What to Do When Dealing with a Bad Contractor

Have you hired a bad contractor for your home improvement project? Learn what you can do to protect yourself and how you can make the most out of your situation.

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What to Do When Dealing with a Bad Contractor

Posted by Gary Ashton on Thursday, October 5th, 2023 at 8:46am.

What to Do When Dealing With Bad Contractors

We've all either been there ourselves or know someone who has. Many people in real estate have dealt with a bad contractor. Home renovation projects can go awry without much restitution. 

Construction timelines can stretch far beyond the initial deadlines, budgets can inflate without a clear cause, or a contractor can completely ghost you. It's a scenario no home builder wants to be in, but unfortunately, it's a reality many face.

Here's your roadmap for tackling the dilemma with a contractor.

Trust, But Verify

In today's fast-paced world, we often want to take shortcuts. When hiring a contractor, due diligence is a step you can't afford to skip. "Trust, but verify" is your project's first line of defense. Begin by deep-diving into the potential contractor's background. Ask for references, and don't just skim through them—call them up, ask questions, and gauge the satisfaction level of previous clients.

In addition, comb through online reviews and look for patterns in feedback. It should be apparent if contractors have done multiple bad things to property owners. Depending on the severity of their actions, contractors can end up in jail if they break laws during a renovation. 

Always insist on a written contract to protect yourself. It's the one tangible thing that holds both parties accountable. Written contracts between you and your contractor will provide a safety net in case things don't go as planned.

Communicate Effectively

Misunderstandings stem from poor communication. Before you envision worst-case scenarios, try communicating. Initiate a transparent, constructive conversation with your contractor. Clearly outline your concerns, seek clarifications, and express your expectations. It's astonishing how a simple, well-articulated conversation can mend fences and get things back on track.

Document and Record Everything

In the age of technology, keeping a record of all correspondence is simpler than ever. From day one, treat your project like a chronicle. Snap daily photos of the progress, save email exchanges, back up text messages, and jot down notes from verbal conversations. If you are dealing with a bad contractor, disagreements can happen. Logging everything can help back you up if your home renovations go sideways.

A huge number of homeowners have likely dealt with less-than-ideal scenarios with their contractors at some point. Many are left feeling deceived and frustrated after dealing with a crummy contractor. Make sure to record everything to avoid bad things from happening.

Understand Your Contract

Many see contracts as mere formalities. However, if you find yourself dealing with a terrible contractor, you'll wish you had one. Contacts protect your investment and should be signed and stashed away. 

Your contract is the lifeblood of your renovation—it clearly delineates roles, responsibilities, timelines, costs, and so much more. Make it a ritual to familiarize yourself with every aspect of this document. This not only ensures you're aware of your rights and obligations but also arms you with the necessary information should disputes arise.

Navigating Mediation

When communication falters and conflicts intensify, there's an alternative to heading straight to court: mediation. A mediator acts as a neutral third party, helping both sides air their grievances and work toward a compromise. Mediation not only saves money but also preserves relationships, as it focuses on mutual understanding and resolution rather than winning a battle.

External Arbitration

The world of contracting isn't as wild as it might sometimes seem. Many contractors are part of local or regional trade associations, entities that uphold certain standards and ethics in the industry. If you find yourself at an impasse with your contractor, consider reaching out to these associations. They often provide guidance, mediate disputes, and ensure their members maintain professional standards.

Legal Avenues

There are times when you can't fix the issues between homeowner and contractor. If neither side is willing to budge, consider seeking legal counsel. Choose an attorney who has expertise in construction or real estate law. This specialized knowledge will help you build a strong case. Navigating the judicial system isn't easy. 

If worse comes to worse, get an attorney involved to help you deal with your contractor.

Maintain Your Composure

It's important to maintain composure when emotions are running high. There's a huge investment at stake, and heated arguments hardly ever lead to productive outcomes. Do your best to keep your composure when getting into it with contractors. Stay calm, take deep breaths, and approach the situation level-headed. It will help you decide what makes sense to do when dealing with your bad contractor.

Dealing With Bad Contractors

Managing a bad contractor comes with challenges. Thankfully, there are options for handling the situation that can lead to successful project completion. Contractors are a necessary part of a major home renovation. Determine your negotiation strategy before talking to them. Also, don't be afraid to involve an attorney when dealing with a horrible contractor on your next project.


Gary Ashton

The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage

The #1 RE/MAX team in the World!

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