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Disappearing Contractor: What Can You Do?

Nothing is more frustrating than shelling out a lot of money for a home remodeling job that starts out OK but then abruptly stops because your contractor drags out the project, or simply doesn’t show up anymore.


There may be many different reasons for the contractor’s sudden absence, some of which may be understandable, such as sickness or injury on another job site. However, this isn’t always the case. Perhaps the contractor is in financial hot water after taking on too much work. Or maybe they took on another job that paid better. Whatever the case, there’s no excuse for a contractor to just disappear without returning your phone calls. What can you do?


If you are in receipt of everything you've paid for up until now, such as materials, labor and parts, it may be best to hire another, more reliable contractor. But if you have paid for services not rendered or materials not delivered, that is another story. Maybe you paid the contractor in advance for kitchen cabinets but don’t yet have possession of them. Or maybe the contractor was responsible for substantial damage to your home before taking off. In cases like these you may have no other option than to pursue litigation.


However, you’ll have to balance the cost of litigation against an estimate of how much you can get if you win the case. Most states have small claims courts where you are able to file claims for small amounts. In Rhode Island, that amount is $2,500. In most straightforward cases, you can do this on your own. But in long, drawn out, complex or particularly nasty cases, you will need the services of a lawyer on your side.


You will need to gather documentation of your claim, such as pictures of the damage, copies of invoices, cancelled checks, etc., and bring them with you to court. Keep in mind, if the damage is more than the maximum small claims amount, you will have to file a claim with your county court and hire an attorney. Those additional fees may affect your decision to move forward or not.


At the same time, you should be filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List and other watchdog sites, as well as the state licensing board or commission. The complaints may not result in a full recovery of the amount of your loss, but at least you will know that the contractor will be less likely to do this to someone else in the future.

 



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