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What can I do about my remodeling contractor?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ December 24, 2012 ~ No Comments

I'm getting my basement refinished. We agreed on a price. It was supposed to be about a six week job. He's still here after three and a half months. He came to us and said he underbid the job and wants more money. We didn't have enough detail in the bid so now he's putting in cheap tiny molding and no quarter round molding around my wood laminate floors. I want to fire him and deduct from his balance with what it will cost me to have someone else finish it. My friend, who's an attorney, says because we didn't have signed contract it was illegal for him to do the renovation and I have all the power. I just don't know if I believe that and I'm afraid this is all going to cost me way more money than I budgeted for. What should I do?

Jeffrey Anderson

The first thing that needs to be said is that I am not an attorney and you definitely need legal assistance at this point. While I know it's not much help now, your situation is the perfect example of why there should always be a written contract when hiring a remodeling contractor to work on your home.

In addition to a contract, there should be an in-depth scope of work that describes exactly what will be done over the course of the project. That would have taken care of the issues with the half-round trim and the doors you thought were being replaced.

I am also curious as to whether you checked the contractor's references? When a remodeling contractor is as bad as you describe, they usually have a past history of unhappy customers. In any event, I recommend that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible to get some legal advice on your situation. I don't know that I entirely agree with your friend, but do think that you can fire the contractor and withhold some payment … at least for now.

If you or the contractor wishes to pursue it, the final decision on how much your project costs could be decided in court. At this point, the total price for the job when all the deficiencies are corrected could well be more than you had hoped to pay.

I have had situations like this with sub-contractors that were resolved by refusing to pay them until another sub-contractor was paid to finish the work. The original sub-contractor then received what was left which usually wasn't too much and sometimes nothing at all. However, the possibility of using that course of action was specified clearly in the contract the sub-contractor signed prior to starting the project.

In your case, I would consult with an attorney as soon as possible and not release any further payments until receiving their advice. I would also not allow the original contractor to continue to work on your home until the existing points of contention are resolved.

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