How to sue a contractor for defective work

Suing a contractor for defective work takes serious consideration and is the last resort. Contractor lawsuits are costly, complex and often take time to fully resolve.

Before making a step into the legal justice, try to ironout the issues. To take legal action for against a contractor you need to be able to prove it. Often shoddy work and stolen money are the main reasons why one might want to sue a contractor. Have a document proving all problems thoroughly and send a demand letter detailing issues and reasonable expectations for fixing them. If unsatisfactory work remains unresolved, consult a construction attorney—they can advise if you have solid grounds for a lawsuit.

The litigation process is slow and costly, so weigh the time/expense against potential remedies. With sufficient evidence and legal representation, court action may be warranted against an uncooperative contractor who breached the contract through poor workmanship.

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George Nicola

George is a seasoned interior designer and property marketing strategist with over 13 years of experience. He specializes in transforming properties into visually stunning spaces, helping clients recognize the potential and beauty in each property. With an impressive international client base of exciting projects throughout Europe and America.

Dealing with a contractor who fails to complete work properly or on time can be incredibly frustrating and financially burdensome.

However, there are legal steps you can take to hold them accountable if talks to rectify shoddy work break down.

In this blog post, you will learn how to sue an unlicensed contractor and why a contractor fails to follow guidelines and ends up with unfinished work, becoming a lousy contractor.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general informational and educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. The author is not providing legal advice or creating an attorney-client relationship through this article. Consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for any specific legal questions about suing a contractor. Laws and procedures vary by state/country. This article discusses general legal principles, processes, and options but is not a substitute for professional legal counsel. You assume full responsibility for using any information from this article. The author is not liable or responsible in any way for any actions taken as a result of reading this article or related content.

  • Thoroughly document defects and attempts to resolve issues
  • Hire a construction law attorney to review options
  • File a breach of contract lawsuit if necessary
  • Remedies may include monetary damages or redoing work properly

When a signed contract is breached due to unsatisfactory contractor work, you may have to take legal action to protect your rights and investment. 

Read also: What to do when contractor does poor work

The Process to sue a contractor

When a signed contract is breached due to unsatisfactory contractor work, you may have to take legal action to protect your rights and investment. Here is an overview of the process:

Gather Evidence of Bad Workmanship

  • Take detailed photos and videos showing defective work
  • Check the contractor licensing
  • Get written inspection reports assessing problems
  • Keep records of all repair costs and project delays
Play Video about Two construction workers standing in a construction site.

“Document everything related to defects, expenses, and attempts to directly resolve with the contractor.”

Send a Formal Demand Letter

  • Specify defects and reasonable expectations for fixing them
  • Provide a deadline for response and action
  • State intent to pursue legal action if unresolved

Consult a Construction Law Attorney

  • Review options like mediation, arbitration, or lawsuit
  • Decide if small claims court is appropriate
  • Attorney assists with paperwork and process

File a Lawsuit Against the Contractor

  • Common claims include breach of contract, fraud, negligence
  • Court rules on evidence and testimony arguments

Remedies May Include:

  • Monetary damages
  • Order for contractor to redo work properly
  • Attorney fees and court costs

Documenting Case Against the Contractor and Construction Defects

If a contractor fails to complete work properly, taking steps to thoroughly document the issues is key to getting recourse. Careful records lay the groundwork if you eventually need to take legal action.

Gather Evidence to Sue a Contractor of Poor Workmanship

  • Take photos and videos showing defective or incomplete work. Get close-ups of any visible flaws.
  • Get written inspection reports from independent experts assessing the problems and necessary repairs.
  • Keep detailed records of all costs related to the defective work like materials for fixes, billable hours for repairs, and project delays.

“The more evidence you have of attempts to resolve issues and damages incurred, the better.”

  • Document any attempts to directly resolve the problems with the contractor through emails, texts, and certified letters.
  • Organize everything related to the defective work chronologically in a dedicated file.
A man working with a circular saw in a workshop.
A man working with a circular saw in a workshop.

What to Expect from a Delinquent Contractor

Many contractors will try to rectify issues, but some may disappear or refuse to fix subpar work. Understanding potential scenarios prepares you to take action.

  • The contractor may claim external factors caused defects.
  • They may deny responsibility or try to blame the client.
  • Some will outright refuse to return to the job site or complete work properly.

