Avoiding Failed Contracts

Having seen too many clients face shoddy contractual work and failed contracts, I have noticed patterns in these often-avoidable outcomes. Here are several guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. The Selection of the Contractor
    Having a friend tell you, “I have a friend who is a contractor; he’s a really nice guy” is not the way to choose. Rather, “My friend (or neighbor, relative) just had work done that was outstanding” is a much better start. You should check out the contractor’s website to see if you like what is there. It is also a good idea to find reviews from previous customers. Check the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) website to make sure the contractor is licensed and does not have outstanding complaints.

  2. The DPOR
    The DPOR legislation was passed for your protection. If a contractor licensed by the DPOR fails to finish your job and files for bankruptcy, the DPOR has a Recovery Fund to compensate you. If your contractor is 1) unlicensed in VA, 2) fails to complete the work, and 3) files for bankruptcy, you will lose all the monies you have spent to date (subject to the bankruptcy court’s determination).

  3. The Language of the Contract
    The DPOR requires a written contract and lists specifications that the contract must contain. Review the written contract carefully to make sure it states the work you want performed. Take the contract to an attorney for review. This hour or so will cost you far less than redoing unsatisfactory work.

  4. Communication with the Contractor
    You and your contractor are very busy. However, you and your contractor must be available to each other to discuss changes or problems. The contractor should give you a change order to sign for every change. The DPOR requires a signed change order as documentation of any change from the original contract. If the change order doesn’t state what you want, tell the contractor in writing and don’t sign the change order until it is correct.

  5. Written Communication 
    Be sure that you and the contractor communicate any and all changes and problems in writing. If this contract ends up in Court, the judge will want to see written communication.