When it comes to building, renovating or even landscaping most homeowners are relegated to the ranks of those that can put up pictures and plant tulips. In other words we are at the mercy of those who know about building and renovating just as we are of those who fix cars and do taxes. However, unlike most vehicle repairs and tax forms a renovating project can be very complicated because there are so many different levels and timelines. For example, a room addition may sound simple to a homeowner but in reality the contractor has to build a small house and attach it to the main home.
If you watch the reality shows contractor complaints can come from homeowners who have been fleeced out of a lot of money by companies that aren t really a renovation service. They have no tools, staff or even accounts with suppliers. What they do is to subcontract everything from excavating to putting on the roof and they take a percentage of this. These people do exist and the world is full of scammers that are eager to take your money.
However, even good companies and licensed contractors make mistakes. Sometimes it is that their memory isn t good or they have a change in office staff and things get misplaced. Whatever the reason the homeowner should not think the worst right off the bat. There is process by which you can get the results you want without coming to the company with all guns blazing. Because all legitimate contractors need satisfied customers to use as referrals so it s only natural that they would want to sort out your problem. That said, there are also good contractors who have a habit of not finishing off the job because they get tied up with other projects. This is almost as unethical as if they took your money and didn t do the job but they might not see it this way.
In addition, unbearable delays, poor workmanship and work left undone lead the pack when it comes to a problem. This may be because the contractor is trying to balance several jobs at once and is shuttling back and forth. In cases like this it might be many days or even weeks between working days.
Dealing With Contractor Complaints
- 1. Don t Panic - When you realize that there is a problem the best approach is to think rationally. This is not the time to start shouting accusations or pointing fingers. Remember that most contractors want you to be a satisfied customer.
- 2. Talk to the Contractor - Try to reach an agreement with the contractor by meeting him or her in a neutral place. Without the distraction of the job site the conversation can be kept to the details. If there is more than one thing that that you want to bring up bring a list to aid you in addressing your concerns. Leave a copy of the list with the contractor and give him or her a reasonable amount of time to respond.
- 3. Letter of Intent - When you are getting nowhere with a licensed contractor who hasn t finished your job having a lawyer write up a letter threatening to cancel the project and having it sent by courier is an eye-opener for the contractor. It can demand a refund of the down payment (which is permitted by law in some provinces). I can also show that a copy of the letter is also being sent by registered mail to a department of your local contractor board or government agency that deals with consumer protection. Another copy can also be sent to the bonding company of the contractor or builder and one to the Better Business Bureau. For an investment of $200 you could have your consumer complaints solved, saving you thousands more.
- 3. Post a review - By posting a clear and candid review, you will be able to warn other consumers about your experience and possibly prevent them from dealing with similar problems. If the contractor is concerned with maintaining the integrity of his or her company without jeopardizing their ability to obtain future work, the contractor will do what they can to resolve the issue in hopes of you removing or updating your review. If they fail to resolve the issue, then your review will remain visible to all other consumers, warning them of the potential risks involved when dealing with this company. When preparing to post a complaint, we recommend reading How to avoid a libel lawsuit when critiquing your contractor.
However, to save this from happening take your time and research the contract before you sign it. Having your lawyer in your corner will also help with this process. Here are some highlights and be aware that because of the distinct nature of each project there is no standard contract.
- 1. Correct Information on All Parties: This includes the proper names and addresses of the contractor and you. Make sure the name for the contractor is the one named in the contract. It should clearly show the company's completely name, address, telephone number and the name of the official representative.
- 2. Detailed Description: This is extremely important. Use plans or drawings of the project and specify the exact materials to be used. Also there should be a detailed account of all the work that is being subcontracted: drywall, electrical, plumbing. The clearer you make this the less misunderstanding that will happen later. No verbal promises. It all has to be in writing.
- 3. Permits and Codes: The contractor will obtain all required building permits and all work will be done with to the specifications of the local building codes.
- 4. Clean-Up: This is a big deal! The contractor has to be responsible for removing all debris on completion of construction.
- 5. Warranties: There should be a concise statement explaining the warranty and exactly what parts are covered and for what duration.
- 6. Liability: Contractor's public liability and property damage insurance should be itemized.
- 7. Dates: Starting and completion dates should be firm.
- 8. Price and Payment: This is the most important part of the project. When this is signed the contractor and you must stick by it. Any variations, no matter how small, will open the door to other changes and soon the contract becomes a malleable instrument instead of a firm deal.