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We have a home remodeling project. How can we go about cancelling this contract and stopping work at this point in the project?

San Francisco, CA |

We made a contract with a contractor and being new to remodeling, forgot to add a start and completion date. We did have a verbal agreement that it would be done in a month. The contract consisted of foundation repair, kitchen remodeling, and bathroom remodeling. It was more of a payment agreement. The agreement was after the city inspection pass, the payment would be due. We found out after the foundation repair that the contractor was cutting corners and doing a sloppy job. We have pointed this out and he has not done anything about it. At this point we are frustrated with the contractor and he has stopped all work for a week now. We are wondering if we can terminate the contract at the foundation portion. We have already paid him for his work on the foundation portion. Please advise

Attorney Answers 3


You have not indicated whether or not the contractor has a contractor's license. You may want to contact the California Department of Consumer affairs Contractors State License Board and report the issue to them. They should be able to assist you. A second suggestion would be to contact a consumer law attorney if the Contractors State License Board is not helping you soon enough. Good luck.

Mr. Crosner is licensed to practice law in California and has been practicing law in California since 1978. The response herein is general legal and business analysis.. It is not intended nor construed to be "legal advice" but rather it is analysis, and different lawyers may analyze this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

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Tell the contractor that you are going to seek the assistance of CSLB to resolve your differences if you cannot work the problems out with mutual good faith and prompt dedication to completion. If that doesn't get the ball rolling in just a few days, do that. Here is the complaint info:

If the contractor is not licensed you are entitled to a full refund of ALL money paid, even if some or all of the work is sound.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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Don't attempt to cancel the contract without having it reviewed by an experienced construction lawyer with knowledge of the history of the project.

California's Home Improvement Laws provide broad protection to homeowners, pursuant to Business & Professions Code Sections 7159 and 7159.5. Violation of the rules may constitute a misdemeanor, and make the contract voidable by the homeowner.

Among other things, a home improvement contract must state the approximate start date and completion date, and it must be in writing, signed by the contractor and the homeowner prior to commencement of any work.

Your explanation states: "it was more of a payment agreement." California law requires a reasonably specific description of the materials to be used and services to be rendered, i.e., a written scope of work. In other words, California Home Improvement Contracts Should be more like construction contracts then "payment agreements."

Implied in remodeling and construction contracts is a term that the contractor will perform the work according to the prevailing standard of care. Where the workmanship falls below the standard of care, the contractor has committed a material breach of contract. In most instances, a material breach will justify termination, especially where the contractor is provided notice of the breach and an opportunity to cure (here, the explanation states "we have pointed this out and he is not done anything about it"). An owner may also be justified in terminating a contract where the contractor has abandoned the project without good cause.

Most contractors are unaware of the fact that California allows a contractor to recover lost profits where an owner breaches a contract by wrongfully ejecting the contractor from the project. The typical result, instead, is that the contractor is simply paid the reasonable value of the services rendered.

These comments are for general informational purposes and do no constitute legal advice. A number of other technicalities may affect the outcome of this matter. Consult an experienced California construction lawyer for advice about the specific facts of your case and your rights.

Good luck,
Ed Cross

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