After months (or longer) of work, your contractor has completed building or remodeling your home. You’ve anticipated the results after many discussions with the architect, the builder, and others. When it’s completed, it’s not what you envisioned, or not done correctly.
Worse—the contractor left without completing the work, left a complete mess in his or her wake, or just completely disappeared. Now, what do you do?
Fortunately, you have options if your Charleston contractor’s work turns out to be less than stellar.
From the moment you hire the contractor, gather up all relevant documents. Make sure you have documentation for all of the contractors’ actions and misconduct. This includes the original signed contract and any written communications—letters, photos, emails, etc. Keep notes of all verbal communications with everyone with the company. Make sure to get any important agreements in writing.
Gather all canceled checks, receipts, and other evidence of payment to show exactly what was paid and when.
Take photos prior to the work beginning, and throughout each stage of the project.
Terminate The Contract
If the contractor is not completing the work as promised, including inferior, substandard work, don’t continue the agreement. You’ll need to find a more competent contractor in order to remediate the damage, which will cost more. Expect to get complaints from the contractor.
Review the contract for termination clauses, and establish how much money you still owe them at the time. You may be required to go through mediation and/or arbitration before attempting to terminate the contract.
Mediation is a discussion between you and the other party, whereas arbitration is more like an informal court hearing with a binding decision and resolution.
State Licensing Board
If the contractor is licensed, you can file a complaint with the WV state licensing board. Because a licensed contractor wants to keep their license in good standing, chances are they will work with you to resolve the problem.
Small Claims Court
If the disputed amount is between $20 and $5,000, you can sue the contractor in Small Claims Court. You can hire an attorney and have one represent you, but it’s not required. Consulting with an attorney before filing a small claims case can be helpful.
These cases are heard in the Magistrate Court, and the filing fees are from $20 to $60. There may or may not be a jury involved, and you’ll have to request a jury if you want one. Should you lose your case in this court, you can appeal to a circuit court.
Filing A Lawsuit
For contracts that involve a significant amount of money, it may be best to hire a defective workmanship attorney who understands West Virginia statutes and can find flaws in the contract.
Unlike mediation, a contractor can’t just opt out—the company will have to deal with a lawsuit.
Leave Your Own Online Reviews
Should you be unable to collect from the contractor, leaving reviews can help other homeowners avoid the same fate you did. Of course, this is the last resort when you are unable to adequately resolve the conflict with the contractor.
However, it is also possible that the contractor could file a lawsuit against you for the negative review.
Preventing Problems—Vetting Before Hiring
As the customer, it’s up to you to do due diligence on any contractor you are considering hiring to work on your house.
- Vet any contractors you speak to too long before you sign a contract and hand them any money. Speak to previous clients, check their references, and review their portfolio.
- The State of West Virginia’s website offers additional information, including a number to call and verify a contractor’s license.
- Contractors who are branching out on their own should have some relevant work history, such as an apprenticeship or as an employee for another company. Ask for references here, as well as other companies they have done work for, including contractors.
- Look for online reviews in multiple areas, such as Google and Facebook, as well as specialty sites like Angie’s List.
Of course, even with the best research and vetting, you may still have a bad experience with a contractor. But as frustrating as it can be, you may still have options.
Defective Workmanship Lawyer In Charleston, WV
Discovering that your home or other structure isn’t built correctly can be a nightmare, but you can get help if your contractor won’t work with you.
Work with a Charleston lawyer who has the experience and understanding to help with construction issues and defective workmanship cases. Contact Chad Love at The Love Law Firm today at (304) 344-5683 for a free consultation.