Ways to deal with a bad contractor
Planning a home remodeling project can be a hassle. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans sometimes go awry – particularly if there is a problem with the contractor. Even for homeowners who took the time to interview and vet contractors and their remodeling contracts, issues can still arise.
Poor workmanship, unexpected or unexplained delays, or unfinished work are just some examples of problems that can leave homeowners feeling frustrated, angry, and upset. However, there are ways for homeowners to defend themselves against bad contractors.
- Find out if they are licensed or bonded
Working with a licensed contractor may cost more money, but it is an important part of protecting yourself against the possibility of problems. If the contractor is licensed, homeowners can report any problems or disputes to the state licensing board. Contractors have incentive to correct their problems in order to keep their license in good standing.
Contractors can buy surety bonds from their insurance providers; this protects them against client disputes. After filing a claim, the bond policy will compensate you for damages or losses. Before signing the contract, ensure you have a copy of their surety bond; this ensures you have their information to file a dispute in the event of shoddy or incomplete work.
- Fire the contractor
While this step may seem obvious, firing the contractor is the first thing you should do if things start to go seriously wrong. The contractor may challenge the firing as a breach of contract in court; make sure to document the ways that they breached the contractor agreement. If you are taking this step, keep in mind that the contractor may not refund the money you have already paid.
- Document communication
If the contractor left work half-finished and has stopped returning your calls, begin documenting communication. Documentation will be needed as part of any court proceedings or take action against them with a professional organization. In addition to phone calls or emails, consider sending a certified letter.
- Request mediation
Some contractor contracts include an arbitration clause; this is a low-cost process where each side is given the opportunity to present a case to an independent arbitrator who then makes a final decision. Even if the contract does not have an arbitration clause, you can still request mediation. The Better Business Bureau, for example, offers low-cost mediation services – even if your contractor is not a member.
- Go to small claims court
When mediation fails, you may file a claim against the contractor in small claims court. Homeowners can represent themselves and bring a case for just a few dollars; however, there is a cap on the amount that a plaintiff can sue for. If the contractor caused a significant problem or breached the contract of a large project, small claims court may not cover the costs of damages.
- Hire an attorney
Hiring an attorney or filing a lawsuit against a contractor should only be seen as a last resort. In addition to being costly, filing a lawsuit can open homeowners up to countersuits. If you’re at a loss for what to do, hiring a lawyer can help guide you through your options.