So, what do you do if your contractor has jumped ship?
It’s a dreaded situation no one expects or wants to think about, but unfortunately, this scenario can become a reality. If you have found yourself in this position, there are certain steps you can take to keep your project moving along.
First, check your contractor agreement right away! Hopefully, your contract is a tight one with all the necessary clauses - such as arbitration or mediation clause, no-lien clause, guarantees, and/or warranties.
If you come to find that your contract did not have these protective elements in place, what is the next best thing you should do?
Well, breathe…and stay focused on your priorities. Your initial reaction might be to resort to legal action right away, but it may just make the situation even more taxing for you. You are likely to spend more on attorney’s fees than you can collect from the contractor. The primary thing is to finish the renovation – focus on that first!
Look for a New Contractor
A relationship with a contractor is just like any other - both parties have to make it work. If you cannot get the contractor on board again, you'll have to look for another one, but don’t rush it. Go through the process of researching, evaluating, and finally, selecting. Seek recommendations from family and friends – and not just any relative or friend, but those who really have firsthand experience with the contractor they are recommending. As a supplement, there are also online resources that can help you find a more trustworthy contractor. There is The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, The Franklin Report, and Contractors from Hell, to name a few.
Once you have selected a contractor, make sure to avoid a repeat occurrence of your previous scenario at all costs! Formalize your agreement detailing the milestones and timeline.
Once the renovation is progressing smoothly again, then perhaps you can take on dealing with your former contractor. They had a contract and obligation to complete a job for you, and they should have fullfilled their responsibility of making you a satisfied customer.
How to Deal With Your Old Contractor
When communicating with your old contractor, make sure to record all your correspondences.
If your contract has an arbitration clause, meaning that a neutral third party will hear the evidence to assist in making a binding decision, utilize that. You can also approach the Better Business Bureau and request a mediation. If this doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with your state contractors licensing board or reach out to your local consumer protection office. If the contractor is truly in the wrong, you’ll be doing the community a benefit by calling attention to the company's unprofressionalism.
The Issue of Money
You probably gave your contractor a significant deposit and are wondering how to get it back, right?
The following are possible avenues you can try to collect your money: the contractor’s bond, state contractor recovery fund, and small claims court.
Moving forward, it may be best to keep the downpayment to a minimum when you hire a contractor to work on a construction project.
Whatever happens, do not fret! Every failed experience is rich in lessons.
And who knows? You may be able to invite Atie and Rob Williams of HGTV's “DC Flippers” to help finish your renovation!