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How to Deal With Contractor Problems

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

Most contractors rely heavily upon referrals from former clients for their future work, so they try hard to keep the customer satisfied. However, the stakes of a remodel are high—large amounts of money, effort, and time are spent. Both homeowners and contractors can get in over their heads. When this happens, relationships can get strained. This is why it is critical to have a solid contract (see 12 Key Points for a Remodeling Contract).

What should you do if you are unhappy with your contractor’s work? Following are some suggestions. Start with the first step. If that doesn’t work, move on to the second step, and so forth, as the measures recommended escalate in degree of extremity.

1) Start by talking. Express your issues and suggest the remedies that you believe are appropriate.

2) Ask your architect or designer to help broker an agreement.

3) Send a certified letter to the contractor. Outline the issues where you believe the contractor has fallen short of the contract requirements, and set a reasonable time frame for responding to the issues.

4) File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau by calling (703) 276-0100 or visiting The BBB will forward your complaint to the contractor. Your contractor may remedy the situation just to avoid an unfavorable BBB report.

5) Alert your contractor that you will be contacting the local or state contractor licensing board. This agency can levy a fine or even revoke a license in the case of serious negligence or incompetence.

6) Suggest bringing in a mediator. The Better Business Bureau and other local organizations offer mediation services to help businesses and consumers find solutions to legal issues.

7) Investigate arbitration through the Better Business Bureau or the American Arbitration Association ( Present your case before an impartial arbitrator. Allowing both parties the opportunity to present evidence in a joint hearing, this is more formal than mediation but far less costly and time- consuming than litigation. The arbitrator’s decision is usually binding.

8) Consider small claims court. If the damages that you are seeking are no more than a few thousand dollars, this is a good option. The benefits of small claims court are affordability and the fact that you don’t need an attorney.

9) Consider a civil lawsuit if the issues at stake involve a large amount of money. Of course, this is a far from ideal option because it can drag on for months (or years) and cost you more than you might win in a victory (and you may not be victorious). If you have fired a contractor who has essentially done the work as agreed upon, you are likely to be found in breach of your contract.

To get free recommendations for top-rated local contractors, call the most reliable and comprehensive referral service, HomeAdvisor, at 866-350-2983 (toll free).

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