If you hire someone to do work on your home and they don’t complete that work as agreed upon, it can be incredibly stressful, especially if you already paid them. Whether it’s a small or large project, it’s not as uncommon as you might think for a contractor to skip out on the job. If you’ve tried to contact them and you haven’t 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 you’ve only paid for the work that’s been done, then the obvious answer is to hire another contractor. Yes, it can be a process to find someone new, but overall, you’re probably going to find that’s the simplest solution.
On the other hand, if you’ve paid for more work or supplies than you’ve received, you might have a bigger problem on your hands. This is also true if a contractor didn’t do high-quality work or did damage to your home and then disappeared.
There are different organizations where you can go to make complaints. For example, you can complain about the contractor who didn’t finish the work with the Better Business Bureau or on Angie’s 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 you’re taking steps to prevent the contractor from treating other people the same way.
Taking Legal Action
If you’ve repeatedly tried to get in touch with a contractor and you’ve been unsuccessful, your only option might be to take legal action.
This should be the option you take only if you’ve tried to have conversations already. It’s 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 you’ve 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 doesn’t complete a job, it’ll probably go through the small claims court system. The good news with that is you don’t need to hire an attorney.
You’ll 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. You’ll have to pay an attorney unless you’re going to represent yourself, so this is really where you have to balance the costs against the compensation you might recover.
What If You Didn’t 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 you’re protecting yourself. What if you don’t have a written contract, however, and the contractor doesn’t finish?
You can sue for a breach of contract even if you don’t 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. That’s 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 isn’t coming back and you’ve paid them.