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Hi everyone, it's been a long time since I posted here - I was "TMF Runkle" back then, but in the meanwhile I left the Fool, got activated by the Reserves and shipped to the Mideast once (Abu Dhabi), and Central Asia (Uzbekistan) the second time. I'm now home and happily running my business again. I've gotten into a lot of consultations for structural problems in homes, in particular for Realtors and I work with a foundation repair company.

Anyway, I had an interesting experience yesterday. I get a call from a homeowner who has a house he's selling. He told me he had some "minor cracking" which existed when the house was bought, and it hasn't moved at all. Then he asks me how he can be sure I'm not "fly by night" (his words). I told him I'm licensed as a Professional Engineer, and I have been in this business for a while. I also mention that I partner with this certain foundation company in doing foundation remediation, so I'm pretty up on this subject. He seizes on that and starts asking how he can be sure I'm not just promoting the foundation company. I start explaining professional ethics, etc... and my phone battery dies.

A couple hours later the guy calls me back. He is stuck on whether I'm "fly by night" and wants to know if I'm "bonded". I explain I have a million dollars of General and Professional Liability. He states "that's just so you can't sue me if you hurt yourself". I should have hung up right then. Anyway, I explain Professional Liability, and he says that he doesn't want me making mistakes. He also got going again on how could he be sure I wasn't promoting this foundation company. He again started on how the cracks in the house weren't moving, and how he didn't want me trying to sell him $40,000 or so in piers he "doesn't need".

I was in the neighborhood of his house, so I suggested I go over there. Usually, I tell a homeowner to have a check on site (they tend not to pay if billed). He has a bunch of excuses, and assures me he'll issue me a check soon as he gets the report. Like an idiot, I agree. I drove over to his house, and go over everything with his wife.

This is what I found:
- a 3/4" crack in the masonry, a 5/8" crack in the masonry, and a 1/2" crack in the masonry. The cracks had been sealed with caulk, which had been pulled apart. His wife tells me the caulk had been there the whole time they were living in the house. To me, it looks pretty fresh. I also note that the house is built on fill next to a creek bed. I checked the soil near the foundations, and it is very loose.
- The wife tells me where they got my name. It was from the foundation company mentioned above.

I got back home, and it hit me what the guy was trying to do. He was trying to set me up to say the house was fine, and no more settling would take place. If I recommended piers under his foundation (which he needed), he was going to scream I was just promoting this foundation company. I sent him a fax telling him to take his business elsewhere. He called me at 10:30 PM, and blocked the caller ID. Of course I didn't answer.

This morning he called me again, and started to whine and complain. I hung up on him after telling him to go away. I'm out the time I spent at the house, and a lot of aggravation. In hindsight, I should have told him to go away early in the phone call, like after he asked me if I did have letterhead.

It kills me how people try to pull little con acts. This guy wanted an engineer's letter to waive at the buyers when they questioned the cracking. He wanted me to say the house was not going to crack anymore, and things were OK. Not only is the ethics bad in such a case, but I could be setting myself up for a big time lawsuit. It felt good to tell him to go away.

Anyway, sorry for the long post, but I had to share the story.

George aka BCF
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