What Are Your Legal Options As a Homeowner if You Have a Dispute With Your Contractor?
Having work done on your home is a significant investment for most families. When you enter into a contract with an individual or business to perform work on your home, you probably expect work to be performed to industry standard, on time, and for the agreed-upon price. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and may result in a dispute with a contractor.
How can you settle these issues? When can you take legal action against a contractor?
In some cases, a claim can be pursued with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, (“ROC”). ROC claims begin with a complaint. After the contractor answers, an investigator is assigned and a ROC inspection takes place. This typically results in a directive being issued, which requires necessary or outstanding items to be completed by a certain date. If the directive is not met, a citation is issued; the matter will then likely be referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings and an Administrative Law Judge will be assigned, who will conduct a hearing and make a recommendation to the ROC. If a homeowner obtains a favorable decision, he or she may be able to make a claim against the contractor’s bond and/or pursue damages up to $30,000, per person, from the ROC Recovery Fund.
In other cases, a notice of claims under Arizona’s Purchaser Dwelling Act, (“PDA”), pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 12-1361 to 1366, is required. A PDA notice can lead to a resolution and is a prerequisite for pursuing litigation.
If you have questions and need to discuss which option is best for you, reach out to our law firm for a free consultation.
What Common Errors Do Contractors Make?
Whether you are planning a major renovation or a minor repair, it is essential to hire a qualified and licensed contractor to do the job. Unfortunately, not all contractors are created equal. Some cut corners to save time or money; others may simply be incompetent. If you are the victim of poor contracting work, you may need to consider legal action against your contractor.
Errors can be classified as either material or non-material. Non-material errors are those that do not affect the quality or value of the work. For example, if your contractor arrives late for the job, this would be considered a non-material error. Material errors are those that do affect the quality or value of the work. Frequently encountered errors can include:
- Using substandard materials or substituting materials without notification.
- Failing to complete the job as agreed upon.
- Significant delay from the agreed-upon start date.
- Unreasonable project delays.
- Poor craftsmanship.
- Payment disagreements over the amount or payment dates.
How Can I Resolve a Dispute with a Contractor?
If you are having a dispute with your contractor, it can be frustrating and time consuming. Moreover, a lawsuit is not a given, because other methods may be more effective or required. One way to resolve a dispute is to negotiate with the contractor. Hiring an attorney can often help, and, in some cases, the parties may be required to engage in arbitration or mediation.
Some issues are due to miscommunications and misunderstandings, and many contractors will try to make it right when they are alerted to the problem. If the situation is already tense and the contractor is not responding, arbitration can be costly and mediation may be part of an effective strategy, as it allows both parties to air their grievances in an impartial setting. If both sides have retained counsel, a thoughtful way forward should be available.
When a PDA notice is forwarded to a contractor, the time to respond and remedy the situation is controlled by Arizona law. Specificity in such a notice is also required, which is another reason to consider retaining an attorney for a proper PDA demand.
If these methods have failed, the next step may be filing a lawsuit or pursuing arbitration. Arbitration may be comparatively faster to litigation, albeit expensive, and some contracts include mandatory arbitration provisions. Litigation may be complex, alternatively, and can require expert retention to resolve issues for the applicable standard of care, defects, costs, etc.
Should I File a Lawsuit Against My Contractor?
Filing a lawsuit against a contractor is a big step and should not be undertaken lightly. Lawsuits can be costly, and there may be legal ramifications for you and your family to consider. There are many factors to think through before deciding whether or not to file a lawsuit against your contractor.
Before filing a claim, you should ask yourself these questions, preferably with the assistance of an experienced lawyer:
- Were your unmet expectations reasonable?: A contractor may be challenging to work with for many reasons, and you may be unhappy with them. Still, you have to think about the case from the court’s perspective and decide whether the contractor’s actions were truly egregious. Legal action may be a viable option if they are not meeting the terms of their contract and you have sufficient proof.
- Is the breach of contract or damage significant enough to warrant legal action?: Because lawsuits may take a long time, cost you money, and could result in your construction project ending up even more delayed, you have to decide whether it is worthwhile to pursue the matter through the courts.
- Have you tried all other avenues of resolving the dispute?: As noted above, other options for fixing the issue may exist. A lawsuit is usually the final choice after all alternatives have been exhausted. Still, only a lawyer can provide legal advice and help you determine what solution is right for you.
- What is the opinion of a knowledgeable lawyer regarding your case?: While it may be possible to file an ROC complaint or take a contractor to small claims court on your own, discussing your situation with a trusted lawyer is always recommended before engaging in the legal process. Many lawyers will provide a free no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your case if you are uncertain where to begin. Professional legal advice ensures you understand your rights and options, which can frequently save you from making costly mistakes.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Taking legal action against a contractor involves a myriad of considerations. Hiring a lawyer is often the best way to ensure that you have a strong case and that your rights are protected. A lawyer with experience in litigation, mediation, or arbitration will be familiar with the law and the process and can help you get the best possible outcome. Lawsuits have many moving parts, and our legal services will provide you with options that can give you the upper hand. Get the first-rate legal counsel you require by calling our law firm today at (480) 702-2272.