Obviously, there are wonderful contractors out there who show up on time, properly train and supervise their people, work within the agreed upon budgets, and who ultimately complete their projects according to the specifications set by their clients—i.e., homeowners like you. You don’t hear as much about them, however, because more often than not, it’s the horror stories involving shoddy workmanship and crooked contractors that you hear about.
Unfortunately, if you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re involved with a contractor who doesn’t fall into the “wonderful contractor” category, but rather has pushed you into a nightmarish hell that threatens to drain your energy, your wallet, and your sanity. Whatever the specific details surrounding your contractor dispute might be, you do have options. You can hold the contractor accountable; you can prevent the contractor from doing more damage; and you can end your nightmare.
While making a formal complaint to the Contractors State License Board and going after a contractor’s bond are good options, in my experience, they are often not enough by themselves. Rather, those options work best when they’re utilized as part of a wider action plan.
And that’s where a good attorney comes in.
Sometimes a well drafted demand letter from an experienced attorney is enough to resolve the problem. This is especially so when the demand letter is rich in facts (which is why it’s so important for homeowners to keep meticulous records/notes throughout the pendency of their projects) that are not subject to dispute—e.g., despite the contract calling for certain materials to be used, the contractor substituted cheaper materials and pocketed the difference; the contractor walked off the job before completing it; or the contractor’s work fell well below the normal standard of workmanship.
And, in certain cases, while a letter from an attorney alone might not be quite enough, informal dispute resolution, such as a mediation, is often successful as well. In fact, in a lot of situations where a letter wasn’t quite enough, having a mediator (typically a retired judge) tell the contractor how exposed he/she is often does the trick.
But, of course, sometimes there is no recourse other than to file a lawsuit, and there too, you want an experienced attorney.
Depending upon the relevant facts, you can sue contractors under a variety of legal theories, such as breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. And since the wise homeowner (especially one who has read my Guide to Contractor Disputes) made sure to include an attorneys’ fees provisions in the contract with their contractor, when they eventually win the lawsuit, the contractor will be liable not just for their damages, but also for their attorneys’ fees and costs.