Don’t let a difficult contractor escape accountability. Be ready to enforce their legal obligations, like timely completion. With sufficient documentation, you can consult a construction attorney about options to recover damages for breach of contract.

Sending a Demand Letter to the Contractor

Before pursuing legal action, a demand letter is a critical step for formally communicating expectations and attempting resolution with a negligent contractor. A detailed, professional letter puts them on notice and strengthens your position if you need to seek remedies in court.

Key Reasons to Send a Demand Letter

  • Specify defects clearly – Provide dates, photos, inspection reports and costs related to inferior or incomplete work.
  • Outline reasonable expectations for rectifying issues within a set timeline, such as materials, access, workers, etc.
  • Establish a paper trail documenting your good faith efforts to resolve matters directly.
  • Prompt action before limits expire – Many claims have statutes of limitations.
  • Avoid litigation risks if contractor complies with demands.

What to Include in the Letter

  • Detailed description of the defects – Make it impossible to misunderstand the problems.
  • Overview of previous attempts to resolve – Notes conversations, written communications, etc.
  • Reasonable expectations and deadline – Be firm but fair in setting terms.
  • Consequences for failing to respond – State your intent to pursue legal action.
  • Supporting documentation – Photos, reports, invoices, signed contracts.

“The demand letter demonstrates you’ve done everything possible before pursuing remedies in court.”

What to Expect after Sending

Hope for the best, but be prepared if the contractor ignores the letter or refuses your demands.

  • They may contact you immediately to resolve matters.
  • Contractor could negotiate timeline, terms, but commit to repairs.
  • Some will delay responding until the deadline nears.
  • Others will adamantly deny any responsibility.

With no response or failure to comply, your documentation can strengthen a claim in mediation, arbitration, or lawsuit. The demand letter shows the court you made every effort before pursuing legal remedies.

“The demand letter starts the paper trail for breach of contract claims.”

What to Expect from the Contractor

The contractor may agree to your demands, negotiate terms, or refuse to respond or take action. Understanding potential scenarios prepares you for next steps.

  • They may contact you immediately to resolve matters.
  • The contractor may delay responding until your deadline nears.
  • Some will ignore the letter or adamantly deny responsibility.

Don’t let lack of response derail accountability. With documentation and a demand letter, you can consult a construction attorney about options like mediation, arbitration, or lawsuit to recover damages.

Consulting a Construction Law Attorney

If a demand letter doesn’t resolve defective contractor work, a construction law attorney can review options and provide legal guidance. They assist with paperwork and the process if you pursue action like mediation, arbitration, or a lawsuit.

  • Review your documentation and demand letter. The attorney assesses the merits of potential breach of contract, negligence, or fraud claims.
  • Discuss options like mediation and arbitration to reach a settlement, or filing a lawsuit to let a court decide remedies.
  • Consider small claims court for minor disputes. For major defects, a higher court may be needed.
  • Ask about “success fees.” Some attorneys only collect if you win the case.

“An experienced construction law attorney fights for your rights.”

What to Expect from the Contractor

The contractor will likely hire their own lawyer. Expect them to argue against claims and evidence.

  • They may concede to some demands to avoid court.
  • Contractors often counter sue clients for unpaid bills, delays.
  • Cases may languish if contractors are uncooperative.

Pursuing arbitration or a construction defect lawsuit takes time and resources. An attorney builds the strongest argument to prove the contractor’s breach of contract, negligence, or shoddy workmanship on your project.

With sufficient documentation and legal advocacy, you can hold unscrupulous contractors accountable.

Filing a Construction Defect Lawsuit

Lawsuits are a last resort, but may be necessary if the contractor refuses to fix major defects or breaches the construction contract. An attorney can build a strong legal case to prove inferior workmanship and achieve remedies.

  • Document all substandard work with photos, expert inspection reports, and project costs. Thorough evidence is key.
  • Prove defects violate building codes with assessments showing the work fails to meet minimum standards.
  • Emphasize any use of inferior materials that do not match contract specifications.
  • Detail all attempts to resolve issues and the contractor’s failure to properly address concerns.

“Meticulous records lay the groundwork for a solid legal case.”

  • Note any lack of required licensing that may invalidate the contract.

What to Expect During Litigation

Expect continual negotiations and slow progress. The contractor may dispute evidence, blame the client, and counter sue.

  • Many cases settle before trial to limit risks and legal fees.
  • Trials often come down to battling expert witness testimonies.
  • The losing party frequently appeals the verdict.

