Q: Remodel project gone wrong - what to do next?
I have Bathroom remodel project x 2 that was to take one month (verbal) that is now into 4th month with no sign of completion due to day after day, and now weeks of no-shows, with a lack of communication. One bathroom completed with a few issues that still need to be addressed, and the other bathroom only half done. I had to ask almost daily if anyone was even going to show up on the job. The responses were rare and usually meant to buy time, but I quickly get responses to communication when I suggest to part ways. Finally, communicated to contractor today that that since it has been two weeks of no one on the job, I have no choice but to file a notice of job abandonment and will also be seeking a refund for issues still outstanding in the first bathroom. His response was a threat to put a lien on my house, and wants money for materials that he originally included or had to buy to fix a mistake, and a change order that was never invoiced (nor was warranted). What's my next move?
If the contractor is licensed, you should be able to make a claim against his license bond. You can also file a complaint with the Contractors State License Board. If the complaint is well founded the CSLB can order the contractor to pay for your damages at the risk of suspension of his license. If the contractor caused physical damage to your property, his liability insurance may cover your damages. And if you can find the contractor and he has assets, you could file a lawsuit for breach of contract. If you get a judgment against the contractor, send it to the CSLB, and his license will be suspended if he doesn't timely satisfy the judgment. If you want to pursue contract claims, I would start with a demand letter from an attorney and a review of your contract to see what rights you have for the contractor's breach. All these steps may generate enough leverage to get him to complete the work or compensate you for your damages if you don't want him to complete the work.
If the contractor is not licensed, you have other legal remedies available, including disgorgement of the full amount that you paid him.
If you are planning to sell or refinance your property soon, a mechanics lien could interfere with that. Otherwise, it may not have an immediate impact on you. However you may ultimately have to prove the lien is meritless if the contractor files a lawsuit to foreclose.
In California, if your contractor has failed to perform as agreed, you should document all communications and attempts to resolve the issues. Since the agreement was verbal, establishing a timeline of events is critical. You may serve a written notice to the contractor detailing the deficiencies and the contractor's failure to complete the work, giving them an opportunity to cure the defects. If the contractor threatens to place a lien on your property, they must follow specific legal procedures, including proving the value of the work and materials provided. If an agreement cannot be reached, you may consider mediation to resolve the dispute.
If that is unsuccessful, you can file a complaint with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB), which can provide assistance and may offer a dispute resolution program. Depending on the amount in controversy, small claims court may be an option. Lastly, consulting with an attorney can provide guidance tailored to the specifics of your case, including assessing the contractor's claims and your potential remedies.
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