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how to prove and fight a contractor that abandoned the job

CaliforniaPayment Disputes

california General contractor was hired for whole house remodel, collected 20% deposit and was to be paid in phases upon completion of work. He kept collecting advance payments (taking advantage of someone who didn't know how the process worked). He was explicitly asked why he was taking advance payment and that it wasn't working out for us this way and he replied that it was the nature of the remodel. Took way over the proposed time frame and ultimately abandoned the project leaving a lot of work to be done. Refused to come back to work citing "money owed" however the money doesn't correspond with the actual work completed. He filed a mechanics lien, we filed a cslb complaint and a complaint with the bond company. Bond company says we terminated the contract because we refused to pay him, even after he abandoned the project we met with him to give him opportunities to come back which he refused to do. What is the most appropriate way to prove that he abandoned the project and what violation codes can be cited? He left the house in shambles with a lot of HVAC and electrical hazards/issues including a lot of shoddy work that needed to be corrected. He told a neighbor that he was using this as a “fill in job” because he “underbid”.

8 replies

Jan 16, 2018
With a dispute this far along, it would be wise to seek counsel in deciding how to move forward. However, proving that a contractor abandoned a project and was not terminated from the job can be tough sledding under California Business and Professions Code 7107. Collecting and maintaining a file of all contact and interactions with the contractor will go a long way toward proving abandonment - namely, copies of written, email, and/or text message communications will be especially helpful. Further, documenting any and all deficient or incomplete work (before any necessary repairs or work is undertaken) will also provide valuable ammunition against the contractor. An affidavit of that neighbor's statements could be helpful, too.
9 people found this helpful
Feb 12, 2019
Matt's right in that it was probably best to enlist the assistance of counsel to determine a path forward, and I hope this situation was successfully worked out. For others that may be in the same situation, though, I can add a bit more info, below:

First, in the situation as described, it's worth noting that a Home Improvement Contract in California has many very strict requirements, you can read more about those here. One of these specific requirements is that: The down payment required by a Home Improvement Contract cannot be more than $1,000 or 10% of the contract amount, whichever is less, and the contract must include the following sentence in at least 12-point bold, CAPITAL type: “THE DOWN PAYMENT MAY NOT EXCEED $1,000 OR 10 PERCENT OF THE CONTRACT PRICE, WHICHEVER IS LESS." It is an additional requirement that the following statement also be included and followed: "IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR A CONTRACTOR TO COLLECT PAYMENT FOR WORK NOT YET COMPLETED, OR FOR MATERIALS NOT YET DELIVERED. HOWEVER, A CONTRACTOR MAY REQUIRE A DOWN PAYMENT."

A good move if it appears that a contractor has abandoned the project is to send a written notice to the contractor that s/he is in breach of the agreement, and that the homeowner will mitigate damages by hiring additional contractors to finish the work. Depending on the safety of the property if the work is substantially unfinished, the property owner may also need to deal with making sure homeowner's liability insurance is not cancelled and remains in effect.

In many cases, the only practical recourse the property owner has is to try to recoup the money from the contractor after the project is completed, including any extra amounts that the owner had to pay to additional contractors to finish and/or fix the work.

A complaint can be made with the Contractor's State License Board ("CSLB") regarding the contractor both for failure to include the proper provisions in the contract, and for other breaches. Business and Professions Code Section 7113 notes that a contractor may be disciplined for a "failure in a material respect on the part of a licensee to complete any construction project or operation for the price stated in the contract." Abandonment without a legal excuse under Section 7107 is penalty-worthy, but as Matt mentioned, a thorough paper-trail is generally required.