Breach of contract claims in construction lawsuits hold negligent contractors accountable.

Though arduous, litigation may be the only recourse against an uncooperative contractor who fails to follow the contract and deliver quality workmanship. With strong documentation and legal advocacy, justice can be achieved.

Achieving Resolution Through Litigation

If you prevail in arbitration or a construction defect lawsuit, the ruling or settlement can provide remedies to recover losses from the contractor’s poor workmanship. Monetary damages and repair orders hold them accountable.

A man in a hard hat is working on a light bulb.
A man in a hard hat is working on a light bulb.

Potential Remedies Include:

  • Monetary compensation for all costs related to defective work, like materials, labor, delays.
  • Attorney fees and court costs if the contract or law allows fee recovery.
  • Order for repairs by the contractor or a third party to fix work per code.
  • Punitive damages in rare cases of gross negligence or misconduct.

“Don’t undertake litigation lightly, but see it through fully when necessary.”

  • License discipline if negligence or violations are proven. You can report issues to the state licensing board.
  • Future accountability as contractors want to avoid lawsuits that increase insurance rates.

What to Expect After a Ruling

The contractor may comply with repair orders and monetary awards promptly. But appeals or reluctant payment often delay results.

  • Your attorney may need to pursue judgments against assets, property if awards go unpaid.
  • Forced contractor repairs may still need close monitoring.
  • Full resolution can take months after a verdict.
Two construction workers looking at blueprints.
Two construction workers looking at blueprints.

Thoroughly documenting inferior workmanship and hiring an experienced construction attorney sets the stage to prevail in arbitration or litigation when necessary. Though protracted, the legal process can hold negligent contractors accountable for breaching contracts and failing to deliver quality work. Justice brings closure.


Is it worth suing a contractor for poor workmanship?

Suing a contractor is a major undertaking, but may be worth it for significant defects in the work performed, breach of contract, or large losses. Thoroughly document inferior work and damages.

Consult an attorney on the merits of your case and options to recover losses. Lawsuits take time and money but hold negligent contractors accountable.

Two construction workers standing in a construction site.
Two construction workers standing in a construction site.

What kind of lawyer do I need to sue a contractor?

You need a construction litigation attorney experienced in contractor disputes and breaches. They will assess your documentation and written contract, provide guidance on mediation, arbitration and lawsuit options, and represent you every step of the legal process.

Find an attorney knowledgeable about contractor licensing laws and construction codes in your state.

How to hire a lawyer to sue a contractor?

If you need hire a lawyer to settle a contractor dispute to sue a contractor for poor workmanship, failure to finish a job, property damage, or other types of contract disputes, you would want to specifically hire a construction litigation lawyer or attorney. Some things to look for:

  1. Verify they focus a significant part of their practice on construction disputes and have direct relevant litigation experience – including actually taking contractor cases to trial previously if settlements talks fail. Courtroom experience with witnesses, evidence matters.
  2. Ask about their background dealing with your type of issue like permits, liens, escrows, bonding to ensure competency around the key concerns that apply to leverage in your case. Specializations help win specialized cases.
  3. Inquire if they handle plaintiff contractor lawsuit cases regularly or is their experience mostly defending contractor companies instead. You want someone well versed fighting FOR not against property owners on these matters.
  4. Discuss resources they provide to document your case effectively including filings as well ways to locate and prepare favorable expert witnesses like contract specialists or building inspectors to validate defects. Real-world subject matter expertise plus legal intelligence is key in construction lawsuits.
  5. Examine track record of recovering damages for clients in similar lawsuits and if they are willing to pursue your contractor vigorously through all dispute resolution options rather than pushing early low settlements. Aligned aggression and expectations matter when gearing up for potential extended legal battles.

How much does it cost to sue a contractor in UK with lawyer?

Suing a contractor in the UK can be an expensive process, with costs quickly escalating based on the complexity of the case.

While court fees to file a claim start relatively low, legal representation and additional costs mean even straightforward cases can cost thousands of pounds.

Court Fees: Fees to file a claim begin at £25 for claims under £300, rising to £410 for claims over £5,000 and 4.5% of the claim value for amounts over £10,000. Just initiating legal action requires outlaying these amounts upfront.

Legal Fees: Hiring a construction solicitor familiar with contractor disputes is advisable for most plaintiffs. Average solicitor hourly rates range from £150-£300+ per hour depending on experience and firm size. Even basic representation could cost £5,000-£10,000 or more depending on the duration and complexity of the case.

