The relationship between homeowner and contractor is a delicate one. The homeowner is paying a lot of money for a very specific project, and the contractor is trying to complete that project on time despite their busy schedule.
Making sure you do the proper research to find someone who is well-credentialed and has great reviews can help make the process stress free.
That said, sometimes even great reviews won’t necessarily lead to a great remodel or home building experience. Occasionally, you may run into a contractor who simply isn’t paying attention to what you’re saying — which is a huge red flag.
We’ve all heard contractor horror stories before, so it’s best to try and catch these red flags before they escalate into something bigger.
Here are four signs that your contractor isn’t listening to you — as well as steps to take to cut ties with them to bring in someone who will.
Consistently Remind Them What You Want
We don’t all have perfect memories. Heck, some of us have a hard time remembering what we had for breakfast yesterday (toast… I think?).
But, needing to remind your contractor time and time again of your vision for the project is not acceptable.
Early on in the development of the project — whether it’s just a small remodel or a more extensive build — the contractor should take notes and write down every little detail to ensure that they understand the ins and outs of what you want.
It’s okay to ask for clarification, as they want to make sure they are doing exactly what you want. But it’s not a good sign if they ask questions constantly, the answers to which should be obvious if they had paid attention right away.
They Aren’t Showing Up on Time
Life happens. We all have obligations outside of work that can sometimes get in the way of completing projects on time.
But, if your contractor often shows up late, then they clearly aren’t listening to you about your expectations for the completion date.
Remember, that is your house they are working on and you’re paying good money for their services and to have it completed by a certain time. When you’re dealing with home construction, there will always be a little variability on that time frame.
It shows that they don’t care as much as you’d like, which is a huge red flag because that may carry into the quality of their work.
They Are Making Mistakes That Must Be Corrected
There are few things more disheartening than checking in on the progress of a project only to see that something is wrong.
If you do notice something is amiss, then you need to speak up right away to get to the bottom of the issue. If there was any confusion of what the project was supposed to look like — including all the small details — then the contractor should have spoken up.
If they didn’t request any clarification, then that shows that they didn’t understand what it was you wanted.
They Don’t Respond to Your Inquiries About Walk-Throughs
Perhaps you’ve noticed multiple project delays and things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d like.
So, you reach out to your contractor to have a walk-through and conversation about the issues, what exactly the delays are, and how to solve them.
But your contractor keeps stalling and pushing it off. This is definitely a sign that they aren’t telling you the truth, or are trying to hide something from you.
You should be able to stop by often or to get updates on the project regularly.
How to Fire a Contractor
If you’ve had enough with how a project is going and want to bring in someone else to complete the job, then you have to fire your contractor.
Firing anyone is never fun, especially if you haven’t done it before. If letting your contractor go is warranted, then it is in your best interest to do so.
But that’s the key piece right there — whether or not you make an argument that the firing is warranted.
If there isn’t a termination clause in your contract, or if you didn’t even enter a contract with the contractor, then you may have to pay for the cost of any service and materials that they provided on the completed portions of the project.
If the contractor wants to take legal action against you, then you will also be responsible for those legal costs.
So, what is a fireable offense?
Well, it really comes down to a material breach of contract — which is a failure to perform the terms of an agreement to such a significant extent that the agreement is broken.
This means that the issues you have with how the project is being carried out are substantial enough to completely nullify the contract. In other words, just because you don’t get along or they missed a tiny detail doesn’t mean you can fire them.
A mistake that would cost a lot of time and money to fix is more likely to be deemed a material breach of contract.
But, keep this in mind: many states allow for the ‘right to cure defects.’ Which means that you have to give the contractor the opportunity to fix their mistake. Make sure you check in your state to see if that law applies.
Another important part of firing a contractor is to make sure you are documenting any grievances you have with the project, as you may need this later for legal reasons.
If you do decide to fire your contractor, do so in writing rather than orally.
Remember, be respectful and diplomatic when doing this. Also, think carefully before doing so, as many homeowners decide against it instead of potentially fighting the termination in court.