Learned many lessons (some again) hiring Student Works Painting.
First: all areas are franchised out to students. In other words, the student 'owns' the company. There is no real recourse to anyone of any authority above the student/painter with whom you signed the agreement. The "head office/company" basically consists of an answering service.
Second: if you expect to get what you pay for here, forget it. Crews are trained NOT TO PAINT areas where the home owner will likely not look. We had allowed a "training" crew to come to our home to do preliminary work and overheard some of the so called "coaching" going on. As much time was spent teaching the crew how to avoid work as was spent on how to actually do any painting. Not that you should expect a professional level of job from students in the first place. They are students, afterall.
Third: if you have to hound a contractor to get them to START the work, you'd be better off cancelling the contract and finding another contractor. Chances are if they won't start they are NEVER going to finish.
Being fairly reasonable and understanding we were basically hiring untrained students we were very careful to give the "owner" explicit and written instructions and areas of concern after the crew finally put in a full days work. Even included hard copy of digital pics so that there would be no mis-understanding. We hoped this would drive home the point that we were watching and would not accept some slap-dash job.
Results: incomplete paint job with serious lack of prep work (cleaning, scraping, sanding, patching). NO PAINT wherever the crew throught we would not look or be unable to see (fortunately for us they were not even smart enough to look carefully themselves as unpainted areas are visible from the ground if you know where to stand). Damaged areas from ladders used without bumpers/guards; paint on eves troughs and left to dry; paint spilled on shingles and attempted to clean with (according to the lead hand of the crew)nail polish remover (it was latex paint...why not water????); paint stains from brushes left on landscape boulders to dry; damaged flat roof which resulting in a leak above the front porch and numerous minor issues like lunch garbage left on the property, failure to clean up at the end of the day, ladders left blocking the driveway etc.
Calls to 'Head Office' were worse than useless. An "Area Manager" was finally sent to review the site. He too was an independant franchisee/owner. At no time were we able to actually contact anyone more senior than wet-behind-the-ears 1st year college student. Dispite being physically shown the numerous deficiencies neither "owner" saw any cause for serious concern and could not understand why I was prepared to take them to small claims court.
Give them one more chance says the wife. We provide a list of at least a half dozen major items and some more minor items for attention before we will even REVEIW the job for POTENTIAL payment.
Lesson Four: Know when to say enough is ENOUGH!
One more chance results: "owner" calls up on a lovely sunny summer Sunday afternoon while we are enjoying the backyard with company: "I'm coming over to complete the job." Me: "Oh? When?" owner: "In an hour." Me (against my better judgement): "Ok. We have company but we'll be in the back of the yard. How many guys are coming?" owner: "Just me."
Needless to say this is going no where fast.
The "owner" shows up. No ladders. Asks to borrow my ladder. Ok.
The "owner" goes off for an hour to do a little of the work and a lot of cell phone talking and returns to ask to speak with the wife (I have made it clear I do NOT think they deserve "another chance"). Now WE must agree to full payment if x, y and z is completed and WE must sign this piece of paper (without letterhead or any other identifying information) stating such, immediately.
I respond that WE will not even discuss this today, WE have company and that if you are not willing to keep working under those conditions you should go home right now. We MAY discuss this on monday.
Needless to say the "owner" left, spewing, sputtering and swearing, never to be heard from again.
Lesson six: Small claims court is probably NOT going to be a recourse for many (most?) people. It takes a significant amount of time and energy just to file a case let alone the time and energy necessary to go to the court, present the case and have a judgement rendered. And you will have a hard time filing a case if you have not got proper mailing addresses, names, company names etc etc. You can not file a case if all you know is a cell phone number and some generic answering service phone number.
Even if you WIN, you still have to go out and collect the money. Read that again: YOU have to go out and collect the money. The court does not do it for you.