A home improvement project is a great way to start the new year. You will do your part - vet and hire a reputable contractor. You expect everything to work out just as you planned. But what if something goes wrong, and you lock horns with the contractor? It could be unexplained delays, poor workmanship, or the contractor using cheapjack materials instead of the promised top-quality.
Whatever it is, it can cause frustration. But don’t pull a hasty move like suddenly firing the contractor. Instead, use the following tips to deal with a bad contractor.
Photo by Callum Hill on Unsplash
Make sure your contract is foolproof
Wouldn't it be nice if you shook on it with the contractor and they worked to your expectations? But it is crucial to translate your agreement with the contractor into a written form or a contract. A contract helps both parties to define expectations and their respective risks and obligations. It sets out the course of performance of the contract. If there is a dispute, either party can refer to the written agreement and map a way forward.
But you must ensure the contract is foolproof. It should have clear clauses on the following:
- The scope of work - the work should be defined as precisely as possible. Broad definitions are a recipe for misunderstandings and false expectations resulting in disputes.
- Payment terms - for the contractor to mitigate against late payments or underpayments, and for the client, to mitigate against paying for incomplete or substandard works.
- Project price cost and change orders -Is it a fixed-price contract or a cost-plus contract? The contract should also stipulate that change orders should be written and precise about the scope of changes.
So, don’t just trust your buddy, the contractor, to do the job. Ensure you work with a foolproof construction contract.
File a complaint with the state licensing board
Without a foolproof written contract, it would be hard to take subsequent steps because you cannot rely on memory. Also, the contractor could change the terms to favor their argument. However, with a valid, written contract, you can take the first step - file a complaint with the state regulator.
Most states require contractors to have renewable licenses to operate legally. Therefore, it is paramount to hire a professional or licensed contractor. If they violate the terms of your contract, you can get in touch with the respective state licensing board and file a complaint. If the complaint is successful, the contractor could lose their license.
Also, a “guilty verdict” by the state licensing board is a good stepping stone for the following actions.
Fire the contractor
This is what you have been yearning to do. You can fire the contractor without fearing that they could sue you for breach of contract.
If you have evidence of repeated failures to meet their contractual obligation and a sanction from the state licensing board, you can fire a contractor.
So, gather the notifications you sent and failure to respond, and prepare a dismissal letter without fear of negative repercussions. There is, however, a downside to such action. The contractor could fail to reimburse any payments you made in advance. Although deeply satisfying, the move could be costly.
Pursue a bond claim
While it is true that you could lose payments made in advance if you fire the contractor, there are instances where you can claim your cash.
One of the licensing requirements for contractors is to pay a surety bond. If the contractor turns rogue, you can file a complaint, fire the contractor and file a claim against the bond.
Be sure to consult with surety agencies. They will help you determine the best solution - whether payment for damages, prompting the contractor to complete the work, or hiring a new contractor.
Sue them and take the case to Small Claims Court
You can sue a rogue contractor in a small claims court without incurring the hefty charges of hiring a lawyer. Anyone can take a matter to a small claims court. All you need to do is pay a few dollars to cover the administrative expenses. You will have a judge to hear the matter and make a legally binding ruling.
Most states have small claims courts to settle civil disputes that do not exceed a defined value. The rules and value limits vary from one state to another. For example, Kentucky has one of the lowest value limits at $2,500. If you want to sue your contractor in California, you can file for a dispute valued at a maximum of $10,000 if you are an individual. Better still, you can do it from the comfort of your home.
Remember to post reviews
The above tips will help deal with a rogue contractor. You can pursue them further and use them as avenues to get your money back and project back on track. But you can do more to prevent the contractor from beguiling other vulnerable customers - post reviews on reference websites.
Several websites allow customers to post reviews about contractors. You can post a review on Homeadvisor, Angieslist, Houzz, Porch, Yelp, and many more.
Go ahead and use these tips to deal with the contractor. Then post reviews about them on various websites. It might not fix that crooked window, but it could help another homeowner avoid making the same mistake.