Robert Offenbacher, President of Flatrock Construction Inc. – Licensed General Contractors and Project Managers
So, you’ve got a house turned upside down or an unfinished project on your hands. The contractor has put your project on the backburner or has walked out on you; taking your money without completing the work he agreed to and is now nowhere to be found. Or worse, he’s taken a large deposit for the work and didn’t even start, leaving you high and dry.
These types of scenarios take place frequently and more times than you would believe. Unscrupulous and / or incompetent contractors damage lives and property with little or no concern for anyone other than themselves.
So what can you do if you find yourself in a situation like this?
Well, a lot depends on your particular situation however there are a few rules of thumb you should follow.
The first thing you need to do is document chronologically every conversation, email and any other direction you have given the contractor. Photograph areas of work or of the damage that the home has sustained. Every detail may be important should you decide to pursue a claim against the contractor.
The second thing you will need to do is talk to a lawyer. In my experience, a good lawyer can review your situation for little or no cost. He or she will be able to advise you as to the likelihood of getting back any of your hard earned money and how much you may have to spend to do so. Let’s face it, legal matters can be expensive so a common sense approach to the situation should be applied.
Also, from a common sense perspective, realize that many small contractors deliberately hold no assets and do not carry insurance, (you know these guys as the ones driving around in a beat up van without any company name on the side of their truck). This is usually because a) they operate on a wing and a prayer and b) it is done to dissuade anyone from going after them in cases where they have damaged property or haven’t competently completed a project.
If you are dealing with a contractor like this you, frankly, have little recourse.
However, if you are dealing with a contractor who has an established reputation and / or who carries liability insurance you are in a better position to go after them for damages.
Third, hire a competent and professional contractor to complete the work and who is familiar with situations like this. They will be able to help you by providing you with a detailed damage report that help your lawyer establish a solid claim against the contractor. Remember, credibility and a solid record of the events will go a long way in convincing a judge that you are in the right.
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