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by Abigail Van Buren

Neighbor Sues Neighbor Over Botched Bathroom Renovation

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.

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