When you and your contractor signed an agreement over the renovations for your home, you expected the contractor to uphold his or her end of the bargain.
So what do you do when that doesn't happen? Here's a handy guide to get you started:
1. Find out if there's a good reason for the delay.
Sometimes work on a renovation project will stall for perfectly understandable and unavoidable problems. Perhaps your contractor is unable to complete the project because he or she has a health crisis. Maybe there's been a problem obtaining a certain building material you wanted and no other work can continue until that issue is resolved.
If your contractor is being responsive to your inquiries, you may be slightly inconvenienced but there might be no real harm done once the temporary issue that's stalling your project is resolved.
One thing that you want to check at this time is whether or not you could be inadvertently responsible for the delays in your project. A few change orders, which are changes to the original project, are normal in most projects but any significant change order you make could throw your contractor's work off schedule.
2. Pursue the issue formally with a demand letter.
If your initial efforts to resolve the problem with your contractor are unsuccessful or you don't see any follow-through to his or her promises, you should move toward a more formal method of contact.
Send a demand letter reminding your contractor of the agreed-upon details of your project and ask them to get back on track. There's no reason to be threatening at this point. Keep your tone firm, but neutral.
Just the same, at this point you should check your contract to see if it addresses how disputes need to be handled. Some contracts offer specific remedies for a problem or impose fines for an unreasonable delay. Others insist on arbitration if you and the contractor can't agree. Make sure you know what your contract says, or doesn't say, before you take the next step.
3. Follow through with formal litigation.
If your demand letter is going unheeded, it may be time to discuss the situation with a business litigation attorney, like those at Richard L Wise, Counselor at Law, in order to see what you can do in court. Breach of contract is a very common issue with building contractors.
You may also be entitled to cancel your contract in its entirety, which would free you up to hire someone else. Alternately, the court may order "specific performance" from the contractor, which means that they would be under a judge's order to finish the job. In some cases, the contractor may be forced to pay restitution or repay you the money that he or she already took.