The Complaint Process Against a Contractor

One of the worst things that can happen to a homeowner is to have a long-awaited renovation fall short of expectations or not to be completed at all. This not only can be a severe inconvenience to the family it slowly strangles the anticipation of that new addition to the home, a dream that may have been in the homeowner's mind for many long months and even years. When projects are not completed, drag on or are finished in a shoddy manner, there is stress from frustration and anger, emotions that may be over-blown because of poor communication lines.

Hire A Licensed Contractor

Many problems can be avoided by hiring a reputable, licensed contractor. Hiring Uncle Ned's best friend, who is “handy,” to put on a room addition may be half the price of the other contractors but five-times the trouble. A good contractor will have most of the tools and workers to complete the majority of the project. He or she may have to hire an excavator, plumber and electrician but the majority of the work is by the contractor's crew. So when the estimator comes back with the price this is the time for asking questions and checking out references.

The Contract

The contract between the renovator and the homeowner should be as concise as possible:

  • Names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers of all parties.
  • Details: There should be plans, drawings, material lists and subcontractor information.
  • Timelines: Start and finish dates along with time frame should be in writing.
  • Liability: Contractor has to provide proof of insurance and is also responsible for the welfare of his workers.
  • Permits: The contractor should be responsible for permits and keeping within codes.
  • Finishing: This includes installing all hardware and trim, painting and cleaning up. All garbage and materials should be removed from the property.
  • Payment: Contractor has to stick by the agreed price and payment schedule.
  • Warranty: There should be a workmanship guarantee above the material warranties and the contractor should have to come back and fix any problem.

Complaint Process

Even if the contract is not precise you should keep one thing in mind: business owners need repeat business and referrals. This is the lifeblood of any business and so few legitimate contractors want an unhappy homeowner:

  • Resist Panic: This is not the time to get stressed out even if the little things have built up to a colossal powder keg. Take a few deep breaths and then assemble all the documents together on a table so you can go over them. Have a pen and pad ready to jot down bits of memories of all the conversations you had with the contractor. These can be used to jog the contractor's memory because yours probably isn't the only project that he or she is doing. In some cases it's just that some items have fallen through the cracks and honest mistakes made.
  • Meeting: Invite the contractor to a friendly meeting to discuss” how the project is going.”
  • Don't Over-React: Using the notes you have lay out the problems you have and then leave room for the contractor to reply. He or she may explain why things are not going as well as planned: bad subcontractor or other reason.
  • Mediation: If attempts to sort out the problems are not going anywhere then it is time for mediation. Many states control disputes through their licensing boards. For example, in California the California State License Board will steer a homeowner through a process of mediation that could lead to an arbitration hearing. As all contractors are required to register and be certified by the CSLB, their intervention will be a wake-up call to the contractor to settle the matter. So a homeowner should check with his or her state licensing board.
  • Court Action: The last recourse is to consult a lawyer and seek restitution. The licensing board will help with information on both small and large court claims.

Fixing the Problem

In some cases homeowners have related horror stories like their home being left wide open to the elements and the contractor not returning. In cases such as this another contractor may have to be called in to finish the job. However, this person will have to be paid and it is up to the homeowner to seek restitution from the first contractor through the courts.

To prevent unpleasant and stressful situations like these the homeowner should screen every company during the bidding process. For example, before hiring a contractor to rip open your home inspect a home where this contractor has completed a job, just like the renovation you want. If this homeowner is pleased and the job looks great then there is a very good chance that you will get the same results.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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