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How Homeowners Should Handle Construction Disputes

As most homeowners know, hiring a contractor for home improvement or repair projects can be quite an undertaking. It is true that hiring the right person to do the job can save a homeowner from a DIY nightmare, but it can be a daunting task just to work out the details of someone else tackling the project. However, research before the project starts can come with a huge payoff.

What are Some Common Disputes Between Homeowners and Contractors?

Usually a dispute between a homeowner and a contractor centers on disagreement regarding the scope of work or the timeline for completion of the project. Most disputes arise due to poor communication of expectations, which can easily happen when homeowners are not clear on the terminology used by a professional, or when the contractor proceeds with an inaccurate understanding of the request. This can be true even with disputes that involve written contracts. A contract may not help if it does not define the agreement in sufficient detail. 

What Should I Do if I am in a Dispute with a Contractor I Hired to Work in My Home?

It is unfortunate to find oneself in a dispute about what a contractor was supposed to do or about the timeline the contractor was supposed to stick to. When such disputes arise, one should first attempt to work out a way to come to an agreement. It can save time and money to find an agreeable plan without resorting to a lawsuit.

What Should I Do in the Hiring Process?

The single most important thing to focus on when hiring a contractor is to make sure to have a contract stating the job in detail and a timeline for deliverables. The more detail provided in the contract, the less likely it is that one will experience a misunderstanding. Hopefully, the time spent working out the details will make things clear. In the event of an issue, having the contract in writing will provide the ability to easily find the problem.

Additionally, it is also crucial that homeowners only enter into contracts with licensed contractors. A licensed contractor should have a license number that is clearly visible on all contracts. A homeowner can also double check to ensure that the contractor is licensed by searching here. If a contracted is licensed, a homeowner has certain protections that he or she does not have if the contractor is unlicensed.

What Paperwork or Supporting Evidence Should I Have on Hand to Make My Case?

Assuming one has a written contract, one can use that as evidence to support a case. As with drawing up a clear contract, consideration in other areas can be useful. For example, a homeowner can make notes as the project moves forward, snap pictures to show its progress, and be diligent and organized about keeping the project on track. These efforts can help in a dispute, but it may be enough to issue a notice of departure before it becomes a problem.

What Issues Should be Addressed in My Contract?

Clauses in contracts outline what kinds of issues affect the ability for either side to collect damages. If a circumstance that is not covered in the contract comes to pass, which party can collect damages becomes debatable.

For example, if a price is agreed upon for a project that takes longer than expected, the contractor may expect the homeowner to pay more for the delays that cost more of the contractor’s time. The homeowner may dispute this.

A construction contract may have wording that specifically states that delays are cause for one party to collect damages. However, some delays are unforeseeable or excusable, such as those resulting from acts of nature. In such cases, the courts may decide that the contract is not clear on what to do in such circumstances, so the contract may be invalidated on that basis.

Homeowners should look out for contractors with clauses in their contracts for mandatory arbitration. A clause like this could limit the homeowner’s capacity to satisfactorily resolve a dispute.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself and to Prove My Case?

If a homeowner has a dispute with a contractor, a homeowner should make his or her concerns known right away. The homeowner should also refuse to pay any additional money until the disagreement is resolved. Withholding payment is the best way to get grievances addressed without having to resort to legal means.

What Rights Does the Contractor Have?

A contractor has the right to fair compensation for the services. The contractor also has rights that provide for time to finish the job if it has been delayed by the homeowner.

In some cases, the job may be delayed for excusable reasons due to problems with suppliers, weather, or natural or manmade disasters unrelated to the job. In such cases, the contractor may have a case against the homeowner for additional payments. In such instances, a contractor may bring suit against a homeowner for nonpayment. If a contractor decides to take the case to court, a notice to owner or claim of lien can be held against the homeowner’s property, which has the potential to result in a foreclosure of the property.

How Can I Resolve a Dispute?

If a homeowner cannot work out the dispute, the homeowner may decide to hire a lawyer knowledgeable to take a legal course of action. Resolution could mean that lawyers for both sides work out a settlement to make things right. Another option is to use the process of either mediation or arbitration to come to an agreement. If all else fails, real estate litigation is an option.

Towson Real Estate Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Represent Consumers in Disputes with Contractors

Homeowners trust contractors to perform work on their homes. Whether the agreement is in writing or not, homeowners have recourse to hold contractors accountable. Our Towson real estate lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC have the experience to ensure that our client are treated fairly in construction disputes with contractors. Contact us online or call us at 443-589-0150 for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.

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