If you think breaking up with a loved one is hard to do, try breaking up with your contractor.
Ending a home improvement project midway through can be awkward and even emotionally draining. Feelings are hurt. Contracts are broken. The contractor loses work. The homeowner has to start the hiring process all over again, prolonging the construction period and costing them more money to finish the job right.
“The toughest part for most homeowners is figuring out when it’s time to pull the plug on the relationship,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation's premier provider of consumer reviews on local service companies. “Before you break up, you might be able to make up by discussing your concerns with the contractor. If you don’t speak up, you can’t expect your contractor to know that there’s a problem.”
But, Hicks added, if you’ve talked until you’re blue in the face and your contractor remains unresponsive, routinely runs late, or is violating your agreement, it’s time to cut your losses.
“Chances are good that if you’re dealing with problems early on and throughout a project, you’re not going to be happy with the finished product anyway,” Hicks said. “The longer you wait to end things, the more frustrating and possibly expensive it gets.”
Homeowners put off the break-up conversation generally for four reasons:
- Too much money is invested to turn back
- They don’t want to upset the contractor;
- Worry over legal ramifications for breaking the contract; or
- It’s too difficult to find someone willing to finish another’s work.
Three of the four of those reasons can be taken care of with a well worded contract, and hiring a reliable, well qualified contractor in the first place will generally take care of the last, Hicks said.
“Sixteen percent of our members confessed in a recent survey that they don’t fully read the contract before they sign it, and that’s just asking for trouble,” Hicks said. “Your contract can be your best friend if something goes wrong – but only if it contains the terms you want. If it’s full of loopholes or doesn’t include termination or penalty measures, ending it will be more difficult.”
Contracts should contain termination clauses if certain objectives aren’t met; payment schedules and terms tied to deadlines for completion, as well as specifics for materials and plans.
The best scenario for any remodeling project, of course, is that consumers to find good, reliable contractors in the first place.
”Based on the information we’ve gathered over the past 16 years, most of our members have positive experiences with their contractors,” Hicks said. “But that’s by design: consumers turn to the reviews on Angie’s List to find good companies and they hire the ones others have been happy with.”
5 Signs You Should Break up with your Contractor
1.) Poor quality work: If you’re not happy with the quality of the work, don’t hesitate to talk to the contractor about it before more unacceptable work is done. If the issues aren’t addressed to your satisfaction, it’s time to move on.
2.) Missed progress dates: Delays are not uncommon for construction jobs and some can’t be avoided, but don’t let time drag on without a reasonable or acceptable explanation. Set completion dates in the contract and enforce them if issues arise.
3.) Cost over-runs: Some cost overruns can’t be prevented and you should set aside funds to account for them. But they should be justifiable and necessary. (i.e. unknown, pre-existing structural flaws uncovered in the course of the job or changes you ask for that aren’t in the contract.) If you agree to add cost to the project, amend the contract to include the new estimate for the additional labor and materials and keep watch on this. If you don’t have to dip into your cost overrun budget, you’re ahead of the game. If costs keep growing without your authorization, find another contractor.
4.) Personality conflicts: Good communication is essential to a successful, low-stress project. If your contractor reacts angrily or aggressively to reasonable requests or complaints, find another contractor.
5.) Contract violation: Your contract can be your best friend when it comes to enforcing your terms. But this requires you to read and understand the terms of your contract before you sign it. Be as specific as you can be about materials, costs, timelines and penalties for missing key dates or budget terms. Document everything with photos, video, receipts, written progress reports, and other evidence that can support your case. If your contractor violates the contract and won’t correct the issue, find another contractor.
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