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Think You Need to Fire Your Contractor? 5 Steps to Do it Right

March 8th, 2023 | 6 min read

By Michael Flory

Two people holding coffee and examining an agenda

Remodeling your home is an exciting time. You look forward to seeing your dream project come to life. However, when things start to go wrong because of your contractor, it can be stressful for you and your family.

To save your project and sanity, you may feel your only recourse is to fire your contractor. While this may seem like a straightforward process, you’ll want to be careful and take this action only when necessary.

As a remodeling company with extensive experience managing and constructing projects, we value not only creating beautiful and functional spaces but making sure your construction experience is as positive as possible.

Firing your contractor can get expensive and will likely leave your home in disarray as progress on your project suddenly comes to a halt. For these reasons, it should be a last resort.

If you feel you have no other recourse, you’ll want to make sure you’re firing your contractor for the right reasons and that you go about it in the right manner.

In this article, you’ll learn when it is and isn’t appropriate to fire your contractor and five steps you can take to minimize stress, time delays, and financial loss:

When it’s appropriate to fire your contractor

Poor Project Planning and Management

Progress on your project is delayed or halted due to contractor faults. If your contractor stops making progress or is falling way behind an agreed-upon schedule, it may be time to let them go.

Gross mismanagement of time and resources that result in unacceptable delays are contractor faults that may be appropriate reasons to let them go.

Poor Communication of Project Phases and Deliverables

Your contractor does not communicate about timeline, key deliverables, and other big changes. While some delays are normal, not communicating with you about them is a problem.

Communication is crucial to a positive remodeling experience. Your contractor should be keeping you in the loop about project schedule changes or delays whether they are in or outside of their control.

A Breach of Contract Occurs

If your contractor is not following the terms of your contract or scope of work, it is appropriate to fire your contractor. These contracts explicitly outline the details of your partnership with your contractor and the work they are doing on your home. 

Contracts are legally binding agreements and breaking them is a serious concern. Intentional violation of these agreements is a valid reason to let a contractor go.

Violations of Building Codes or Regulations

Your contractor is committing egregious violations of building codes or regulations. Discovering that your contractor is intentionally violating building codes or regulations to cut corners is grounds for firing them. 

A routine building inspection may require certain changes to comply with local rules. This is a normal occurrence and isn’t cause for letting a contractor go. However, if the offenses are egregious enough, firing your contractor may be best for your safety and the success of the project.

Your building inspector can point out these offenses and recommend if they are serious enough to warrant dismissal. Examples of egregious violations include:

  • Not obtaining a permit before construction

  • Operating with a suspended or no builder’s license 

  • Installing dangerous electrical work that poses a fire hazard

  • Building structural framing that is bound to fail under normal conditions

When it isn’t appropriate to fire your contractor

Personal Grievances With Your Contractor

Personal grievances have built up between you and your contractor. While having disagreements with or complaints about your contractor can make your remodeling experience a hassle, these don’t necessarily warrant dismissing them.

If your contractor is making progress on your project goals and maintaining communication with you, you should find a way to work through personal grievances rather than fire them, because the potential hassle of doing so can be great.

However, if these issues become outright offensive (i.e. sexual harassment) or potentially harmful to your family, then you should not hesitate to fire your contractor.

Remodeling Stress

You are experiencing normal stress and frustration created by your home being under construction. While your home is undergoing construction, it’s normal to feel stressed as your environment and routine are temporarily disrupted.

You may feel upset or angry that your home is in a state of disarray while your project is being completed. If this happens, clear communication is key to resolving these issues between you and your contractor. 

Your daily routine is going to be affected by construction in your home. By communicating with your contractor, you may be able to make adjustments and minimize some of this normal stress, rather than taking the extreme step of firing them.

Minor Contractor Mistakes

Your contractor has made minor mistakes that can be corrected. If your contractor makes minor mistakes that can be fixed, it is probably not wise to fire them. It's important to communicate with them and give them a chance to correct the mistake before terminating their services.

There are a lot of details involved in remodeling a home. Small errors are a normal part of any remodeling process. Mistakes that are correctable and not dangerous fall within the normal scope. 

Unforeseen Circumstances

Your project is delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. With any project, things can happen that neither you nor your contractor could predict. These can include:

  • Emergencies that prevent construction crews from working

  • Delays in the delivery of materials due to supply chain issues

  • Unexpected delays because of dangerous, inclement weather

Resolving issues between you and your contractor before deciding to fire them

Taking steps to effectively solve problems between you and your contractor can help prevent your situation from reaching a point where firing them is your only recourse.

