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How long do I need to wait before I can claim that the general contractor abandoned the project (bathroom remodel)?

California

General contractor was hired for remodeling of bathrooms. Project with numerous delays and need to correct problems and mistakes. I have made all timely progress payments and even advanced paymemts per contractor request due to the delays and need for payment of materials. Now contractor is refusing to continue unless additional monies are paid. He is claiming additional work being done are order changes which requires additional payment, as the work is costing too much and he is in his own words "out of money". He is referring to changing shower valve/fixtures and associated plumbing/tile work as the newly installed shower fixtures were making water hammer noises and even resulted in water leakage. He had previously already agreed to make the changes and is halfway through that portion. He also installed grout over a portion of the tile being installed, but the grout was far too light and did not match the sample stick. His crew was informed and removed the grout but the contractor became furious about that. He never mentioned these additional work were order changes until now, and there are no written order changes for what he is contending. My contention is that these are simply corrective action for problem arising during the remodel. The contractor is now refusing to come work and also not responding to emails and texts. I would like to know how long I need to wait before claiming abandonment and so I can find alternative people to finish the remodel, and to also file complaint with CSLB. Thank you

1 reply

Dec 3, 2018
That's a good question, and I'm sorry to hear about these problems with your remodel. The California Business and Professions Code does not specifically set out a time frame for when a contract is considered "abandoned", and the California Civil Code does not appear to strictly set out a time frame for this either. Instead, it may be a better idea to determine whether a project has been "abandoned" by the actions of the contractor without a legal excuse. If it's apparent that the contractor has no intention of returning to the job, and if the contractor has removed there equipment from the site, there could be a fair argument that they have abandoned the work. However, it's worth noting that not-every extended absence from the job site will constitute abandonment - especially if the contractor intends to return to the project. For clarity, reaching out to the contractor and asking whether they intend to return to the project could be a good first step. If they ignore that message as they have with other messages, that might serve as a basis that the contractor has abandoned the work. Further, it might serve to indicate that the owner considers the project as abandoned if the owner files a Notice of Cessation. In California, a Notice of Cessation is available for owners to file if their contractor has ceased work, and it works to shorten the time period for mechanics lien filings. While shortening the period for lien may not be the ultimate goal here, potentially, a Notice of Cessation could serve as a way to indicate that the project has been considered abandoned. Further, it's worth noting that if work is not being performed as required by the contract - be that due to project specifications or timeframes - there's a chance that the contract has been breached and that an owner need not wait for abandonment to bring in another contractor to finish the work. Plus, if the contractor has been completely paid to-date, it might be hard for them to argue that they've been damaged by bringing on someone else to finish the job. Lastly, it could be helpful to reach out to a local construction attorney or the CLSB - they may be able to provide more particular information regarding job abandonment in California.
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