wrong. Instead of connecting Rebecca and the landscaper directly, the contractor asked for the money up front and agreed to act as the middleman. This set up a relationship in which Rebecca contracted with the tree removal specialist to get the landscaping work done. The tree removal contractor was then obtaining the landscaping services from his contact who was acting as a subcontractor. The responsibility for the landscaping work fell on the tree removal expert, since that’s where Rebecca wrote the check.

The Contractor Disappears

That was back in January of 2016. But the landscaping work was never provided. When Rebecca tried to contact the tree removal expert to ask about the landscaping, he had disappeared. After trying unsuccessfully to contact the tree removal expert, Rebecca turned to TrustDALE.

Eventually, TrustDALE investigator Dale Caldwell confronted the tree removal expert in person. He claimed that he had been in touch with Rebecca and said that the subcontractor, the landscaper, had disappeared on him. However, as with any subcontractor, the responsibility for the final project lies with contractor, not the subcontractor. The tree removal expert received and cashed a check, so he owed Rebecca either the work or the money. You can view the video of Dale’s encounter below

Eventually, TrustDALE was able to resolve this issue and get Rebecca’s money back.

Do Some Research before Hiring a Contractor

When you hire a contractor, you need to make sure that you are dealing with someone with great customer service. A good contractor will stand behind their work, even when their own subcontractors fail. If you need any type of contractor, check first at We have lists of certified contractors for all types of work. Each one has been investigated by TrustDALE and meets the highest standards of price, quality, and customer service.

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