Dear Abby: Neighbor refuses to pay for damage from his botched renovation work

Client has to go to court for a ruling on the badly installed tub that made a ceiling cave in.

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DEAR ABBY: We were friendly with our next-door neighbor, who owned a contracting company, and we hired him to renovate our bathroom. At the time, we thought he did a wonderful job. It looked beautiful. Unfortunately, he didn’t set the tub correctly, and a slow leak was happening underneath it. Three years later, our kitchen ceiling came down. We had to pay $10,000 to repair the damage, and the entire tub and shower had to be removed and redone.

We talked with our neighbor about it, and he seemed apologetic, but after speaking with his wife, who is a lawyer, he told us our options are to “eat it” or sue him. We did sue him.

The case was dismissed prior to trial on a technicality, and the judge suggested we refile with a lawyer. We had tried to represent ourselves in small claims court, and the judge said it’s difficult to do when the opposing side has a lawyer. I have so much anger and resentment toward them that when I see them my heart pounds.

Our other neighbors are on our side. They all say the couple will move, but if they don’t, can you give us any advice on how to deal with this if we choose not to refile a lawsuit? He knows he completed this part of the job wrong, but his wife won’t let him do the right thing. I’m blown away by the lack of ethics from people we regarded as friends. They have now cut ties with the entire circle of friends in our neighborhood over this. — THE RIGHT THING IN THE EAST

DEAR THE RIGHT THING: Do not blame only the wife for what happened; her husband is her willing partner. They are equally ethically challenged, not to mention shameless, so don’t count on them moving any time soon.

Because you are reluctant to incur the expense of hiring a lawyer to represent you in court, consider reporting the husband to the Better Business Bureau and the state contracting license board. If you do, it may save another family from experiencing the frustration and monetary loss you have.

DEAR ABBY: I feel like I do better on my own. I don’t want kids, I don’t want a husband, and I don’t want commitment. I have accepted that I’m better by myself, but my mother, who is religious, is still convinced that I will want a kid one day. She feels she “knows” this, even though I have told her many times that I wouldn’t be able to handle a husband or children. I have done my best to grin and bear it, but I feel guilty for disappointing her by not fulfilling her fantasy about my having a breadwinner husband and being a trophy wife with perfect kids.

It’s not that she won’t get to be a grandmother. She already is, but my sister isn’t perfect, and I don’t like that Mom wishes me to be what the rest of my siblings couldn’t be. Also I can tell the idea of my being bisexual makes her queasy. She is still in denial.

What can I do when she says things like she can’t wait until I have a husband or a kid of my own, or when she makes the same irritating face whenever anything about anyone’s sexual orientation is mentioned? — LIKES IT SOLO IN TEXAS

DEAR LIKES IT: Because you have told your mother repeatedly that marriage and parenthood aren’t what you want, when she brings it up, change the subject. Do not allow her to make you feel guilty for wanting to live your life the way you see fit. It is YOUR life, not hers, and you were not put on this earth to fulfill her fantasy or make up for your sister’s deficits.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

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