There is a reason they are called contractors – the construction process relies on contracts. Your potential or present contractor probably has an attorney, after all, someone had to form their business and write their contract. Even if your contractor purchased his contract from the internet, it was still written by a lawyer for contractors. Do your homework before hiring a contractor and do not be afraid to seek legal counsel.
In any home improvement, there are three legal stages.
- Before a contract is signed – An attorney can guide you through the applicable laws, regulations, and protections. Be wary of contractors who tell you that you don’t need a permit – the homeowner is always responsible for permitting.
- After signature but before a breach has been declared – It is difficult to know when to stay with an underachieving contractor and when the time is right to find a new one. The answer is a legal one based upon the law, the contract, and the provable facts. If you believe that your agreement has been breached, we can ensure that your rights are effectively preserved.
- After the breach – Did your contractor just walk off the job? Are/Were you right to throw them off the job? Either way, you’re probably in for a fight and considering that your contractor probably has been through this before and you haven’t, getting legal help is an absolute necessity.
Sometimes, you may not find out until months or years later that your contractor failed to perform or worse, took active steps to hide defects. Believe it or not, many contractors will defend these claims, not by arguing they did good work, but rather that you should have known and sued them sooner. Construction claims and statute of limitations defenses are all to frequent.
Few problems can be more frustrating than disputes with your home improvement contractors. These situations are often delicate and the odds are usually stacked against you. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect you, if you know where to look.
Ten Signs of a Bad Contractor
- No License – Maryland issues licenses for custom home builders and home improvement contractors alike. If you deal with a licensed contractor, there are state agencies and funds that can help you and insurance is required. The same cannot be said for the unlicensed contractor.
- The Far Lower Bid – This could be a sign that the contractor is inexperienced with the work scope, intends to use shoddy materials, or intends to find reasons to claim out-of-scope services.
- No or Questionable References – Get references for the work actually being performed. Whether or not they were great at replacing windows has little to do with your bathroom renovation.
- Desire to Avoid Permits – The homeowner is always liable.
- Desire to Avoid Contracts – A written contracts is usually a legal requirement.
- Contract Requires More Than a 33% Deposit – Look out for the 10% Deposit plus 33% due upon project start as well – that’s a 43% Deposit.
- Excess Materials – If you are “getting a discount” because they over-ordered on a previous job, ask yourself if the items that were over-ordered make sense. Why would they have over-ordered windows? Shouldn’t an experienced contractor know how many square feet of materials to order?
- Absent or Late – Sometimes projects get delayed because of a shipping error and people do get sick, the test is how often.
- Scare/Pressure Tactics – “You don’t want the County involved – do you?” “There’s no time to get other estimates, this could collapse at any minute.” It’s your home, the decision of what to do and when should be yours.
- Trust Your Gut – If you get a bad feeling, get help.