Q: I hired a contractor to remodel two bathrooms, paint and plaster the entire interior of our 1200 square foot home. We agreed to buy all the fixtures, including the bathtub, toilets, plumbing materials, etc.
We signed the contract agreeing to this for a price of $28,000. From the very start things went south: The contractor had to redo the first bath three separate times because of terrible work in which they ruined $1850 worth of tile. This happened 18 months ago when the contract provided that they would start and finish the job within 30 days.
I paid them in full — a big mistake, I know now — and to this day our bathrooms are not done. We were doing this work to sell the home. Now, we’ve lost our home to foreclosure and will very soon be evicted. What, if anything, can we do to at least get our $28,000 back?
(By the way, we also had our kitchen remodeled, installed new doors, windows, new floors, and painted the exterior — luckily with other contractors — but went through all of this only to lose our home.)
A: I’m sorry you lost your home to foreclosure. It’s bad enough getting stiffed by a bad contractor, but to lose your home after you’ve done all this work to it just adds salt to the wound.
What can you do now? You may have the right to sue the contractor but you might first want to consult with an attorney that has had experience with contractor fraud. Most states have consumer protection laws. Some states have specific laws to protect homeowners against bad contractors, in addition to consumer protection laws.
While your contract may provide for a remedy to you in case your contractor has failed to perform properly under the contract, you may find that the contract provided by the contractor does not provide you with any protections. Since the contractor’s contract has no protections for you, your state’s laws are your only hope if you have to pursue legal action against the contractor.
Once you consult with an attorney you may find that your state laws give you some remedies against the contractor but also provide for you the right to recover your costs in suing the contractor.
Unfortunately, you’re faced with a double whammy. On the one side you’re facing foreclosure and on the other you’re facing the prospect of having to sue the contractor for failing to finish the work under the repair contract. Make sure you keep all of your documentation from the contractor and keep detailed records of the repair job, including pictures of the problem caused by the contractor or the failures in his performance.
Nov. 21, 2008.