Help for Massachusetts homeowners hurt by a home improvement contractor who took your money and ran without starting any work, or who does not finish the job even though the contractor was paid.
Homeowners hire home improvement contractors expecting the work will be completed in full and on time. No one expects to get ripped off by a contractor who takes their money and takes off. Unfortunately, homeowners are often harmed by bad contractors. They get left with unfinished work and need to get their money back from the contractor.
If the contractor you hired took money for work he or she did not complete, your first step is to put the contractor on notice that he or she is in breach of your contract. You could choose to do this informally. However, hiring a lawyer and using formal methods offers greater protection and usually provide better results when there has been a breakdown in a business relationship. Bad contractors who take money they did not earn do not often return it without legal intervention.
A lawyer will also help you prepare to combat any excuses the contractor may attempt to make about why he or she has not completed the job. There are two primary ways that a contractor will try to justify leaving the work unfinished. First, the contractor may argue that the homeowner breached the agreement first. This argument is typically made if the homeowner hasn't made payment as agreed or has prevented access to the home. When this is the case, the homeowner may end up having to defend a lawsuit brought by a contractor. Another common excuse contractors try to make for unfinished work is arguing something outside their control made performance impossible.
Sometimes the home improvement contractor does not fully abandon the job. The contractor may work sporadically, showing up to do work one day but not returning the next day. If a contractor has left any of his or her property at the home, such as tools or equipment, then it may be a sign the contractor intends to finish the work. Nevertheless, homeowners may be left wondering when the contractor will return to complete the job. When homeowners reach out to the contractor and push to see progress, the contractor may show up and do a little work to appease the homeowner but then quickly disappear again.
Homeowners don't have to be stuck in a bad position. Even if the contractor hasn’t abandoned the job, homeowners can take legal action and sue the home improvement contractor for unreasonable delays and breach of contract. The Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Law requires home improvement contracts over $1,000 to be in writing and include a complete date for the project. Failure to complete the work by the agreed upon date may allow the homeowner to sue the contractor for delays. Even if there was not a written contract, a homeowner can still sue the contractor for unreasonable delays.
When Homeowners feel like the contractor stole their money because they paid for work the contractor does not perform, often they will need to take legal action to get their money back from the contractor. Learn more in this downloadable resource “Three Options for Homeowners Hurt by a Home Improvement Scam.”
If the contractor took money without doing any work, then the homeowner is entitled to receive a refund for the full amount paid. If the contractor performed some work before abandoning the job and that work was completed properly, then the homeowner may recover the amount paid minus the fair value of the work completed. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to mitigate your damages by hiring another contractor to complete the job. When this occurs, the homeowner may also recover the cost to complete the project with another contractor.
There are several stages to a home improvement lawsuit. It typically begins with a demand for relief under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law. This law, known as Chapter 93A, requires homeowners put the contractor on notice and give the contractor an opportunity to offer a settlement before filing a lawsuit. If a reasonable settlement is not offered, then the homeowner starts the lawsuit by filing a complaint explaining that the contractor took money for work he or she did not complete. The contractor is required to respond with an answer to the complaint.
The next stage is called discovery. During discovery both sides gather the information and evidence needed to prove their case. Either side may file motions and attempt to have the judge rule in their favor without going to trial. If the judge does not grant the motions, then the case proceeds to trial. Both sides will have an opportunity to present witnesses and information. If the homeowner is able to prove the contractor abandoned the job, then a decision is made about how much money the homeowner gets from the contractor.
Walckner Law Office provides a no-cost initial consultation. Discuss your home improvement contractor claim with a lawyer today.
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