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I hired a general contractor to redo my stairs, remove mold, and remodel my bathroom. Can I sue him for not getting a permit?

Chicago, IL |

This GC may have caused structural issues in my house as he did not support the stairs properly. He also cut several joist and did not brace them properly. He encountered several plumbing and electrical issues which he said he sprung a leak while doing the stairs. I later found several leaks that he repaired with duct tape reducing and wrong size plumbing, and humming and burning electrical outlets. If the city comes out, they will have me to rip everything back out and I will be left with the cost. He was under contract and in the contract states, he is suppose to get permits. Is this covered under his insurance GC are required to carry? How do I prove he caused structural issues? Can I sue him for the cost of ripping out and replacing everything, as the city will require?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. You may have a case against the GC for breach of contract. Your best bet is to call a local lawyer who has experience in construction defect cases.


  2. You might also look into claims for negligence, fraud & misrepresentation.

    As for the rest, I mirror the advice already provided.

    The author provides the preceding information as a service to the public. Author's response, as stated above, should not be considered legal advice. An initial attorney-client conference, based upon review of all relevant facts/documents, will be necessary to provide legal advice upon which the client should then rely.


  3. You most likely have a case against the GC both for breach of contract and negligence. Generally you would have to seek recovery against the GC’s insurance and the GC to the extent there is any deficiency. I would need more information to give you a better sense of the extent of the damages that could be recovered. My firm handles construction disputes and if you would like to discuss the matter in detail please feel free to contact me.

    Anthony J. Zeoli
    Attorney At Law
    Hecht & Seidman, LLC
    (773) 983-9133
    azeoli@hechtseidman.com

    DISCLAIMER. The above post is provided solely for general informational purposes. Any information in the above post is NOT intended to be specific legal advice and should NOT be relied upon as such. NO attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of the above posting and I strongly urge you to seek the advice of competent legal counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


  4. All applicable building codes are considered to be included as a part of a construction contract. As such, if the contractor failed to perform the work in accordance with the applicable building codes, then the contractor may be in breach of the contract. As to whether the contractor's failure to perform its work in accordance with the building codes is covered under the contractor's insurance, that would depend on the language of the contractor's insurance policy.


  5. Under Illinois law, if you have a contract for construction work, your remedy is breach of contract. If you think about it, breaches can be "negligent" breaches, even "intentional". The beauty of contract remedies is that normally all you have to do is say "this is what they were supposed to do, this is what they did (for whatever reason) and it was wrong, causing me damages and I didn't contribute to the problems." Of course a real lawsuit needs to say more but that's the gist. Normally "negligence" (a tort) claims for situations like these are not allowed unless they amount to an "independent tort" - and fraud may be a claim but again, proving a contract breach is much simpler than proving fraud. Anyhow, you should have an attorney review the contract. If it was not in writing, that could create complications. As to permits, very often it is the owner's obligation to get permits but many owners don't know how to and rely on their GCs to "pull them" but this should also be part of the contract and who was supposed to pay the permit fees.... As to insurance the GC should have had Contractor's General Liability Insurance, workman's comp for his own payroll folks, auto insurance, and should have given you certificates from himself and subs, but most insurance today does NOT cover defective work. Here too owners normally are supposed to carry "Builder's Risk" insurance but contracts often shift this responsibility to the GC in residential jobs, You also should have been given lien waivers. There are a whole lot of things, so at this point you should take your paperwork to an attorney to review. But remember this: if the GC is a corporation or LLC and is that bad you can probably figure that if and when you get a judgment for your damages (being basically the cost of correcting everything wrong the GC did, for which you will have to be out of pocket), it is very possible that the GC will disappear or be "uncollectible".