Building a new structure or renovating an existing building can be an exciting experience. You visualize the new design in your head and look forward to enjoying the updated building, which is one of the reasons why it can be so disappointing to get into a dispute with your construction contractor.
Figuring out what you should do to resolve the dispute can be a difficult task. That’s why we’ll be taking a look at what you can do to prevent a dispute with a contractor in the first place, as well as what steps you can take if a dispute has already arisen. Finally, we’ll provide you with a resource for further legal advice and consultation should you need to move forward with legal action against the contractor.
How do I Prevent a Dispute with a Contractor in the First Place?
The best way to resolve a dispute with your construction contractor is to take steps to prevent a dispute from arising in the first place. While none of these will ensure that you avoid a potential dispute, they will greatly reduce the likelihood of such an outcome.
Steps that will help prevent a dispute from occurring are:
- Getting Multiple Estimates: Getting estimates from multiple contractors will allow you to get a benchmark number upon which to judge the cost of the job in question. Each contractor will likely have a slightly different method of estimating the cost but it will give you a good sense of what is a fair price for the job so that you don’t get overcharged.
- Watching for Red Flags: Some red flags which should set off warning bells in your head are unsolicited contractors offering to do the work, offers to lower the cost of the work by using leftover supplies from other jobs, high-pressure sales tactics, and refusing to give you time to consider the offer at your leisure.
- Researching the Company: You should get to know more about the contractor you’ll be working with by researching their company online, reading reviews from past clients, and speaking to friends and family that worked with them in the past.
- Verifying They are Licensed: Before you work with a contractor make sure that they are verified with the Florida Department of Business & Professionals by visiting the website.
- Reading the Contract: Knowing what is in your contract is one of the most important things you can do before signing. Read over the contract and make sure there is a buyer’s right to cancel clause. This is good advice for any situation that could end in a contract dispute.
- Don’t Pay the Full Price Upfront: You should never pay the full price for the work upfront and you should be wary of large deposits. If you pay more than 10% of the job upfront then they are required by law to begin the work within 90 days.
What Should I Do if a Dispute Arises?
Even if you have taken all the steps to prevent a dispute from arising, you could still find yourself in one with your contractor. If this happens then you have a number of options available to you, though some are better than others.
The available options are:
- Fire the Contractor: Firing your contractor might seem like an obvious step but it’s important to know that they could challenge the firing. If they do then you will need to show that they breached the contract. One downside to firing a contractor is that you are unlikely to get back any of the money you’ve paid already.
- Request a Hearing: Some contracts have clauses to take disputes to third-party arbitration but even lacking such a cause you could seek meditation through the Better Business Bureau. You will have to get the contractor to agree to the meditation and there is no guarantee that you will resolve the dispute.
- Hire an Attorney: Hiring a lawyer can be a good move because the contractor isn’t able to refuse a lawsuit like he could refuse a hearing with the Better Business Bureau. If your contractor has gone missing on you, then an attorney could help you recover some of your funds at the cost of the attorney’s time.
- Head to Small Claims Court: Small claims court could be a way to get back your money by taking the issue to a judge but the amount of money you can seek in small claims court is limited.
- Leave Bad Reviews: Leaving bad reviews won’t let you get your money back from a bad contractor but it lets you help others who were considering working with the contractor.
- File a Complaint: Filing a complaint with the state’s contractor licensing board is similar to leaving a bad review except that it carries more weight because it is a formal process. Depending on how the board functions, and how serious the complaint is, there could be further issues for the contractor this way.
What Should I Know About Filing a Complaint Against a Contractor?
Before you leave a bad review, file a complaint, or take your dispute in front of a judge, remember that it is important to stick to the facts. If you can show that they violated the contract, then you could win your case.
But when you move from the facts into personal thoughts or guesses as to what happened then you greatly reduce your chances of winning. At the same time, you increase the chances that the contractor could sue you for libel.
If you’re unsure what the best step to take is, speak to an attorney first.
Where Can I Find an Attorney for Help with My Dispute?
If you need help with a dispute between you and a contractor then reach out to Vukelja & dePaula at (386) 217-1338. We have hundreds of hours of experience working on cases just like yours that we’ll use to assist you in ensuring the dispute is resolved in a timely and professional manner.