Q: What should you do when a contractor is behind on a house build? Every completion deadline comes and goes with lots of excuses.
Cameron N., Central Point, Oregon
A: Delays can be extremely frustrating, especially when they occur multiple times during the same project. But postponements are common when you’re building a new home or adding to an existing house.
The best way to discourage delays is to work with a reputable, experienced company and to have a detailed job contract. Before you sign an agreement, be sure it includes language that expresses a firm completion date and the penalties involved if that date is not met.
However, many homebuilders will be leery of such language — and for good reason. Delays often result from factors beyond a contractor’s control, such as weather, a worker shortage or problems getting construction materials.
When dealing with delays, your first step is to meet with the contractor and discuss the causes and how soon the problems will be addressed.
Still, you can word the contract so you’re protected from delays that arise from other causes, such as work crews not showing up or leaving after just a few hours, or when the project manager never visits the job site or doesn’t return calls.
When dealing with delays, your first step is to meet with the contractor and discuss the causes and how soon the problems will be addressed. Walk through the job site, room by room, and have the builder show you where the issues are. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — or press the issue if your builder shrugs them off.
If this doesn’t solve the problems, seek legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in real estate or construction law. The lawyer can look over your contract and see if you have options for legal recourse. If completion-date language is in the contract and the builder has violated the terms, you may be entitled to get your deposit back and cancel the contract.
Sometimes the completion-date language will be included in the contract, but the builder also has a clause that allows for delays. However, a real estate lawyer might find other grounds for terminating the contract, such as the contractor not submitting proper paperwork to the building authority or a homeowners association. The mere threat of legal action might be enough to move a builder along.
These are extreme actions, though, and the best plan is to work out the issues amicably. Understand that if you have changed details — in which case you should always sign a change order — that will likely cause a delay. Meet your builder at the job site each week, if possible, to see what’s been accomplished and discuss any issues. This will help keep your project on track.
Angie Hicks is founder of www.AngiesList.com, provider of consumer reviews and services. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.