What Should You Do If a Contractor is Not Holding Up Their End of the Contract?

hiring a contractorDo your research.

The first step in avoiding contractors who don’t hold up their end of the bargain is performing due diligence in terms of research—before hiring a contractor. Use a directory like the BBB to look up reviews of a contractor. Examine their portfolio. Call previous clients. Make sure they are licensed and bonded. This is the easiest step to take to avoid a problem with a contractor and having to contact a Miami construction litigation lawyer.

Monitor and document the contractor’s progress—or lack thereof.

Any construction attorney in Miami will tell you that you should keep track of a contractor’s work with photographs and documentation like emails, texts, and phone messages. This way, if a contractor doesn’t deliver their end of the deal, you have evidence to bring forward. While this can add extra work to your project, it’s safest to build some potential defenses should the project head south (and not for warmer weather).

Take action and fire.

If you have determined that a contractor is not holding up their end of the contract, you may decide to fire them. This decision will be up to your discretion. A contractor you know personally who has come with good reviews and is making an honest attempt at the work may not be someone you need to fire if a project gets behind schedule. But a contractor who clearly has bad intentions should be fired. Do not allow them to continue working, and do not make any payments until you’ve reviewed your contracts and seen what you are obligated to pay.

Collect payment from their insurance company.

Any construction litigation attorney in Miami will tell you that it’s best practice to work with a contractor who is bonded. Such a contractor is insured against client disputes with bonds that protect clients from bad work. Make sure to get a copy of their bond certificate before they start work, because the insurance agency recuperates their payout from the contractor—so it’s unlikely that they’ll willingly participate in your filed claim.

Call your state’s licensing board.

A Miami construction attorney will also suggest that you work with a licensed contractor. These contractors obtain their professional licensure from the state, and they are usually motivated to keep it. If you call the board to complain, a contractor will be motivated to address the issue—either by fixing it or meeting before an arbitrator—because they won’t want to lose their license. You can easily find the licensing board information for your state (and their contact information) with an online search.

Consider mediation…

If you have chosen to work with an unlicensed and/or unbonded contractor, or the state licensing board declines to address your complaint, it’s time to move on to mediation or arbitration. Mediation can take place in front of anyone, but preferably someone who is knowledgeable about law and construction, such as a legal professional like a Miami construction law attorney.

…or arbitration.

While a mediator can help two parties reach an agreement, their recommendation is not legally binding. Another route might include choosing arbitration. In most states, an arbitrator is required to be an expert in the field under discussion and/or an attorney, so a Miami construction lawyer would certainly fulfill this requirement. Moreover, the decision reached in arbitration is legally binding.

Take your contractor to small claims court.

Another option is to take your contractor to small claims court. Be advised that small claims court damages have a ceiling which varies by state, so look into that amount before filing a claim and pursuing litigation in such a venue. Keep in mind that taking a contractor to court will be time consuming, stressful, and can open the door to counterclaims.

Take your contractor to court and hire a lawyer.

If the amount of damages owed to you exceeds the amount you could recover in small claims court, it’s time to hire a construction lawyer in Miami to represent you in front of a judge for a full-fledged lawsuit. Such an attorney will help you make a convincing case while relieving you of the stress associated with pursuing a claim on your own.

The best tip…is creating a solid foundation.

Thankfully there is an easy way to avoid many of these steps, or at least mitigate their difficulty just by setting up a solid contract with your contractor—one that addresses all eventualities. Manos Schenk is an experienced Miami construction law firm that can help you get positioned for success in building projects from the foundation up. We have experience working with developers, contractors, lenders, and homeowners creating solid arrangements with their contractors.