Contractors are typically hired by homeowners to fix, design, remodel or build part of their house. Unfortunately, projects do not always end up as anticipated by the homeowner. Most homeowners and contractors sign legal contracts that specify the work that will be completed, the amount that will be paid for the work, and a time frame that gives a deadline for when the work should be completed.

Lawsuits are filed against contractors in many situations. In some cases, a contractor may fail to follow the agreed upon contract. Contractors may miss deadlines or fail to perform all of the work required.

Sometimes contractors will complete a project, but the homeowner is unhappy with the results or the project does not meet safety standards. Contractors may also take advantage of homeowners by accepting a deposit or payment and then not completing the agreed upon work.   

If you’ve entered into a contract with a contractor who has failed to meet their obligations or has performed disappointing work, you may have a legal claim against the contractor. Lawsuits filed by homeowners against contractors are typically filed in civil court.

What Types of Legal Claims Can be Filed Against a Contractor?

There are a number of different types of legal claims that homeowners can file against a contractor if they decide to move forward in filing a lawsuit. Common legal claims filed by homeowners in civil court against contractors include breach of contract, defective construction work, and construction fraud. The types of damages available to homeowners may vary by state.    

What is a Breach of Contract Claim Against a Contractor?

A breach of contract is a legal term that is used when one party does not follow through with their side of a contract. In most contractor and homeowner relationships, a written contract is involved in the transaction. If a contractor does not follow or fulfill their contract obligations, the contractor may have breached the contract.

A contractor may breach a contract if they miss deadlines, do not begin the project, partially complete a project, or fail to use the construction materials that were agreed upon in the contract.

A breach of contract claim will typically allow a homeowner to recover damages. Damages may include a refund of payments made to the contractor, a refund of the difference in cost involved in hiring a new contractor to complete the project, the costs associated with the construction materials, and decreased market value of a house based on construction delays or incomplete work.

In some states, a legal term called substantial performance applies to breach of contract claims. Substantial performance applies when a contractor has begun to work on a project but failed to complete the work in its entirety. Substantial performance does not apply if a contractor failed to begin working on a project.

What is a Defective Construction Work Claim Against a Contractor?

A defective construction work claim is a type of legal claim may be filed against a contractor. This type of claim is used in situations where a contractor completed a project but the homeowner later discovers that construction defects exist.

A construction defect may apply in situations that include completed projects that fail to comply with required state or local housing codes or projects that result in dangerous structural damage to a home. In most states, a homeowner is required to give a contractor the opportunity to fix a construction defect before moving forward with filing a lawsuit in court.   

What is a Claim of Fraud Against a Contractor?

Fraud is a legal term that is used to describe misleading promises or misrepresentations made by a contractor to a homeowner. A homeowner may sue a contractor for fraud if they told a homeowner that the completed project would look a certain way, but in reality, the completed project had a different look altogether.

Fraud can also occur if a contractor promises to only use certain, high-quality building materials, and then saves money by substituting those materials for less costly and lower quality materials. If a homeowner made a deposit to a contractor, and the contractor took the homeowner’s money without beginning the work, the homeowner may also file a claim of fraud against the contractor.   

Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue a Contractor?

If you are a homeowner and are unhappy with a contractor’s work, you may be able to sue the contractor on your own. Suing a contractor can be a time consuming and stressful experience. There are many steps involved in filing a successful lawsuit, including collecting evidence and calculating damages.

For the best outcome in your case, you should consider speaking with a property renovation lawyer who can help you file your case, discuss possible claims, and help you get awarded the correct amount in damages.