Owners get new roof — but they didn't order it!

By Brian Sweeney
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but for a Margaretville couple there is such a thing as a free roof. Even though they didn’t order one.

Surprise was an understatement for Jane and Steve Miller when a contractor from out of the area recently called them to explain that he had just finished putting a new roof on their camp at Perch Lake in the Town of Andes. Unfortunately, the Millers were not the owners who had ordered the roof — it was meant for a camp four doors away from their property.

“The camp owner who wanted the roof gave the contractor directions over the phone and he got them mixed up,” Steve told the News.

No repairs needed
The Millers had no need to update the roof on their camp, since Steve had installed a metal roof about eight years ago.

An even bigger shock came when the out-of-county contractor demanded $7,800 for the 800-square-foot shingle roof he had installed on the wrong property. His crew had torn off the Millers’ metal roof before installing the shingle roof.

Steve explained that there had been no need for a new roof on the camp and that he wouldn’t be paying the contractor anything.

The contractor responded that if he didn’t receive payment, he would have to return and remove the roof.

“I told him, OK, but you’ll have to put the old one back,” Steve recalled.

That was also the point where the Millers contacted the state police and received assurances that the contractor would be arrested if he attempted to tear off the roof.

The Millers also sought legal counsel and were advised that they were well within their rights to pursue criminal and civil charges against the contractor.

Steve said that he and his wife don’t intend to take legal action, but they are still mystified as to how this error occurred. He noted that the problem originated when the downstate property owner didn’t meet with the contractor, but only supplied directions to her camp.

Work not mentioned
Jane Miller said they had been at their camp just a few days before the roof was installed and had talked to their immediate neighbor, Sally Huggins.

“Sally told us later that she had talked to the contractors when they started to make sure they knew where the property line was. She thought it was odd that we hadn’t told her we were putting on a new roof,” Jane explained.

When the two-day job was complete, the contractor asked Sally if the camp belonged to so-and-so, the woman who had ordered the job. She responded that, no, the Millers owned the camp that had just received the new roof.

In relaying this story, Sally told Jane, “His jaw just dropped.”

That’s when the contractor contacted the Millers, explained his error — and tried to collect payment from them!

The Millers went to their camp a few days after learning about the mix-up. “He cut some corners,” Steve pointed out.

Adding to the bizarre situation was the fact that work had jarred loose an assortment of sawdust and other debris from the ceiling area.

Furthermore, whereas the Millers had been careful to use short nails when installing a previous roof and short screws for the metal replacement roof, the contractor used long nails that are now quite visible in the exposed sections of ceiling.

Despite the mess left behind inside their camp and the fact that they have a new roof they didn’t order or need, the Millers don’t plan to pursue any monetary damages from the contractor.
The do, however, remain perplexed as to how such a mistake could be made.

“I was in contracting for 40 years and I don’t see, as a business person, how you could let this happen,” Steve noted.

Asked too late
Jane pointed out that members of the Huggins family said they were present when the contractors were measuring for the job and they could have easily asked for a confirmation on the camp’s ownership — before starting the work.

Steve said he has heard two versions of the story of how the contractors eventually discovered their error.

He said one story involved the contractor spotting a trampoline near the cottage and thinking that the equipment seemed inappropriate for the older woman with no children to have on premises.
The other, more plausible story that Steve heard was that the camp owner who actually did want a new roof called the contractor, told him she had been at her camp and wondered why they had not started work.

“He told her they were almost done,” Steve related.
They were — they just weren’t working on the right place.