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What if a contractor doesn't finish a job?

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This is an all too common horror story for homeowners. You need some work done on your house and hire a contractor to do the work. It starts well enough and your contractor comes in regularly. But then it slowly begins to fall apart. You can’t remember the last time you saw him, and you’re tired of the unsightly mess he left unfinished. Before you know it you’re screaming in frustration because you just realized your contractor is never coming back.

It’s a tricky situation and one that nobody wants to go through. The stress of the renovation is already a lot to handle and now you have this to deal with. Firstly, take a breath because if you’re lucky, you have a written contract with your contractor. A written one will hold the proof that you made an agreement to get the work done and the timeline would be stated within the document. Try to track down your contractor and convince him to finish the job he was hired to do. Odds are you have a business card or work order with his telephone number on it. If not, walk your fingers over your keyboard and find him online. Contact him at home if you need to because he owes you.

While you are in this process, be sure to keep track of all that you do. This is important because, if you cannot reach him or he refuses to finish the work, you will have a timeline of events to show to a lawyer, if it gets to that stage. Don’t forget to take pictures, as well. Of course, the next step after reaching out to your contractor is to report him. That would entail contacting your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) and local homebuilder’s association. The homebuilder’s association can help you in your pursuit and point you in the direction of lawyers who can take on your case. A lawyer can help you find your contractor if you were unable to. Sometimes the BBB or homebuilder’s association will be able to mediate between you and your contractor, but if not that is what a lawyer is for. Deals can be made without having to go to court. Depending on how much money has already been exchanged, a trip to small claims court might be needed.

A good bit of advice to hold onto whenever you are dealing with a contractor is to never pay the whole amount up front. Sometimes a ten per cent down payment is needed at the beginning; otherwise full payment is withheld until the project is finished. There are some other red flags to look for when dealing with contractors. If he refuses to sign a contract, don’t work with him. Even if your best friend recommended him, he may not know about other jobs the contractor failed to finish. Keep track of the hours your contractor is putting in because, if he is coming in at odd times, he may not be as professional as you thought.

Communicate with your contractor on a regular basis. Not all of them are bad guys, but there are some to watch out for. If you are concerned with the hours he is putting in, talk to him about it. There may be a logical reason for it. But, if you do have the misfortune to deal with one that walks off the job, be sure to keep these tips in mind. It may just save you in the end.

By Meagan Dieroff

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