How to Deal with Contractor Delays – Bad Contractor Series Part 2

How To Deal With Contractor Delays

Before we dig into this, don’t forget to check out part 1 of our Bad Contractors series: How To Spot a Bad Contractor

Those of us who have used the services of a general contractor to renovate a home know that it can be a stressful experience.  One reason for this stress is that remodel projects can get severely delayed and feel like they are taking forever.  Project delays or a contractor not performing as promised are two major reasons that over 50% of homeowners report having a negative experience with their remodel or complaining of a bad contractor.

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego with reliable general contractors in Southern California, we speak to homeowners every day who want to get connected with honest, reliable pros to ensure they don’t get stuck with a bad contractor and have ongoing project delays.

There are many ways that you can end up suffering long contractor delays – here are some tips and guidance to help you avoid this or find ways to solve delay issues that have arisen with a bad contractor.

Hire The Right Contractor

If you haven’t hired a contractor or started your project yet, there are a few important things you should know and steps to take in order to get the best results. The most important thing you can do is hire the right contractor who respects your time and the schedule he/she committed to you.  If you’re hiring a contractor for whom you’ve called three references and they all said he finished on schedule, you can be confident he will do the same for you. Another thing you can do is express your expectations clearly upfront.

At GreatBuildz, we require all our contractors to sign a 20-point “Code of Conduct” describing our expectations of their behavior with our customers, including the following language about keeping their schedule and preventing contractor delays: “Contractor commits to having a crew of workers at the job site every weekday for eight full hours, except in the case of holidays, emergencies and special circumstances.” Homeowners should require this commitment from any contractor they choose.

“Contractor commits to having a crew of workers at the job site every weekday for eight full hours, except in the case of holidays, emergencies and special circumstances.”

Most contractors handle more than one project at a time; large contractors have a significant number of projects going at once. A good contractor can handle all the projects they undertake. There are several ways to know if a contractor is able to sufficiently handle their current project workload and service you as a client. First, call their current clients and confirm their job is not substantially delayed and that the contractor maintains a high level of communication.

Another early indicator is whether the contractor is responsive even before your job starts.  If it takes over a week for the contractor to meet with you or over a week for the contractor to provide you an estimate without a good reason for the delay, that may be a sign they are currently too busy with other work.  A good contractor will be responsive and communicative from start to finish, and of course, their active customers will have positive comments about him/her.

Some Delays Are Inevitable

You should know that some amount of contractor delays are inevitable, and you should be prepared for that.  There are lots of potential issues facing the contractor on your job.  The daily problems faced by contractors that are largely out of their control are almost infinite: workers not showing up, truck breakdowns, traffic delays, material delays, material quality issues, subcontractor problems, equipment malfunctions, surprises hidden in the walls of the home, architect mistakes, worker injuries, city inspection delays… the list goes on and on.

Remodeling homeowners need to have realistic expectations for their contractors (but not be pushovers).  There is some validity to the anecdote that homeowners should assume “the job will cost twice as much and take twice as long”.  Although this is an overstatement, homeowners need to set their own expectations at the beginning that most jobs will cost more and take longer than originally anticipated.

It is worth noting, however, that there is a fine line when it comes to contractor delays and overages. Although a 10-20% delay or project cost overrun is normal with even ‘good’ contractors, a 50-100% delay or cost overrun is not normal and could be indicative of a dishonest, mismanaged, or bad contractor.

How to Deal with Contractor Delays - Bad Contractor Series Part 2 1

How To Avoid Contractor Delays

There is no way to completely avoid contractor delays altogether because emergencies do arise and construction workers aren’t always totally reliable, but there are a few things you can do to protect against this issue. Once you’ve started the project, consider doing the following things to help prevent project delays:

1) Make sure workers are at your house on a daily basis. Once a contractor starts missing full days of work and making excuses, that’s a red flag that you will likely encounter delays.

2) If a contractor starts asking for more money earlier in the project than expected, that can be a red flag that they are having financial issues or are stretched too thin.

3) If a contractor becomes unresponsive or slow to respond to you, that’s a bad sign that he/she is either too busy with other jobs to give you adequate attention or there is some other unknown issue keeping them from communicating with you.

Also, keep in mind that you may be partially responsible for some of the project delays. Many people these days, upon deciding to remodel, will start looking online for inspiration and design materials they would like for their remodeled space. Much of the time, the pretty pictures online include items that are either custom made or only available at boutique and uber-expensive online retailers.

So, the next step and the hard part is taking your images to the various stores and trying to find those same materials. By the time you make the final decisions and order these materials, then wait for them to be delivered, it’s quite likely the project will suffer delays.

Assuming you’ve considered all the above and still feel strongly that your project is suffering unreasonably long contractor delays, there are probably a few possible reasons for this. Some contractors will take on too many jobs simultaneously knowing full well this will cause one or more of those jobs to suffer delays.  Other contractors just don’t manage their crews correctly or they get stretched too thin and will pull workers off one job to work on another, which will often severely delay another client’s project.

