Who NOT to Hire for Work: Matthew G. Lantz – Rainier, WA

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I’ve gone back and forth on whether to publish this post or not. I was worried about writing such a negative post and I worried about the fact that such a negative post was about a person and his actions, not a place. Then I decided that I should publish this post because if possible, I’d like to warn people about not having this man come onto your property to do any work. Please take our warning …

Two years ago, my husband was deployed to Iraq and we were still “new homeowners honeymoon” phase. Or at least I was. My husband was not here the month we moved in, he was off to JRTC preparing to deploy. He was in our new home for about three months and then he left to serve 12 months in Iraq. I did my best to make the house a home and did a lot of painting. One thing that we had both discussed was wanting to put up a privacy fence along the perimeter of our backyard. At the time, we were the only house on the block with nothing but trees – and weeds – surrounding us. We weren’t in that big of a hurry to get a fence but we had been pricing them out.

One day in March 2010, I was chatting with a friend (who I will not name) and she was talking about how she just had a portion of her fence replaced from a recent wind storm. I asked her who replaced the fence because I was in the market for a fence. She told me that she would send over someone named Matthew Gunnar Lantz, who was her friend, to give us an estimate. Great! I got a call from him and we scheduled a date and time for him to come over. The day he arrived at his home, he was very courteous. He showed us photos of another fence he constructed as well as a shed he had built. He then measured out our fence line, which is pretty large for this area. He wrote down an estimate, we discussed the cost for materials, and an estimate for how long it would take to do. I knew at that point that my husband was due home soon for his two weeks of R&R. He wanted to meet with Matt in person to finalize any decisions.

About a week later, my husband returned home and we met again with Matt. After getting bids from two other people for the construction of the fence, we chose to hire Matt because he was more within our price range. We hired him because he was a friend of a friend, came recommended, and because his prices beat the others. Even though we knew he was not a professional, he did do side work for people. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – yes, I think you know where this is going.

The project of putting out fence up was going to take about two weeks. With that time frame, it meant it would be completed just after my husband had to return to Iraq. Trying to be cautious, I had Matt sign and date a waiver saying that we were not responsible for injuries and what not. We had settled on price for labor payment and agreed that we would purchase the materials ourselves. He happily obliged, signed my waiver, and got to work. During the time that he was working, he had some friends come help him dig the holes for the posts. We bought lunch for everyone on different occasions as well as supplied beverages. One night, we even welcomed Matt into our home to join us for dinner. It was then time for my husband to return to Iraq and I was left to oversee the completion of the fence.

Matt completed the fence two or three days after my husband left. The day after Matt completed, I noticed that the gate on the south side of our house was kind of at an angle. It was definitely leaning. I called Matt and he said he would come over on a particular Monday at 4pm and take a look at it. Well, that day came and went. Matt was a no show. I called Matt about half a dozen times during that week and he never called me back. He had, however, cashed the checks that we had paid him with. I tried for about a month to get a hold of Matt and he refused to return my calls. Finally, he just showed up at my home without warning. I showed him the gate and he agreed: the gate was leaning and it shouldn’t be. He said again that he would return to fix the gate and also to stain the fence for an additional fee. I needed the gate fixed and with my forgiving attitude, I forgave him for not calling me back and gave him another chance. We agreed to a date that he would return to fix the gate and stain it. Once again, Matt was a no show. He did not return my calls. He did not respond to my emails. I was left with a gate that was not functioning properly but the biggest surprise was when all three gates – including the 10 foot fate along the back of the fence – began to slump and lean.

Out of the blue, Matt sends my husband a Facebook message about needing to fix the gates. May I remind you that my husband is and has been in Iraq at that time. Why was Matt messaging my husband when clearly I was the one at the house needing gates fixed? It didn’t matter because Matt still did not show up and still did not fix anything. I grew tired of waiting for him to do the right thing and I got tired of dragging our mutual friend in the middle by asking her where in the world Matt was. At that time, I made the decision to sue Matthew Lantz in the Small Claims court.

