Common Problems With Contractors and How To Deal With Them

Common Problems With Contractors and How To Deal With Them

How To
Small Projects and Repairs
By Dikran Seferian October 22, 2022

Much like buying property, it’s not very often that you undertake a home improvement project and work with contractors. But unlike buying property, everything from envisioning a design to finding and hiring a contractor is up to you; whereas when it comes to investing in a new home, a professional realtor would normally guide you through the entire process. That’s what makes home improvement projects a bit tricky. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to get bamboozled by a contractor. This can include unresponsiveness, unexpected changes in the pricing, as well as unnecessary project delays. Knowing how to handle common problems with contractors can help you avert a renovation nightmare.

Pro tip: Knowing what to look for when hiring contractors can help you avoid working with unreliable contractors in the first place.

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What to Do When a Contractor Doesn’t Show Up or Is Unresponsive

Hiring a contractor only for them to end up being a no-show can be quite frustrating. Before jumping to conclusions, however, it can be worth giving them the benefit of a doubt. It’s likely that they might be sick, stuck in traffic, or dealing with an urgent matter. Scheduling mistakes can also be a possible reason for such contractor problems.

Reach Out and Try Rescheduling

Your first course of action should be to call them up, politely ask for an explanation, and try to reschedule. A lot of contractors will feel guilty for making a scheduling mistake or not being able to prioritize the job over a possible emergency situation. As such, they might offer compensation for causing an inconvenience. If the contractor happens to be indifferent regarding the situation and doesn’t offer to compensate you, don’t hesitate to confront them about it.

If your contractor doesn’t show up as expected, try calling to reschedule first.

If your contractor doesn’t show up as expected, try calling to reschedule first.

Having said that, it’s always important to not pay for the work until after it’s done and everything is to your satisfaction. As for deposits, make sure to choose a verified payment method that you can cancel later on when necessary.

If you can’t seem to reach them, try sending an email or a voicemail and reach out again the next day. Dealing with contractors in this case can be frustrating since you’re probably not sure whether they’re actually dealing with an emergency and can’t respond, or they chose to neglect the project. 

Try to Get a Refund

If the contractor doesn't reply within three days, simply void the written agreement and cancel the deposit you made. Contact your bank to check if the payment has gone through. If it hasn’t, you can stop the transfer. Otherwise, you should reach out to the contractor once more and ask for a refund. In case you used a credit card to pay the deposit, you can file a chargeback. 

Contact the Authorities

If the contractor doesn’t respond to your request for a refund, it may become apparent that you’re being scammed. It’s also likely that you’re not the only one. Should that be the case, you may want to report them to the authorities. This can involve going to court to get your refund after paying a deposit for nothing. 

Submit a Review

Needless to say, it’s unethical for a contractor to not follow through with a job after receiving a deposit for it. Posting an online review about your experience can prevent other homeowners from having to deal with an unresponsive contractor.

Sharing your negative experience online is a great way to warn other homeowners about the unresponsive contractor.

Sharing your negative experience online is a great way to warn other homeowners about the unresponsive contractor.

What to Do When a Contractor Is Over-delaying or Not Finishing the Job

Another common problem with contractors is when they keep dragging the project. A job that should normally take a week or two, for instance, may end up being unfinished even after a month. The contractor may even be disappearing every now and then. Getting in touch with them — or reaching out to someone in charge — is often the first step you should take in this case. And if that doesn’t work, other measures you can take really depend on the specific situation.

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You’ve Only Paid for Work That’s Been Done So Far

If the contractor has done the part of the job you paid for before going awol, your go-to choice should be to just hire a new, more reliable contractor. Chances are you have all the materials and components for the project, so there’s no reason to continue working with contractors that seem to be neglecting their duties. While sticking with the same contractor will prevent you from having to go back to the searching and interviewing process, you would be enabling the same issue to persist. That being said, you’d be better off hiring another contractor. 

You’ve Paid for More Than What’s Been Completed

Let’s suppose you paid for supplies, materials, and components in advance — such as those of a kitchen countertop — and didn’t receive them. Or the countertop installer left your kitchen in a huge mess and disappeared without returning your calls. Should that be the case, you may need to take the matter to a small claims court. Make sure to balance the litigation cost against an estimate of the amount you’ll be compensated if you succeed. It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t need to hire an attorney in order to win a small claims case.

In case you’ve paid for more than what’s been done and the contractor has gone awol, your go-to choice would be litigation.

In case you’ve paid for more than what’s been done and the contractor has gone awol, your go-to choice would be litigation.

What to Do When a Contractor Is Going Over Budget

Before confronting a contractor who’s constantly changing the pricing, it helps to understand the difference between a quote and an estimate. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same. A quote consists of a precise dollar amount as well as a specified time frame. An estimate, on the other hand, is what the contractor anticipates the project will cost. In certain cases, you may only receive an estimate instead of a precise quote; and that is when unexpected costs may appear out of nowhere. That being said, there are certain measures you can take to handle this specific contractor problem.

Clarify the Issue

Being as specific as possible with details is key during a home remodel. It essentially allows you to get to the root of any pricing issues before there is time for miscommunication or misunderstandings. Having said that, consider going over the initial expectations instead of simply asking why the project ended up being expensive. Try discussing with the contractor to figure out where things went wrong and how it affected the cost. As such, you’d be able to track down any unnecessary expenses and ask the contractor to reassess the situation. 

Talk to Contractors Separately 

In the case of a home remodel exceeding your budget, you may want to discuss the issue with your contractor separately. Bear in mind that the contractor wouldn’t want to admit to an oversight in front of the hired help, and may even cause a scene. Addressing the issue calmly with just the contractor and whoever is in charge allows you to reach a more reasonable solution. 

Discuss the Facts

When unexpected costs are popping up during a project, you will need to address the facts head-on. Try making a list with your contractor in order to figure out what was actually done and how much each item cost. You may want to find out why any extra pieces of work were performed, how they add value to the project, and whether there are more economical ways to get the job done. Bear in mind that you may not always understand the contractor's secrets behind home improvement projects.

In order to prevent a budgeting misunderstanding, ask for an itemized list of expenses from your contractor, and make sure they notify you soon after an unexpected expense turns up.

In order to prevent a budgeting misunderstanding, ask for an itemized list of expenses from your contractor, and make sure they notify you soon after an unexpected expense turns up.

Listen to What the Contractor Has to Say

Instead of jumping to conclusions, it can be a good idea to listen to what the contractor has to say. For instance, it is possible that they came across mold or asbestos and needed extra funds to handle the situation as safely, quickly, and effectively as possible. As such, the additional expenses may actually be for the best. 

Review the Agreement

Make sure to review the quote or estimate in detail before dealing with the contractor. A quote may mention the possibility of additional expenses being charged. That being said, it’s possible that what may seem like an issue, actually isn’t. 

Ask for a Second Opinion

If the project is indeed costing more than it really should, you may want to ask for a second opinion from another licensed contractor. If they think the additional charges are reasonable, then you can rest assured that the project probably ended up bigger than expected. Otherwise, it would be best to find a common ground with the contractor — perhaps to cut some costs while following through with the renovation.

You can’t go wrong with reaching out to another contractor for a second opinion.

You can’t go wrong with reaching out to another contractor for a second opinion.

Common problems with contractors can include anything from unresponsiveness to unexpected changes in pricing. Taking reasonable measures allows you to deal with these issues in the most effective manner.

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DS

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian

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