Recourse For Contractor Delays

Regardless of the reasons, many homeowners undergoing severe delays will get so frustrated they might ask themselves: “Can I sue for contractor delays?” or “should I send a warning letter for my contractor delays?”. In some cases, the contractor all but stops showing up to the job, and homeowners wonder what to do if a contractor doesn’t finish the job.

When a contractor is not performing up to your expectations in keeping a reasonable schedule, the first thing to try is to have a quiet, rational conversation about your concerns. Ask to sit down with them in person and be prepared with notes about specific project delays you witnessed. Also, make sure to be tactful and kind. Explain nicely but firmly that you are paying a lot of money for this remodel and there are a number of reasons that construction delays are negatively impacting your life.

Tell the contractor you are willing to compromise on completion timing, but you want a schedule that is reasonable to you. Remind them that you both want the same thing…to get the project completed and get them fully paid.
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Keep in mind your goal is to get the project completed ASAP, so if you decide to sue a contractor for delays, that will only stop your project until the lawsuit is resolved, and the costs involved in a lawsuit are prohibitive. Plus, the odds are against you getting a good outcome or a significant monetary settlement.

Also, you can decide to fire your contractor and bring in a new one to finish the project, but keep in mind this action will create a contractor dispute and come with a whole new set of headaches. However, if a contractor doesn’t finish the job, you may certainly report your contractor or make a claim with their Surety Bond or the contractor’s state license board or even file a lawsuit.

Before taking any of these drastic steps, you should consider emailing or sending the contractor a warning letter for delays. A first warning letter for delays should be ‘gently’ worded so that the contractor isn’t offended but will hopefully take it seriously enough to resolve the issue.  An example of a first warning letter is below:

 

Formatting a Warning Letter for Contractor Delays


Gentle Warning Letter

Contractor Business Name

Contractor Address

Re: ________________ (job address)

Dear Mr/Mrs: ______________:

I’m writing this letter about the work your company has been performing at my home.  I appreciate all the progress that has been made to date, but our expectation was the project would be much further along by now.  We’ve noticed such issues as:

  • Very small crews on the job
  • Workers showing up late, leaving early or gone (to stores or lunch) for long periods
  • Some days, crews have neglected to show up at all
  • Difficulty contacting/communicating with you and your representatives

I’m sure that you and your crews are very busy these days and I’m trying to be understanding.  However, considering the previous delays I’ve endured, I must insist that you prioritize my job ahead of your others.  My hope is that you can work with me to resolve all the above issues as follows:  Please have a crew of at least __ workers at our house every weekday between the hours of 8am-5pm (no missed days and no long store visits or lunches).  Also, I ask that you please respond to my texts/calls/emails within 24 hours.  I expect that with this commitment, you can be done with our project by __________.

I’m very hopeful that you can understand my frustration and that you will do everything above to help ensure timely completion of the project.  If you do so, I will be a happy customer and will commit to provide you a good referral, post positive reviews online and get you paid in a timely manner.

Thank you for your attention.


Hopefully this letter will get the contractor’s attention and start a fruitful dialogue to get the project back on schedule.  Your job will be to keep a close eye on the project’s crew to ensure that the contractor is keeping up with his commitment.  If, after a week or two, you’re finding that there continue to be issues with contractor delays, you may need to send a second, more strongly worded warning letter for delays….sample below:


Firm Warning Letter

Contractor Business Name

Contractor Address

Re: ________________ (job address)

Dear Mr. ______________:

I’m writing you this second letter about the work your company has been performing at my home.  As we’ve already discussed, my expectation was the project would be much further along by now.  We’ve noticed the following issues continuing to cause delays:

  • Very small crews on the job
  • Workers showing up late, leaving early or gone for lunch for long periods
  • Some days, crews have neglected to show up at all
  • Difficulty contacting/communicating with you and your representatives

Considering the previous delays that I’ve endured, I must insist that you prioritize my job ahead of your others.  My expectation is that you resolve all the above issues as follows:  Please have a crew of at least __ workers at our house every weekday between the hours of 8am-5pm (no missed days and no extra long lunches).  Also, please respond to my texts/calls/emails within 24 hours.  I expect with this commitment, you can be done with our project by __________.    If you do so, I will be a happy customer and will commit to provide you a good referral and post positive reviews online.

If you can’t commit to the above resolution and I continue to experience delays, I will have no choice but to take one or more of the below actions:

  • Withhold further payment until more progress is made
  • Ask you to stop work and hire someone else to finish the job
  • Write negative reviews about your firm at online sites such as Yelp, HomeAdvisor, etc.
  • File a complaint with the state licensing board or Attorney General

I would rather not take any of these actions. I’m certain both of us want the same thing: to get this project completed and paid. Please confirm that you will take the necessary actions immediately to get this project back on track and completed quickly.

Thank you for your attention.

Check out the other parts of this series to learn to deal with contractor delays:

Part 1 –  How to Spot a Bad Contractor Before It’s Too late

Part 2 – Dealing with Contractor Delays

Part 3 – Contractor’s Poor Workmanship: How You Can Deal With It

Part 4 – How To Deal With Contractors Overcharging You

Part 5 – 8 Secrets About Working With Contractors


When it comes to avoiding contractor delays and finding a reputable contractor for your project – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish. Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com

We Make It Easy To Find A Great Contractor

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