How to Deal with a Bad Contractor

One of the reasons that homeowners get intimidated by remodeling projects is the fear of getting ripped off and they don’t know how to deal with a bad contractor.  Let it be said that most contractors are honest, hardworking people but when you have hired the one that isn’t you need to know what your options are.  It can start with delays, poor workmanship or any number of reasons.  Before the situation gets any worse, here’s what you can do.

Get Rid of the Contractor

Alright, firing your contractor can be a bit complicated and you can’t just fire a contractor over personality conflicts.  If you do they can technically sue you over breach of contract so you don’t want to do that.  You need to be able to demonstrate that your contractor actually breached your agreement first.  Keep a detailed record of the times you believe the contractor breached the contract.  Examples can be not sticking to the renovation schedule or using shoddy building materials.

You will need to send a letter via registered mail asking them to rectify the mistakes or you will terminate the contract. Bear in mind that any money you have already spent with the contractor won’t be returned.  This is one reason that most people are hesitant to terminate a contractor and try and work things out first.


Standard contracts, even remodeling contracts have some type of arbitration clause that allow you to seek arbitration if you feel the contract has been breached.  It doesn’t cost much and you can still try it even if it isn’t written into your contract.  The BBB offers mediation services at a fairly low cost but there are drawbacks.  First of all you need to get the contractor to agree and that’s almost impossible.

Contact a Lawyer

This should be your absolute last resort, it is time consuming, expensive and only be done if it is a massive project.  If your contractor has taken the money and run then you may be able to get some sort of compensation from the contractor bond if it was required.  There are some states that have a recovery fund that licensing fees contribute to but you may end up spending more on legal fees than you will ever recover.  Small claims court may be a better option but they do cap the amount of money you can be awarded, you may have spent $50,000 with a contractor but small claims can only award you $5,000.  That being said, some is better than nothing.

File Complaints

There are a dozen or more websites where you can post a negative review, like Angie’s List or even on Google and let other people know about shady contractors.  You should first start with any state licensing boards along with the Better Business Bureau. None of it will do much to help you get your money back or your project finished but you can help to protect other homeowners.  It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to vet your contractor, you can literally save yourself tens of thousands of dollars with a simple Google search.


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