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Handling a dispute with your contractor

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When you hire a London, Ontario home builder, or a home builder anywhere for that matter, it can be stressful and overwhelming. You are taking a leap to build a custom home, and with that, you probably have some pretty big expectations. That’s normal and expected any time you’re dealing with something as important as where you’re going to live with your family. 

There are, at times, disputes that can arise with your contractor, however. This is often a normal part of the process, and it can be because of miscommunication or simply because your contractor doesn’t see the same vision as you. 

It’s not necessarily that you should aim to avoid all disputes when you’re building a home because that may not be realistic. What’s more important is how you handle disputes if they do arise. 

With that in mind, the following are tips and things to know if you find yourself in a disagreement and you aren’t sure what steps to take. 

1. Take a Few Deep Breaths

Building a home is stressful and expensive, and that can bring out the worst in homeowners. If you feel your temperature rising with your contractor, before you do anything else, take a step back and give yourself some time for a few deep breaths. 

If you respond right away with anger, it can end up creating delays in your project. It can damage your relationship with your contractor going forward, and there may be better solutions that are available. 

If you have to step away before you talk to your contractor, do so. It’s never productive to enter into a conversation at the height of your anger. 

2. Read Your Contract

Once you’ve taken a step back, it’s time to assess the situation. Sometimes, you may be dealing with a contractor who actually is the problem, but there are also situations where there are misunderstandings, and no one is necessarily the “bad guy.” 

Before you say anything, go over your contract. Your contract should address all the various aspects of the job. It should include details on the scope of work, the timeline, and the expected completion date, and it should also include a section on the procedure for dealing with disputes. 

Keep in mind that even with the best contractors, there are often changes that come up in the middle of the project. This is the nature of construction. 

As you’re reading the contract and thinking about what your issue is, you have to ask yourself whether or not it’s something that was unavoidable. 

3. Define What Your Issue Is, Specifically

Once you’ve gone over your contract, you’ll probably have a better idea of specifically what your issue is and potentially how your contractor has veered away from what you expected. 

At this point, think about the issue that you have in specific terms, and write it down. Before you talk to your contractor, you want to be clear with yourself about where you feel like your project went wrong. 

If you’ve had previous conflicts with your contractor, don’t bring them up in this conversation. You want to keep things clear and on track. 

When you’re writing down your issue, jot down some of the facts of the situation as well. 

4. Have a Conversation with Cooperation In Mind

When you have a clear head, you can ask your contractor to have a conversation with you. 

You want to sit down with just them. You don’t want to get into an argument in front of other people, including their subcontractors and people who work for them. 

You want to keep things professional and non-confrontational. 

You may find that if you have a conversation, you’re able to work things out with your contractor and come to an agreement or a place of understanding. 

A simple conversation can resolve a lot more than you might initially think, especially when miscommunication is involved. 

The earlier on you can have an amicable conversation, the better. 

It’s very often the case that your contractor is completely unaware that there’s a problem at all. 

When you have a conversation, avoid placing blame and make sure that you’re listening. Too often, when we’re frustrated, we’re just waiting for the other person to stop talking without actually listening, so we can jump right back into the conversation and disagree. 

Be polite and try to hear what your contractor is saying because you might learn what actually went wrong and be better prepared to come up with ways to fix the issue. 

If you can come up with a plan during this conversation, put it in writing. Email a copy of the plan to your contractor and yourself. 

5. Out-of-Court Options

The hope is that by the time you reach this point, you’ve worked things out with your contractor. 

If not, there are still things you can do. 

One is hiring a mediator. There are companies that specialize in construction mediation if you feel like things have gone too far, or you’re not going to be able to see eye-to-eye with your contractor. 

During mediation, a neutral third party steps in to try and help you reach a resolution. 

The downside of mediation is that it’s not binding, so you don’t have to accept the proposed settlement. There’s another option which is binding arbitration. 

The last resort should always be court. This will be the most stressful and expensive for everyone involved. 

You also have to remember, if you haven’t hired a contractor yet, that if you do your due diligence, you can avoid the risks of working with a bad apple. Most contractors are highly professional and take their work seriously. Do the legwork early on in the hiring process. Check reviews and references and look at the past work of a contractor before making a hiring decision. 

Make sure you’re choosing someone who represents themselves professionally, and you’re less likely to find yourself in a situation where they truly aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. 

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Latest Issue

BDC 318 : Jul 2024