Real Estate News

What Can You Do If a Contractor Doesn’t Finish the Job?

Written By: Ashley Sutphin
Thursday, August 12, 2021

If you hire someone to do work on your home and they dont complete that work as agreed upon, it can be incredibly stressful, especially if you already paid them. Whether its a small or large project, its not as uncommon as you might think for a contractor to skip out on the job. If youve tried to contact them and you havent gotten a response, you might be sitting not only in an unfinished home, but it can potentially be dangerous.

So what do you do?

If youve only paid for the work thats been done, then the obvious answer is to hire another contractor. Yes, it can be a process to find someone new, but overall, youre probably going to find thats the simplest solution.

On the other hand, if youve paid for more work or supplies than youve received, you might have a bigger problem on your hands. This is also true if a contractor didnt do high-quality work or did damage to your home and then disappeared.

Make Complaints

There are different organizations where you can go to make complaints. For example, you can complain about the contractor who didnt finish the work with the Better Business Bureau or on Angies List. You should also contact the contractor licensing board or commission in your state.

You can usually file a complaint online, and you might not recover all of your losses, but youre taking steps to prevent the contractor from treating other people the same way.

Taking Legal Action

If youve repeatedly tried to get in touch with a contractor and youve been unsuccessful, your only option might be to take legal action.

This should be the option you take only if youve tried to have conversations already. Its a good idea to write emails so that you have a paper trail showing you repeatedly tried to get in touch with the person and come up with a solution.

Any time you call or text the contractor, whether you speak or not, you should also document this.

If youve taken a big financial hit because of the action or inaction of a contractor, your only choice might be litigation. With that being said, you have to make sure that it makes sense based on the cost of litigation and how much compensation you might recover.

If a contractor doesnt complete a job, itll probably go through the small claims court system. The good news with that is you dont need to hire an attorney.

Youll just need to bring all of your evidence and documentation with you to court.

If you have damages that are higher than the maximum allowed in small claims court, you might have to file a claim in county court. Youll have to pay an attorney unless youre going to represent yourself, so this is really where you have to balance the costs against the compensation you might recover.

What If You Didnt Have a Written Contract?

When you hire someone to do work on your home, you should always have a written contract. The more specific you can be in that contract, the more youre protecting yourself. What if you dont have a written contract, however, and the contractor doesnt finish?

You can sue for a breach of contract even if you dont have a written contract. You will have to prove that there was an oral contract, though. What is often helpful in this situation is that increasingly people communicate by text or email, so you might have all of your communications with a contractor when you hired them.

You might also be able to use witnesses as part of your evidence if they saw certain conversations taking place.

Finally, if you did experience a situation with a contractor not doing the work they promised or causing damage, there is often a statute of limitations. Thats the legal amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. It varies depending on whether you have a written or oral contract. If you have an oral contract, the statute of limitations tends to be shorter, so you need to be proactive once you realize the contractor isnt coming back and youve paid them.

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