Contractor will not complete work what can I do?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have contracted to have my bathroom remodeled. The contractor has completed about half the job and has abandoned the project. Not only have they left the job, they have also left a mess behind, dumped materials on my property and refused to come back. What steps can I take to get my project finished?”
Unfortunately, it’s not that unusual for homeowners to complain about poor workmanship and contractors who fail to complete jobs. If your contractor has abandoned your project and refuses to communicate with you, there are certain steps you should take to ensure that you have the right information and evidence if your case does end up in court.
Steps to get contract work completed:
- Make several attempts to contact the contractor before taking legal action.
Under some conditions, it makes sense to give the contractor the benefit of the doubt. If he’s only missed a few days of work there could a simple explanation. Maybe he’s sick, has been injured, or has had a family emergency. Try several times to make contact and resolve the issue before threatening legal action.
- Document all contact with the contractor.
Another step you need to take if you are having difficulty getting work done is to document all of the contact you have with the contractor. This can include recording conversations (make sure you understand your state’s laws for recordings), keeping records of all texts and emails, and sending certified letters with a return for receipt.
- Get everything in writing.
Another step to ensuring work is completed is to have a legal, written contract. Although most legitimate businesses will insist on having a written contract for their own protection, having a contract is the best way to also protect yourself as the homeowner.
Before signing a contract make sure all the blanks are filled, you understand every part of the contract, you have had plenty of time to review it, and you keep copies of it.
If you have a signed contract and the contractor refuses to return to the job, you may need to take steps to clearly state how serious you are about getting the work done. For example, a well-worded letter with clear demands, expectations and information about what will happen if they do not complete the work may be enough to motivate some contractors.
Note: Beware of any company who tries to pressure you to hire them or sign a contract immediately without giving you time to review it.
- Determine if legal action is worth the trouble.
One of the most complicated steps may be determining whether you should pursue legal action. In some cases, if you have received everything you've paid for including labor and materials, it might be easier to simply find another contractor to finish the work. In fact, trying to force a contractor to come back and finish work they do not want to do may result in shoddy workmanship and a poor finished product. Why not go and try to hire a more reliable contractor who wants to do the work?
If, however, you have paid for work that has not been done or bought materials which have not been delivered, you may be facing a substantial financial loss if the contractor does not complete the job or deliver the materials so another contractor can do the work.
- File a breach of contract suit in small claims court.
Finally, after taking the steps above you may decide to take legal action. If you decide you want to file a breach of contract lawsuit to recover your losses you can file your claim in small claims court. Although you will still need to produce evidence that the contractor breached the contract (i.e. provide invoices, cancelled checks, pictures of the damage, copy of the contract) you will generally not need to hire a lawyer to fight your case.
Unfortunately, the downside of small claims court is that sometimes the compensation needed to cover your losses may exceed what can be recovered in this type of court. If this is the case, you will need to file your claim with your county court.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau and other social media sites.
If your contractor has breached the terms of your contract it’ s important to notify the Better Business Bureau, the state’s contractor’s licensing board or commission, and leave a review on the most popular social media sites including Angie’s List. There is no reason to be vindictive, but it is important to protect other unsuspecting consumers from this contractor’s unethical business practices.
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