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Can I Fire My Contractor?
By Mike Holmes
Mike’s Advice / Home Safety & Maintenance
Tuesday, December 29th, 2020 @ 12:46pm
I often hear from homeowners who are renovating that they are fed up with their contractor and want to kick them off the site. Usually, by then, the situation is so bad and the anger and frustration so overwhelming that you can’t believe there could ever have been a civilized word between them.
So my first thought is, ‘how did you let it get this bad?’
I’m talking about a breach of contract where there was an agreement that somehow has been broken. I’m not talking about homeowners being ripped off through fraudulent activity.
Check The Contract
Before you start yelling, check your contract. You did sign a contract, didn’t you? Read it again before you do anything–and read the fine print this time. Look for what lawyers call “the limitations of liability” that are imposed on the contractor: the timetable, the types of materials he uses, the pricing for extras.
Then look at the situation that you are in as objectively as you can and ask, “Has the contractor actually violated any of the limitations?” and “Can I actually fire my contractor?”.
Is It A Substantial Violation?
It is a big deal to kick your contractor off the job. You can’t do that for a minor mistake like painting a wall the wrong colour. That’s not why you terminate the contractor.
It better be for something a lot bigger, like not complying with building or safety bylaws, being late on the schedule by a significant percentage of the original plan, or billing more than agreed for an extra—without an acceptable explanation.
“Look at the contract and ask, “Has the contractor actually violated any of the limitations?”
They May Not Have Broken The Agreement
Don’t be surprised if you find out that–no matter how angry you are—he/she hasn’t broken the agreement. And don’t be surprised that even if it appears he/she has broken your agreement, your case against them is not as black and white as you believe.
Here’s an example of what often happens: You discover the contract requires the contractor or his representative to be working on-site at least three days a week and you haven’t seen either of them for two weeks. Got him, you think!
But then you read the rest of the contract, which allows them an exception if they can claim there have been delays as a result of changes you made to the scope of work that has disrupted his schedule.
You did make changes, didn’t you? And they did say they would disrupt the schedule, right? Well, whose fault is it then? And are you justified in kicking him off the job?
Finding Something Substantial
Let’s say you really have found something substantial. The contract will have something to say about how you are allowed to respond.
Usually, contracts will require you to notify your contractor in writing of your objection and then give him time to make it right.
Start sending your notifications, and do two other things:
- Have a job log where you can record the offences, and
- Bring in another contractor or quantity surveyor as a third party who can make your case from an expert’s point of view.
I have to say you should have started the log from the beginning of the job, especially if you are dealing with a bunch of little violations over time, but it’s never too late to start.
Giving Notice To Your Contractor
With all that, you are all set to give notice to the contractor. But don’t expect it to be over. In fact, it’s just beginning, and what you now have on your hands is potentially years of court hearings and lawyer’s fees.
Being in this situation is like the guy nailing plywood over his windows in the middle of the hurricane. There is always, always plenty of warning. Pay attention.
Remember, we are not talking about fraudulent activity. It’s two people starting on a project with good intentions in good faith and with a clear understanding of what is involved.
Did You Hire The Right Person?
Did you hire the lowest price general contractor, knowing they weren’t going to get the necessary permits? Did you act in good faith? Were you already thinking you could beat the holdback out of him if you complained enough when the project was done?
Did you completely understand what was involved, or did you just stop listening and hope nothing bad would happen when he said there could be complications once he started digging?
Home remodelling projects can be stressful. Make sure you hire the right contractor to start.