There was an informative article in the Washington Post (19 April 2018) by Elisabeth Leamy, host of the podcast “Easy Money,” titled “How to Address a Dispute When a Renovation Doesn’t Go as Planned.” In the article, Leamy outlines some of the steps homeowners can take when a construction dispute arises with their contractor. She had such good advice that we’ll provide a few excerpts here:
Step One: “Stop paying. You should pay no more than one-third of the agreed-upon fee in advance; in some states this is the law. After that, structure the contract so that you pay upon completion of specific chunks of the project. That way, if you reach an impasse over work that hasn’t been done correctly, or at all you can withhold payment.”
Step Two: File a complaint “with the government agency that licensed them…Because contractors fear losing their license, sometimes the mere threat of a complaint will do the trick. You can also appeal to your county and/or state consumer protection offices for help.”
Step Three: “Go into arbitration. If you contractor is at all slick or sophisticated, he or she may have included a mandatory arbitration clause in your contract. This is not all bad. Arbitration is less expensive than a lawsuit and is often so user-friendly that you won’t need an attorney.” Leamy recommends checking with the Better Business Bureau which may arbitrate your construction dispute for low or no fees.
Step Four: Go to court. “If all else has failed and you must sue, check to see whether the amount of money you’re seeking falls below the small-claims threshold in your state. For example, in Maryland and Virginia, small-claims cases can be brought for no more than $5,000.” D.C. courts allows cases up to $10,000.
Step Five: File a civil case. “This is probably only worth it if yours was a large project and you suffered a significant monetary loss. Seek government compensation. Many homeowners are unaware that some states collect fees from contractors when they license them, then use that money to reimburse customers whose contractors abandoned a job, defrauded them or performed work not up to code. These funds go by many names, including “construction recovery fund,” “contractor guaranty fund,” and “construction industries fund.” Be aware that even these funds have caps for awards.
Först Consulting Group Can Help Further with a Construction Dispute
While these are the normal steps to resolving a construction dispute, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Först Consulting Group offers a number of homeowner advocate services including:
- Construction Advocate – serving as your representative between you and your contractor. We can help negotiate contracts and serve as a go-between to resolve any issues.
- Construction Project Management – serving as your personal project manager to monitor your contractor’s work.
- Construction Defect Inspection – expert inspection for suspected construction errors.
- Detailed Reports – professional documentation of findings, including photographs, exhibits, code requirements and violation, improper construction method documentation, and cost correction estimates.
- Litigation Support – Expert opinion and expert witness testimony for legal disputes.
Först Consulting Group is located in Northern Virginia to serve clients in the surrounding area. We are also available for clients nationwide. If you have a construction complaint, or struggles with a construction dispute, contact us. We can help you win your case.