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A Contractor Botched My Renovation. Now What?

May 17, 2020 by Maurie Backman

The purpose of hiring a contractor to tackle your home renovation is to ensure the job gets done right. As such, it generally costs more to use a contractor's services than it does to perform renovations yourself. Not only must you pay for labor, but you may be charged more for the materials used in the course of that work.

Still, bringing in a contractor is often worthwhile, despite the cost. But what happens if your contractor doesn't do the good job you expect him or her to do? What if you wind up unhappy with the final results and he or she refuses to fix it?

It's a frustrating situation to land in, but thankfully, you may have some options. Here's what to do.

1. Check your contract

You may not be pleased with the work your contractor has done, but before you start making demands, check the contract you signed before that work commenced. Did your contractor, technically speaking, adhere to its terms? If so, you may not have a leg to stand on. But if your contractor violated the terms of your signed agreement -- say, by using subpar materials or not completing the scope of the work that was initially outlined -- then you have every right to take the matter further.

2. Give your contractor an opportunity to correct a mistake

Your contractor may initially insist that he or she fulfilled the contract you signed and refuse to address the work you're unhappy with. But he or she may feel differently upon receiving an official letter stating that he or she is in breach of a contract. If you can prove that certain aspects of your contract weren't upheld, put them in writing and send your contractor a certified letter to that effect. In that letter, give your contractor an opportunity to come back in and fix the problem by a certain date. Chances are, your contractor will recognize that you mean business and will attempt to fix the mistake to avoid a legal hassle.

3. Threaten with bad reviews

Negative reviews can be a death knell for contractors who rely on word-of-mouth advertising and endorsements to stay employed. If your contractor refuses to address a botched renovation, don't be afraid to make it clear that if no steps are taken, you won't mince words about your experience.

4. When all else fails, pursue legal action

If your contractor doesn't react to your formal letter or honest reviews, then you may have no choice but to file a lawsuit. You can do so on your own, but it may be best to enlist the help of a lawyer to go this route. Depending on the amount of damages you're claiming due to your botched renovation, the matter could be addressed in small claims court; it depends on your state's rules. Or, you may need to sue your contractor in civil court -- a more complex process that's likely to require an attorney's aid.

Another option is to address the matter via arbitration. This way, you avoid an actual trial, and you’ll generally spend a lot less to resolve the matter at hand.

How to avoid a bad contractor

Your chances of landing in the above scenario are lower if you take the time to vet any contractors prior to hiring them for a job. Specifically, you'll want to look for:

  • An active license
  • Positive endorsements from satisfied clients (don't hesitate to call other homeowners to discuss their experiences)
  • Photographs of completed work

The more research you do ahead of time, the more likely you are to either wind up happy with your home renovations or end up with a contractor who will make the necessary repairs rather than tell you that you're out of luck.

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