What to do if a Contractor/ Builder Walks off the Job
1. Take pictures and lots of them, and/ or video the entire project. A picture is worth a thousand words and documenting what work was or was not performed greatly improves your case.
2. Immediately send a letter to the contractor outlining events leading up to the walk-off and all remaining issues. This letter should be sent via certified mail with return-receipt (or overnight with signature via FEDEX, UPS or the post office) to any and all addresses for the contractor or builder. (Check the Georgia Secretary of Stateâ€™s website for corporate addresses.) The letter you send should give reasonable and firm deadlines for action to be taken. Demand not only compliance with the construction agreement, but demand immediate communication. A general example would be:
â€œIt has come to my attention that you walked off the job on (date) with substantial work to be done. Please contact me within 24 hours of the receipt of this letter. Further, please be back on the job site within 48 hours and continue the agreed upon work. If you do not comply with these requests, I will be forced to expend additional sums to finish your work and then pursue action through the courts against you for this breach.â€
3. If you have not received a response, and have proof that the letter was received, you should promptly decide what you are going to do. Are you going to resend another letter, but with a harsher tone, or are you going to assume the builder is not going to do the right thing and therefore, you will go get estimates to have the remaining work done.
4. If you get estimates, you should get three estimates for the cost to complete the remaining work. Try to avoid any additional or extra work being included in these estimates as it may seem that you are trying to get the first contractor to unfairly pay for extras. If you need extras, consider separate estimates. Get the repairing contractor to agree to testify should this matter go to court and to cooperate in case preparation.
5. Try to get the work finished within a reasonable time. The longer you sit on your hands the more likely additional damage is going to occur to the job site.
6. Always consider the legal costs and time investment associated with pursuing a bad contractor in court.
7. If the cost to repair is under $15,000.00, you may want to consider filing the action in magistrate court (small claims court). In magistrate court, it is a good idea to have a lawyer, but not always affordable due to the amount at stake.
8. If the amount is over $15,000.00, you will have to file in state or superior court and it is recommended that you almost always have a lawyer.
9. Keep your documents in a safe place.
10. Even if you do not end up hiring an attorney, you should at least meet with one that offers free consultations in person or over the phone and see what they think. Even if you do not hire the lawyer, you will probably learn something.
About the author: John Breakfield is an attorney with Breakfield & Dean, LLC in Gainesville, Georgia and handles disputes regarding builders/ contractors/ subcontractors and home/ property owners. Our office can assist clients through out Georgia including: Hall County (Gainesville, Oakwood, Flowery Branch), White County (Cleveland), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Gwinnett County (Buford, Sugar Hill, Lawrenceville), Dawson County (Dawsonville), Habersham County (Demorest, Cornelia), and all of Northeast Georgia.
This article should not be considered nor relied upon as legal advice since it is only intended for general overview and informational purposes. Please consult with an attorney on your specific situation in order to determine an appropriate legal course of action.