I filed the papers and knew he was served his request for a court appearance. We had a court date set for September 2010, a month after my husband returned from Iraq. I showed up for our court date armed with photos of our gate, copies of the message he sent to my husband stating that he knew full well that our gates needed to be fixed, estimates from three fence companies stating how much it would be to fix just the gates (over $1,000!), as well as copies of my phone and email records showing all the times I had tried to get in contact with Mr. Lantz. Before cases were heard by the judge, we were asked to meet with our defendant and see if we could make an agreement then and there. Mr. Lantz looked at my photos and said he knew what he did was wrong and knew our gates needed to be fixed but he was not willing to pay the costs of the repairs himself. (Really?) I offered Matt to pick one of the estimates for a professional to fix the gates and he could pay them directly. Again, he refused.

We were not the only case waiting to be heard that day and unfortunately we ended up being the only case not heard that day. We were rescheduled for another date in October 2010. When our next court date came, Mr. Lantz felt that it was not necessary to show up. We won our case by default and Mr. Lantz was found liable for paying the estimated $1,200 it would take to repair our fence gates and the legal fees we paid to sue him. He was served his judgment papers and we were notified when he received them. He had 60-days to make an initial payment and in 60-days, we had received nothing. I sent numerous registered letters requesting payment to which we received nothing. I even appealed to his father – who had been here at our house helping construct the fence and gates – and asked him to encourage Matt to do the right thing. Still, no reply.

After a year and half of waiting for payment and our gates continuing to slump further over time, we grew frustrated and impatient. We did not have the money to repair a fence that we had already paid once to have constructed. This fence wasn’t even two years old! We contacted the courts to see what else we could do. The next step was to hire an attorney to have Mr. Lantz brought in to court to turn over employment records, financial records, and tax papers during a debtor’s examination so that it could be determined if the courts could garnish his wages until our judgment had been paid. At this time, Mr. Lantz would also be responsible for paying our legal fees. After minor investigation (that I acknowledge maybe we should have done in the beginning) we learned of some other unsavory facts about Mr. Lantz that we were not very happy about. We were notified when Mr. Lantz was served his request for a court appearance and were told what date he would be in court. That October 2012 date came and went. Mr. Lantz failed to appear in court and now a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest. There is a big part of us that is coming to the realization that we will never see one penny from Mr. Lantz. We are trying to stay optimistic. That judgment is valid for the next 10 years and if he fails to pay, we can re-file. Mr. Lantz will be responsible for the yearly interest that accrues on the original 2010 judgment until he pays and this judgment will stay on his record until it is resolved.

This idea that we had of buying a home and putting up a fence so that our children could run around safely in the backyard had pretty much turned into a nightmare. In a sense, we had paid an arm and leg for fence but the gates didn’t even work. The gate on the north end of our house does not open because it sits directly on the ground now. The gate on the south end of our home has to be lifted up in order to be opened. The 10 foot gate on the back portion of the gate no longer closes. The best part is, that as of today’s date, we see now that there are entire panels of the fence that are separating from the posts. It turns out the ENTIRE fence was not constructed properly. No matter which way we look at it, we will need to completely redo the entire fence. Where and when we will ever come up with that kind of money is beyond me. It is heartbreaking to see that this large investment we made is literally falling apart in front of our eyes. A large investment that was paid for by money that was earned through my husband serving his country in Iraq – this in itself should make Mr. Lantz and his family completely ashamed!

So, what have we learned? We have learned never, ever to hire anyone who is not licensed and bonded. We have learned that you cannot always take friend’s word on recommendations. We have learned that even when the justice system agrees with you, it doesn’t mean that you win. We have learned that even though day in and day out we strive to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, there are some people out there that were never taught those same values. We have learned that no matter how nice you are to people, there are some people who will completely take advantage of your kindness.

Most of all, we have learned that hiring Matthew G. Lantz to construct a fence on our property was the biggest mistake we have ever made.

Side Note: This is not an attempt to cause defamation to Mr. Lantz’s character. This is only a warning to the public as to why you would not want to hire Mr. Lantz to do side work on your property. This is an attempt to save even just one person the heartache, stress, and financial loss that we have suffered. We attempted to file a complaint with the BBB to make our complaint public but since Mr. Lantz is not licensed or bonded, they, unfortunately, could not accept our complaint. 

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