Firing your contractor is a serious decision which can result in costly and permanent consequences. You’ll want to try every possible solution before pursuing this remedy.

Having open and honest communication with your contractor can bring light to conflicts or grievances. It can help to find mutual solutions that can prevent your relationship from getting to the breaking point.

You may discover in these conversations that some issues are the result of your actions. Micromanaging construction crews, making it difficult for them to progress on your project, and not giving them access to your home are examples of how your actions can lead to problems between you and your contractor.

Many problems can be solved through a mutual agreement between yourself and your contractor. 

However, if after you have tried every other possible option, you find that your only solution is dismissing your contractor, you’ll want to make sure you take well-advised steps for doing so.

5 steps to fire your contractor

If you determine that it is necessary to fire your contractor, you’ll want to follow a careful and thorough process in order to minimize project damage and personal frustration.

1. Document the reasons for termination

You’ll want to have a written record of all the reasons you’re firing your contractor. This documentation should include any breaches of contract, lack of progress, poor workmanship, communication issues, and any other problems that have led to your decision to terminate the contract.

Keeping a written record can be helpful in case any legal action is necessary for the future. It's also important to have this documentation ready to share with the contractor during the termination process.

2. Carefully review the termination clause in your contract

Make sure you understand the terms of the contract and the termination clause if there is one.

In a home remodeling contract, the termination clause may outline the reasons for which the homeowner or the contractor can terminate the agreement. 

For example, your contract may include provisions for termination due to a breach of contract, failure to meet project milestones or timelines, or unforeseen circumstances that make it impossible to complete the project.

A termination clause can protect both parties in a contract by providing a clear framework for how the termination will be handled. It can help prevent disputes and misunderstandings by ensuring that both parties understand the circumstances under which the contract can be terminated and the consequences of termination.

3. Notify your contractor of their dismissal

This should be done in writing and should include the reasons for termination, the date of termination, and any other relevant details. It's important to remain professional and avoid emotional language. Keep your communication clear and concise.

Be sure to include relevant evidence in the termination notification. Providing your contractor with this information is important to effectively communicate the reasons for terminating your contract.

4. Arrange a meeting with your contractor

During this meeting, you should review your contract terms and the reasons for termination. It's also a good idea to have a neutral third party, such as a mediator, present during the meeting. This can help keep the discussion focused and civil.

At this meeting, discuss the return of any tools or building materials that don't belong to you. This helps ensure that the contractor can continue to operate their business and complete other projects. 

It also prevents any potential legal issues that may arise if you hold onto items that don't belong to you. You may feel entitled to keep equipment that belongs to your contractor if they have managed your project and money poorly. However, this isn’t a legal way to handle your frustration.

5. Prepare for potential legal action

If the contractor sues you, it's important to seek legal advice and prepare a defense. You'll need to gather all relevant documents and information related to the project, including the contract, correspondence with the contractor, invoices, and payment statements. 

You should also be prepared to provide evidence of any breaches of contract or other issues that led to the termination of the contract.

If you decide to sue the contractor, you'll need to file a complaint with the appropriate court and serve the contractor with a legal notice. 

This will begin the legal process, which may include mediation, arbitration, or a trial. It's important to consult with a lawyer to ensure that you have a strong case and that all legal requirements are met.

Next steps to begin firing your contractor

Deciding to fire a home remodeling contractor can be difficult. This decision can be especially tricky because your money and unfinished project are on the line.

This article has provided you with information to help you gain a better understanding of when it's appropriate to fire a home remodeling contractor and how to do it properly. This can help you make a more informed decision and protect yourself legally.

As an experienced remodeling contractor, we have helped many people complete their projects after the unfortunate scenario of firing their contractor. We understand the frustration and anxiety such problems cause. We want you to have a positive remodeling experience and hope that by sharing our insight you will be able to get your project completed and your life back on track.

If you’re looking for a remodeling contractor to help you get your project completed after firing your previous builder, reach out to our team of remodeling experts. We’d be happy to discuss how we can help you.

To learn about how to find the right contractor for your project, read the following:

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Michael Flory

Michael brings over 2 decades of building and remodeling experience to his position as the Owner and Visionary of Custom Built. Michael’s passion to make an impact on the home building industry has led him to serve for over ten years at the local and state Home Builders Association, culminating as President of the HBA of Michigan in 2020.