When you hire a contractor for a project, you pay that contractor to build or fix something to your preferences. When the contractor fails to meet the obligations of the contract, you may have a legal claim against the contractor.

Claims Against Contractors

There are a number of different types of legal claims available against contractors. These include:

Defective Construction Work

In situations where construction defects exist, most states require that the homeowner give the contractor the opportunity to fix the defects before filing a lawsuit.

Most contracts will specify some type of warranty that will guarantee a specific level of quality of the work. The warranty could describe the standard under which the building is to be built, such as built for sale to the public, or that the contractor will use reasonable workmanship to construct the premises.

Breach of Contract

When you and a contractor agree to certain terms in a contract, and the contractor does not follow those terms, the contractor has breached the contract.

Most states will deduct damages owed to you based on substantial performance. Thus instead of receiving the full contract price refunded to you, you will receive the contract price minus a deduction for the decreased market value of the property. If the contractor has not begun building the property yet, then substantial performance does not apply.


Fraud covers false and intentional misrepresentations made by a contractor to you regarding the project. A common misrepresentation is when a project developer markets a home as being made with quality materials and quality construction, but this turns out to be a lie when the homeowner finds that the home was built on top of a sinkhole.

How to Sue a Contractor

  1. Determine what your claims are and what resolution you would like.
  2. Contact the contractor and attempt to work something out, whether it is a refund or for the contractor to finish the job as promised.
  3. If the contractor refuses, research state law to determine which forum is best for bringing your case. Your state may have a contractor licensing or labor agency that will handle contractor disputes. The contract may also require either mediation or arbitration.
  4. Gather evidence, including any conversations you had with the contractor about the project or price, any agreements, and photographs of the defects or unfinished project.
  5. Draft and file your complaint in the appropriate forum.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue a Contractor?

A lawsuit against a contractor will require in-depth knowledge of contracts law and technical knowledge regarding construction. A real estate lawyer can help you navigate the case filing process, investigate any possible claims, and negotiate and advocate on your behalf.