What can you do to get the project completed?

Getting a Contractor to Finish a Job

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Getting a Contractor to Finish a Job

What can I do to get my contractor to finish? He's working on remodeling our master bath and shower. He promised that he'd be done in "two or three weeks." He passed that date a month ago. He'll come in and work for half of a day and then I won't see him for two or three days. I hate to get a lawyer involved, but is there any other way to get him to finish the job?

Yes, It's Simple...

Report him to the contractor's board and write bad reviews on Yelp, Angie's List, and Facebook. This will get his behind moving. I do marketing for a construction company and that is the worst thing that you can do today.

Is There A Reason?

My first suggestion is to find out why he is working like this. Is there a good reason like he's waiting on materials to come in? Or is he just slack? Give him a deadline and never pay up front.

Keep a Level Head

My father was a contractor, so I can see this situation from the contractor's side as well as the homeowner's side. First, did unexpected problems come up? The most common causes of delays include finding rot or mildew or asbestos. Structural issues can also be a problem. If this has not come up (lucky you!), then ask yourself, "Did I decide to make changes once the project was underway?" A contractor budgets his time (and his sub-contractors time) according to the original agreement. Changing your mind part way through a job costs time and money for both the homeowner and contractor. Are sub-contractors involved? Is the delay because the plumber can't do the work until the electrician's work is complete? Is there a delay due to delivery of materials or weather? You want the job done right, not fast.

If these don't apply, then have a conversation with your contractor away from the job site if possible. If possible, sit down face to face over a cold drink. Have the original estimate ready and try to ask questions rather than accuse. Don't make demands. Keep the tone civil and have a deadline in mind. Your aim is to get the job finished. You want to keep goodwill on both sides. Remember that this person may need to come back at a later date if there are future problems.

Did You Pay Up Front?

Did you pay him up front? If so, good luck getting him to finish within the next three months or so. I have a fool proof way of doing business with contractors. When the price is agreed upon with a written contract or quote, I tell them that I will pay 25% up front to allow them to buy materials and start the job. When they are 50% finished (and we must agree beforehand in the contract what is considered 50% finished), then I pay them another 25% to be able to pay their labor. Upon completion of the project, prior to inspection, I pay another 25%, but the last 25% is withheld until after inspection and correction of anything that wasn't done properly. I state beforehand that this is how I do business, and if they can't abide by that arrangement, I will use a contractor that will. When they agree to it, then I make sure this is spelled out on paper and signed by us both. I have yet to have a problem.

File a Complaint

Hopefully you've documented the days/times he's shown up and for how long he worked. I hope you didn't pay him in advance other than a minimal amount for supplies with the rest upon completion.

Next, let him know you'll be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, on Yelp, and with your state Contractor's Licensing Board (I do hope he's licensed, but if not, at least in California, there's a form for unlicensed contractors as well.) Also, try contacting the Consumer Affairs people at your local TV stations who can be very helpful.

Finally, don't confront him by yourself. Here in San Diego, a homeowner (who also happened to be a TV sports anchor) was shot multiple times by his painting contractor.
Nancy in Santee

Research What Recourse You Might Have

Most states have an agency that deals with licensing professionals (including contractors) and assisting and protecting consumers. Here in California, it's the Department of Consumer Affairs, under which the state's Contractor's Licensing Board is located. I'd recommend doing a quick internet search to see what state agency licenses contractors in your state and then call to find out what recourse you might have as far as filing a complaint and/or finding out the laws and regulations applicable to your situation. In the future, I'd also recommend visiting the agency's webpage prior to hiring a contractor; they usually have tips on how to protect yourself, questions to ask, requirements for the licensee, etc.

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Put His Work Ethics on Display

If the job isn't done within your time limit, tell the contractor that you are going to start prorating the pay. If that doesn't work, tell him you are going to the Better Business Bureau and the local TV station with the story of his work ethics. And if you have already paid him, shame on you.

Is There an Underlying Reason?

Your contractor likely took on more work than he could complete on a precise schedule. Perhaps there is some underlying reason that you don't know. Kindly ask him if there is any way to speed up the project or if something is preventing his full-time attention to finishing the job. Is he suffering from the loss of a family member or is one terminally ill? Does he have a rigid schedule to meet elsewhere? Things such as these might be pulling him away. If so, the fact that he continues to work on your project probably is indicative of his integrity overall. I say this because we suffered through a long project in the past. Once we understood the circumstances, our frustration went out the window. Before suing, be kind and ask about his welfare, and whether he can help you to diffuse your frustration. Likely he is more disturbed about this than you are if he has an otherwise good reputation.

Take the Next Step:

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