Contractor did not do the job What are my options?
Unfortunately, finding great contractors who do consistently good work can be challenging for homeowners. Recently on our forum a user asked, “If I had a roofer come out to fix a leak but when he left I had three more leaks, what legal recourse do I have if he refuses to come out again and fix his shoddy work?”
Contact the Insurance Company
Best case scenario for this user is that the roof was replaced under his insurance claim and he could simply contact his insurance company and have them contact the roofer and require him to come and fix the issues. Contractors who are on an insurance company’s approved contractor listing will have a strong incentive to do good work, or they may find they are no longer recommended by the insurance company.
Filing a breach of contract against the roofer
If that was the case, however, I am guessing there would not be an issue. So let’s assume the roofer was not hired through the insurance company and refuses to come and make additional repairs. In this case, assuming you have evidence to suggest that they were negligent in their work, you may be able to file a claim against the contractor for breach of contract, negligence, or breach of warranty.
The first step to file a suit is to review the signed contract and determine what the roofer agreed to do. If the work was more than a specified dollar amount, which could be as little as $500, you should have signed a contract. If your contractor is licensed to work in your state he should have put his contractor’s license number on the contract and information about how to file a complaint with the state’s licensing board.
Now, assuming you have a contract, you generally have the right to receive what you were promised. Proving breach of contract may be as simple as proving a valid contract existed, there was a material breach, and you suffered damages or loss.
If you believe each of these elements exists, it’s time to review how to file a breach of contract claim in your state. You also should review your right to hire another contractor to complete the work and cover your damages. Unfortunately, you will have to pay the new contractor, but these covered damages are costs you hopefully can recover in your breach of contract suit against the first contractor.
You must mitigate damages
Before doing anything, however, you need to take steps to mitigate your damages. For instance, if the roofer caused more leaks, you have the duty to take steps to ensure that water does not get into your home and cause more damages while you are waiting to resolve this issue.
If you fail to mitigate damages, the court, assuming you win your breach of contract case, is not likely to charge the contractor for additional damages that they determine you could have avoided if, for example, you had simply thrown a tarp over your roof for a few days.
Filing a lawsuit what are my options?
Assuming your damages are for less than the state’s maximum for a small claims case (generally around $5000), you may be able to file a claim against your roofer in small claims court. The good news is the rules are simple and you can file your claim without legal help.
The first step is to name the defendants who are being sued. This can include businesses, corporations, or an individual. If you are suing a contractor and they are licensed, you should be able to get their name and license number.
Be sure to identify whether they are a sole owner, partnership, corporation or joint venture, and determine who should be listed as part of your suit. If there work was bonded be sure and list the surety company that carries the contractor’s license bond.
Note: Each defendant must be properly notified that you have filed suit against them in small claims court.
Resolving a complaint with a contractor may be as simple as a quick phone call or a written demand letter outlining the costs for additional repairs. Unfortunately, getting them to pay you may be more complicated.
If your contractor is licensed, you could file a complaint with your state’s State License Board, who may have the authority to investigate complaints and address violations. If none of these options work, you may decide to file a claim in small claims court.
Another option is to do nothing. If the damage is minimal and the hassle is too big, some homeowners will simply chalk it up to lessoned learned and find another contractor to finish the job.
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