Expert Reports: Construction experts may be needed to assess defects and strengthen the claim. These specialists can charge £150-£500 per hour for analysis, site visits, and compiling evidence. Their findings are crucial to proving faulty workmanship.

Other Costs: Additional expenses may include fees for filing motions, court reporters, records access, travel, and other incidentals. Document management and copying costs also add up.

If you win, it may be possible to recover legal costs, but there are no guarantees. And if you lose, you could end up paying part of the contractor’s costs.

Weighing the merits of the case and potential damages vs. expected costs is essential before pursuing litigation against a contractor.

How much does it cost to sue a contractor in THE USA with A law firm?

The expenses involved in a construction lawsuit can vary substantially based on the court, damages sought, case complexity, and other factors. For example, if you find a new or unexperienced attorney, they may agree to work on a contingency fee basis, taking a percentage (often 25-45%) of any settlement or award if the case succeeds. But there is financial risk if unsuccessful.

Understanding the key costs is important when evaluating the merits of litigation.

Filing Fees: Initiating a lawsuit requires paying filing fees that range from $30 for small claims up to $500 for circuit court. Additional motion and request fees accrue.

Attorney Fees: Construction litigation attorneys often charge $200-$500+ per hour. A typical case may incur $15,000-$30,000 in attorney fees, while complex suits can exceed $100,000.

Experts: Technical experts may be needed for reports on defects and causation at $150-$500/hour. Their involvement is often critical to establish defective construction.

Other Costs: Deposition transcripts, evidence processing, travel, and other case expenses add up. Overall costs increase with case duration.

Contingency Fees: Some attorneys work on contingency, collecting 25-45% of any settlement/award. This avoids upfront legal fees.

Damages Sought: The more money sought, the greater the time and costs involved. Suits above $100k often become drawn-out.

Case Complexity: Unique claims or multiple defendants drive up costs through legal research and motions.

Location: Attorney rates and court fees are typically higher in major metro areas.

When evaluating suing a contractor, weigh the time and costs against the value of potential remedies awarded. Meticulous documentation helps justify pursuing litigation to recover losses from defective or incomplete work.

A budget-friendly service by Tallbox.

Need help with your remodelling project?

How much does it cost to sue a builder on a $250,000 renovation project?

Here is an estimate for suing a builder over defects on a $250,000 renovation project:

Filing Fees: Around $50-$100 to file a lawsuit in court depending on the jurisdiction.

Attorney Fees: Estimates indicate legal fees to prepare and litigate a construction defect complaint could range from $30,000 to $40,000 or potentially higher for a case of this size. Attorneys typically charge hourly rates of a few hundred dollars per hour.

Additional Costs: Further expenses may accrue for hiring construction experts, paperwork, case filings, negotiations, and going through lengthy litigation which could take months or longer.

Potential Award: If successful, the plaintiff may be able to recover 3 times the cost of defects or cost to repair, which could be a significant portion of the $250,000 project cost. Punitive damages may also be awarded.

Collecting on any judgement depends on the builder’s assets and insurance coverage. And even with a favorable verdict, the out-of-pocket legal costs may still be high for the plaintiff. Consultation with a construction attorney is vital to evaluate options. But suing over a $250,000 renovation has the potential for high litigation expenses.

5 types of legal advice for renovation projects

When undertaking home renovation projects, homeowners can seek legal advice in several key areas to protect their interests, including:

  1. Contract Law – Have an attorney review contracts with architects, contractors and suppliers to favorably address payment terms, work responsibilities, schedules, dispute resolution mechanisms, insurance obligations, performance warranties and defect remediations.
  2. Permitting & Code Compliance – Seek counsel to confirm municipal permits and inspections align with zoning laws while construction documents meet updated safety regulations to minimize liability risks if deficiencies arise later.
  3. Lien Impacts – Understand rights around mechanic’s liens if payments get contested and contractors seek collateral claims against the property for services provided. Legally minimizing risks is prudent.
  4. Tax Implications – A tax expert can detail state-specific laws around capital improvements possibly increasing assessed values and subsequent property tax levies over time even though investments stand to increase market values too. Weigh tradeoffs via informed projections.
  5. HOA Regulation Factors – If overhauling structures or properties subject to homeowners association oversight, verify planned modifications comply with regimes addressing architectural aesthetics and permissible enhancements outlined.