When you hire a contractor to work on your home, you expect high quality results and top-notch service. Of course, what you expect and what you get may not be the same thing. In addition to costs, you also have to ensure the contractor completes the job the right way.
If problems arise, you may have to initiate a dispute with your contractor. Unfortunately, settling a dispute with a contractor can be difficult, uncomfortable, and stressful. The way you approach your dispute helps determine your success.
Use the following tactics before you initiate a dispute with a contractor to ensure a successful outcome:
Sign a Contract
Before the project gets underway, both parties should sign a contract. The contract protects you and your contractor in the event of a dispute. Make sure both parties adhere to the terms of the contract. While most contractors have a standard contract, in some instances you may have to supply your own contract. If your contractor will not sign a contract, move on to another contractor.
If delays or problems occur once the project begins, sit down with your contractor and review the contract together. Once you have reviewed the document, determine the next steps to get the project back on track. Don’t jump to conclusions or assume your contractor wants to default on your agreement. Your contractor may have legitimate reasons for changing the terms of your agreement and may not realize you need regular updates about changes to the project.
Express Your Concerns
Your contractor won’t know about potential issues unless you voice your concerns. Try to avoid using an accusatory or confrontational tone when you begin the discussion. Instead, explain your concerns to the contractor without using threats or expressing judgment. Mix-ups and hold-ups can happen; give your contractor an opportunity to provide reasons for project delays or changes. A simple conversation may fix the problem and get the project back on track.
Three Questions to Ask
Last summer I had a lot of exterior work completed on my home. From paint to new doors and more, I supervised many jobs. Unfortunately, two of the projects became the basis of a dispute with the contractor. Call it bad luck. Call it a bad choice on my part. Either way, I had to work with the contractor to resolve the disputes. During both disputes, I found three questions helped to resolve the outstanding issues:
- What Do You Propose We Do to Solve the Issue? This question allows you to dig deeper and puts the contractor on the spot. The contractor may have a workable solution that resolves your dispute.
- Would You Like to Review the Contract? Work contracts have no gray areas; the contractor must complete the agreed upon work to fulfill the contract. Once your contractor knows you want to take a closer look at the contract, he or she will more than likely offer a potential solution to the dispute.
- What Can I Do to Help? Many people don’t want to offer the contractor assistance because they don’t think they should have to do anything. However, your contractor may benefit from your intervention. Showing your contractor that you want to help may make things much easier on both parties.
In addition to the satisfactory completion of projects, you need to keep a close watch on the budget. Make sure the contractor manages the hours worked, quality of materials used, and quality of construction according to your expectations. Keep the following in mind when reviewing the budget for a new project:
- What Should You Get for Your Money? Explicitly state the terms of the project in the contract. Review the terms of the project with your contractor to ensure the contractor addresses each of the items listed in the contract. For example, the contract to paint a house should include a general project overview, and details about specific additions or exclusions like doors, windows, and trim.
- What Are the Payment Terms? You can negotiate the payment terms of your contract. If possible, avoid paying 100% upfront. If you do this, your contractor works from a position of power. On the other hand, when you hold the money, you hold the power. You can withhold payment if the job is not completed to your satisfaction.
Dealing with a contractor dispute can be difficult. Unfortunately, this may arise if you hire a contractor. Remember, a contract is a must. Never hire a contractor without first reviewing and signing this document together. In addition to stating the terms of the project in writing, communicate regularly with your contractor to make sure the project stays on budget. Open lines of communication help you deal with problems and issues as they arise and can eliminate the need for a dispute.