Posted by: GuestBlogCommunity on Sep 12, 2012
When you are a homeowner, you want your house to be aesthetically appealing as well as your own personal sanctuary. There will come a time when you need to hire a contractor to renovate a room, or perhaps even the whole interior. When this need arises, you will work very hard to choose the best licensed professional for the job. You might interview different contractors, receive several bids, and perhaps even check the contractor's license status with the state board before you sign any contracts. But, once the contract is signed and you hand over a large portion of money as your deposit in good faith, what should you do if the contractor quits and leaves the project incomplete?
As a consumer in this situation, it is important to remember that you do have legal rights. The contractor also has legal obligations to the unfinished job. Know your options and exercise your rights by reading below.
Verbal Agreements Are Valid Contracts
While most contractors offer a written agreement for you to review and sign, sometimes you will enter into verbal agreements, too. Just because you have a verbal agreement with the contractor does not mean that he or she does not have to follow through with his or her professional promises. Once an agreement has been made and the contractor accepts either full payment, or a deposit, he is in fact agreeing to finish all of the work in a manner that meets with professional industry standards. If this has not been done, you are not legally obligated to pay for a project that was never completed.
Document the Situation Thoroughly in Case You Have to Go to Court
In a dispute situation, be very careful to document as many details as you can about the terms of the agreement, money paid, status of completion, etc. In court, you cannot simply say that you paid the contractor a specified amount of money and because the job wasn't finished, you now want your money back. You need to be able to explain in as much detail as possible how much of the work was done, the percentage of the total amount of money you paid, what work did not pass inspections, and possibly even how much you paid a new contractor to complete the renovation.
The more documentation you have, the better supported your case will be. If possible, you should also take photographs to show what work needed to be corrected, what the project looked like when the contractor refused to return, and what the renovation looked like once the new contractor completed it.
Know Your Options: Contact an Attorney
If you believe you have a potential court case, you should contact a qualified construction dispute attorney and have him or her send a certified letter to your contractor to inform him that he has defaulted on the agreement, and you expect to receive a refund for the work that has not been completed. You can also hold the contractor responsible for the money that will be paid to a new contractor who is needed to finish the job. Your attorney will ensure that all these terms are clearly stated in the certified letter. The construction law firm of Canfield, Madden & Ruggiero wants you to know that contract dispute attorneys understand the obligations that each of the parties has to the project and to each other, as well as the specific remedies available when those obligations are not met.
After the work is done, your attorney will most likely send another letter to the contractor detailing all of the work that was finished by the new contractor so the original party can send you a reimbursement check. If the contractor pays without argument, the matter is resolved. Unfortunately, in many cases, the contractor at fault will not pay and will dispute the terms of your agreement. When this happens, you will need the help of a construction attorney specializing in these matters to undertake collection proceedings. The key to winning your case is keeping notes, sending certified mail, and being detailed with your documentation so that you have evidence to present, should your case end up in court.
We all make verbal agreements and sign contracts in good faith, with every intention from both parties that the terms will be met to our mutual satisfaction. When, for a multitude of reasons, a contractor is unable or unwilling to finish a job per your original agreement, you do have options. You may not get a refund for any work that was already completed, but, with the help of an experienced construction dispute attorney, you can move forward and find resolution in this unfortunate situation.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neufuture/3854570152/
Karla M. Somers is a writer with a master's certificate in dispute resolution. She is also a contributing author to the New York construction attorneys of Canfield, Madden & Ruggiero. This trusted law firm has over 30 years of experience in construction dispute resolution involving small businesses, construction companies, contractors and individuals in both the public and private sectors.