Abandonment of the project can be shown by, among other things, the contractor actually leaving the project and specifically relinquishing rights; by failing to pay subs sufficiently causing the subs to abandon the project; by breach of the contract and failure to cure such breach; or by refusing to communicate in a reasonable time.
21 people found this helpful
Aug 9, 2021
We had an ADU built with intentions to rent. We obtained a construction loan with Quickenloans, they used Land Gorilla to disperse the Funds. The contractor was eventually paid in Full and the contractor never completed the final permits. FYI: With open permits, we can't rent/sell or Refinance. After 5 months of excuses, blamed on: covid/city delays for permits, we took over the job and completed it at our expense, and with an additional $900/month mortgage increase from our construction loan. I forgot I even filed a complaint with the CSLB but still thank-full. (California Stare License Board), so I finally had some fire-power on my side. However, CSLB say they can't enforce anything because I went ahead and hired another contractor to correct the existing issues to pass final inspection, then no issues further remain, right? It's like a soap opera!
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Dec 9, 2022

I just received legal advice on this matter; if you have a contractor at fault, the best thing to do is: to call the licensing boards of the new city so they know the report of wrongdoing by the contractor and the matter known. , <a href="">The Wiki Inc</a> and the most likely license they receive; They can't do business anymore; they can't do it right! Every 1-2 years, they have to renew the tank, but with complaints especially for that, they will probably have a new business/love, if you will! So good luck to the entrepreneur who thinks you can rip off your customers, shame on you all! 

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Mar 28, 2023

I just got legal counsel on this issue. Calling the licensing boards is the best course of action if a contractor is at fault. Whether or not these laws are beneficial to businesses is a topic of constant discussion. Although some would consider it excessive, it actually protects the consumers. Additionally, it ensures that every business is handled fairly. Certainly, too much regulation can harm a business. It may prevent it from boosting the economy and bringing about job growth. You may go now here to read how U.S. Laws affect entrepreneurs. When it comes to national and federal law, it is better to stay current. You might contact a company lawyer if you are having trouble staying on top of the many regulations.

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Apr 21, 2023

You Can Sue a Contractor for Unfinished Work

Though it’s not likely to be your first option, you can sue a contractor for abandoning your project. However, you must be able to demonstrate that the individual contractor or company you’re suing failed to fulfill contractual duties. 

This means they:

  • didn’t complete the work as agreed upon (breach of contract), or
  • did a subpar job that fails to meet reasonable or industry standards.

You and your attorney will build a case around the specific job description in your contract. You should be ready to answer questions [pizza tower](, like: 

How much of the work did the contractor abandon in relation to the amount of work described in the contract?

How much did you pay for in relation to the amount of work completed?

Did the contractor have any cause, outlined in the contract, that would justify his abandonment of the project? Often the contractor’s first defense is that he was prevented from completing the project.

Do you know for certain the contractor has quit the project, or has some other factor caused an indefinite delay?

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Apr 21, 2023

 A little bit off- topic: Here are some tips to handling a contractor who won’t finish work:

Keep Lines of Communication Open 

You have work that needs finished, and a lot of money tied up in the project. So first, try to talk to your contractor and see if a resolution is possible. Can the contractor’s issues with your project be addressed with a temporary delay? Are you willing to mutually part ways with the contractor in return for a partial refund?

Document Everything

Keep a record of your attempts to contact your contractor. Save text messages and emails, regardless if the contractor replies to them. Pizza Tower is fun. Keep contemporaneous notes, save invoices, and back them up by taking photos of them with your smartphone.

If your contractor has walked off the job, you’ll want to take pictures of the state of the project. Hopefully you took photos before and during the work. Photos are important, not only for possible litigation, but to help a future contractor more easily pick up where the project left off.

Terminate the Contract

If you can’t work out a way to get your contractor back on the job, then you can end the work relationship. In fact, you can now treat the situation as a breach of contract by the contractor. 

Once one party — the contractor, in this situation — makes clear through words or actions that they do not intend to perform their contractual duties, this is called a “repudiation” of contract, which means you can immediately claim a breach of contract and seek legal remedies

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Jun 2, 2023

I have seen a lot of positive stories when people ask AI software to help with some issues and chat with flat owners, or attend job interviews. Maybe it is a good idea for your case. Although I noticed those programs are not so good in content writing and it's always better to have a professional service. As I don't want to write my paper on my own as I'm not gifted in writing and I'm always busy I use a writing service but a professional and trusted one. I think it is worth asking writing experts to write a letter or even letters to deal with contractors. They have all communication skills on a high level. 

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