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My contractor doesn't want to complete the work, what should I do?

Santa Clara, CA |

I signed a contract to rebuild my deck and repair the balcony. The contractor, at the closing of deck build, stopped the work and requests more money saying he had unforeseen costs or he won't finish the balcony repair. I paid him each installment based on the milestone of project and still has last payment left which is to be paid at completion of whole project. What recourses do I have if he refuse to do the balcony? Can I withhold the last payment?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Best answer

    Your situation should be governed by the provision of your written contract with the contractor. I do not have a copy of the written contract so I cannot offer you any specific advice. Generally he needs to complete the project within the time parameter stated in the contract. If there are no time parameters then within a reasonable time. If he doesn’t perform within a reasonable time period, you should withhold the funds and notify him in writing that he has not performed and that you are going to hire another contractor and hold him responsible if it costs you any additional sums of money. Unless your contract provides otherwise, I can’t imagine why you would want to pay him for work and products he hasn’t produced nor performed.

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  2. If you have a written agreement and he is not following it, you would be able to terminate the contract and find someone else to finish. But if you each agree to modify the agreement, that can be done. If you are satisfied with the contractor's work and want him to finish, try and work it out with him. Maybe offering to pay for materials directly will help him out and keep your job on track.

  3. The contractor is not entitled to be paid for any work not actually completed. If he misjudged what it would cost him to complete the deck, that is no excuse for not completing it on time and for the agreed price. You can demand that he complete the work per contract and give him a reasonable deadline to return (like two business days), and if he refuses, you can hire someone else to complete it and backcharge the contractor for whatever you have to spend to do it. That ought to motivate the contractor to do the right thing. You may also contact the Contractors State License Board for a little persuasive assistance.

  4. The contractor is contractually obligated to do the work at the agreed price. Modifications of the contract, including a change in the contract price, generally require both parties to agree in writing. If the contractor continues to refuse to perform after a face-to-face discussion, a prudent next step would be to contact the Contractors State License Board. You are certainly within your rights to withhold final payment until the work is completed.

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