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Every homeowner's nightmare: The remodeler stopped showing up to work

Before signing the contract to add on a room, repair a roof or enlarge an interior space in your home, you probably checked the contractor's references and perhaps even checked out examples of their work. You may have even called your local Better Business Bureau to make sure the contract was on the up-and-up.

This blog post will discuss how contractors get behind in their schedule and may even stop doing work altogether.

First, why it sometimes happens

General residential remodeling contractors work on razor-thin timelines and very slim margins for costs of labor and materials. In most cases, they will be subcontracting much of the work down to plumbers, electricians, drywall hangers, cabinet installers, etc. Hopefully, the subcontractors will be licensed, as well, but that often depends on the general contractor.

If any of the subcontractors misses a scheduled work date or material doesn't arrive in time, the entire domino-line of subcontractors may fall apart. Experienced licensed general contractors will build extra days into the contract timeline and be upfront about it.

Pay one-third now, the rest later: A recipe for project delays

But less scrupulous contractors may have a hidden reason for not showing up to finish your remodeling job. In all likelihood, you may have been required to pay at least one-third of the total project cost before the contractor will "open" the project and start work; perhaps you paid half; perhaps the entire cost. For contractors on shakey financial ground, the initial payment serves as their operating cash flow. It is the money they will use to pay their employees and subcontractors. The system is only as honest as the general contractor.

"Hey, why are you packing up your tools and equipment?"

Unscrupulous contractors make their living by collecting the opening payment, then starting the job on the agreed date. They may work for a day or two, but suddenly leave your property to open another job in another part of town, where they will collect another payment for opening another job for another homeower; where they will work for a few days before packing up to open yet another job somewhere.

After churning several projects - with money in hand - they start to juggle their labor and subcontractors. In many cases, subcontractors are also over-booked and can't fulfill their contractual obligations. It doesn't take long before completion deadlines are pushed out. In many cases, the remodeler may even say they can't continue the job until they receive their second payment. As many homeowners who have been burned by dishonest remodelers say, "Never let them pack out their power tools until the job is finished."

It only takes a few to give the entire industry a black eye

Fortunately, the large majority of home remodeling contractors are licensed through the North Carolina Licensing Board of General Contractors, work hard to earn customers' trust and have built their business on integrity. The ones who don't usually don't last long. Unfortunately, though, while they are in business, too many good, honest and well-meaning homeowners suffer the consequences.

It may help to know that some licensed contractors specialize in going into homes to finish uncompleted remodeling projects or correcting poor workmanship.

What you can do about it

Okay, so now that you know what the problem may have been, what can be done about it? First, if you hired an unscrupulous contractor who used every excuse possible to miss project deadlines, billed you unexpectedly for going overbudget or switched to inferior materials without your knowledge, make sure you make your voice heard. You can report the contractor to the North Carolina Licensing Board of General Contractors. Enough bad reports and the marketplace will take care of itself.

Hire a knowledgeable Raleigh construction law attorney

In many cases such as these, there are usually specific provisions of your contract which have been violated by the general contractor. Remember, even if one of the subcontractors was the reason for the problem, the GC is still legally responsible for meeting conditions of the signed contract.

Schedule a consultation with an experienced construction law firm in Ralaigh. Like many North Carolina construction law firms, Triangle Law Group considers handling cases involving breach of contract litigation on a contingency fee basis. There may be options for you to recover compensation for the financial damages you suffered as a result of project delays or poor workmanship.

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