Resolving Disputes with Bad Contractors

contractor not performing

Building a new home or remodeling an existing home can be an excellent experience and profitable investment when done properly. All construction projects experience some hiccups, but they can be a nightmare if you hire the wrong contractor. While delays and unforeseen expenses are to be somewhat expected, shoddy and defective work are not. The best way to protect yourself when taking on a construction project is to choose your contractor carefully, and enter into an unambiguous written contract for the project setting out all important terms. If those two steps still do not prevent a dispute, then follow the steps below.

Communicate and Document, Document, Document

This may seem obvious, but it is an important to keep the lines of communication with your contractor open during the project. Address any issues with the contractor’s work as soon as they arise, and give it an opportunity to fix the issues. While it may seem easier to just fire the contractor or try to fix the problem yourself, this could be a breach of contract since most construction contracts require you to give your contractor an opportunity to fix any defective or unsatisfactory work before taking any other steps.

Additionally, document your attempts to express your concerns with the contractor. Send the contractor correspondence in writing outlining the issues with the work. If your contractor responds, document the discussion, saving written correspondence and taking notes on oral correspondence. Also, take pictures depicting the issues, as well as any repair or replacement work undertaken to fix the issues. Keep all records relating to the repair or replacement work, such as work orders, receipts, time sheets, pay requests, etc. You will need all of this documentation if you decide to pursue legal action against the contractor or if the contractor pursues legal action against you.

Stay Calm and Get Help

Sometimes when a dispute arises with a contractor, the situation gets heated, clouding your judgment. In those cases, it is best to get outside help dealing with the problem in the hopes of obtaining a reasonable resolution without litigation. A lot of times, attorneys are effective at resolving disputes between their clients before litigation because the attorneys remain calm and objective. If the sides are not interested in hiring attorneys, then solicit the opinion of a third-party neutral on the matter—a trusted family member, another contractor, etc. Any disinterested party can provide objective guidance.

If Litigating, Do it Right

If litigation is necessary, typical causes of action against a contractor include breach of contract, breach of warranty, and, in some cases, fraud, if the contactor made knowingly untrue statements during the course of the project. Explore and pursue all potentially viable legal claims. You should be able to provide your attorney with a copy of your contracts and a summary of the relevant facts, and obtain from that attorney an opinion as to the possible claims against the contractor and the viability of those claims (or, conversely, the viability of the claims your contractor has against you).

Notably, once you have initiated litigation against a contractor, the contractor cannot opt out--it must participate or risk having a monetary judgment entered against it. Even if your contractor has disappeared, in some states, you may be able to collect money from a state contractor recovery fund made up of contractor licensing fees or from a bond the contractor posted at the start of your project.

If you are dealing with a wayward contractor, quickly and easily find a construction lawyer near you by quickly posting a short summary of your legal needs on, and letting the perfect attorney come to you!

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Posted - 10/27/2016