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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>There was no signed formal contract with my contractor. He abandoned a job that was faulty and incomplete. I hired other professional to complete and correct his work. I did not contact him after his abandonement. Was I obligated to do so, inorder to give him the opportunity to come back and corrct/finish the job?

There was no signed formal contract with my contractor. He abandoned a job that was faulty and incomplete. I hired other professional to complete and correct his work. I did not contact him after his abandonement. Was I obligated to do so, inorder to give him the opportunity to come back and corrct/finish the job?

New YorkConstruction Contract

There was no signed formal contract with my contractor. He abandoned a job that was faulty and incomplete. I hired other professionals to complete and correct his work. I did not contact him after his abandonement. Was I obligated to do so, inorder to give him the opportunity to come back and corrct/finish the job?

1 reply

Jun 28, 2019
That's a tough question, particularly where there's no written contract in place, without knowing how long the contractor left the job before it was considered "abandoned", and without better understanding the character of the project that was undertaken. Still, some general ideas will apply.

First, if a contractor hasn't performed as agreed upon, there's a chance that the contractor has breached their contract. Particularly, if they've left the project for such a long time that it was considered "abandoned", and if they failed to communicate or indicate that they'd return to the job, it'd seem like the contractor is in breach of their contract and an owner might be able to move on and hire someone else to complete the work. This is particularly true where the unfinished work is hazardous or would damage the property if it remained unfinished. Still, it's certainly a better idea to inform the contractor that they're being replaced due to nonperformance than it is to move on to some other contractor or professional without first giving notice.

If this was a home improvement project and the contractor was providing improvements costing more than $500, then New York's home improvement contract requirements will apply. Importantly, these provisions require that home improvement contracts be in writing. And, if a written contract wasn't used, then an owner might not be required to honor an alleged verbal agreement to perform work since a verbal agreement cannot meet the requirements for home improvement contracts. More on that here: How to Avoid a Renovation Nightmare (in New York).

Further, even in a situation where the project was commercial in nature, there's a fair chance that licensing rules apply to the project. And, licensing rules often require contracts be made in a certain form, and they always require that construction work be done in a workmanlike manner and relatively free from defects. So, if licensing rules apply, then there's another potential reason that the prior contractor might not be entitled to much. Still, informing a contractor that they've been terminated is always a better option than replacing them without saying anything. That way, at least the contractor is aware of what's going on with the project. It may not seem like they deserve it when they've allegedly abandoned a project, but it can save headaches down the line.

Now, it's worth noting that even when a contractor has poorly performed and breached their contract, New York generally recognizes the right to cure a breach of contract. Giannasca & Shook has a great article on that. But, where there are a littany of construction issues and when a contractor has completely abandoned the job prior to completion, giving that opportunity to cure might not be completely necessary - particularly if the contract wasn't properly entered into in the first place.
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