How to solve contractor disputes

HOUSTON - Renovating a home can be new and exciting, but unanticipated problems can quickly turn the process into a major issue. Angie Hicks of Angie's List offers tips on easing contractor disputes.

"In a recent 'Angie's List' poll, 23 percent of the respondents said at some point during the process they got to the stage where they wanted to fire their contractor," said Angie Hicks.

In that same poll, 46 percent of people wanted to fire their contractor but did not because they had already invested too much money.

14 percent said they had already paid for the project, and another 14 percent were afraid of the repercussions from breaking their contract.

13 percent revealed they were afraid of upsetting the contractor.

Hicks believes once things start to go south it is time to speak up.

"You want to talk about things before you ever get to that point where you have to fire someone," Hicks said.

The Angie's List creator advised to have a conversation in person so both of you can follow through with questions and it can be a collaborative discussion. If that is not possible, try to call and talk it out as soon as you start to feel there is an issue, not when fear and anger have taken over.

"Try not to do this via email and certainly don't put off talking about it," Hicks said. "When addressing a concern with a contractor, the best bet is to have everything at your fingertips."

Settling a contractor dispute once it occurs can make all the difference.

"Have all the documentation on hand. Have any photos of problem areas, even use video if necessary to describe the problems that way you are prepared for the conversation," said Hicks.

After years of collecting reviews about good and bad service providers, Hicks said she has learned that consumers need to be assertive in sticking to the facts. Meanwhile, show that you are willing to compromise and work with the contractor.

She said it can be very productive for the unhappy person to be ready with options of how the issue can be resolved.

If in the end the contractor's response is not what you were looking for, explain what will happen if you are not satisfied with the final product.

Make them aware that you will leave a negative review or file a complaint with the state contractor licensing board.


· Act quickly: If you have a concern or conflict, address it immediately. Waiting may only make the situation worse. If you don't speak up, then you can't expect them to do the job you want.

· When possible, complain in person: It is easy to be ignored if you write a letter or email expressing dissatisfaction, and phone calls can often result in being placed on hold for an exorbitant amount of time. If possible, make complaints in person by visiting your service or health provider's office.

· Complain in good faith: Ever hear your mother say you'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? Do not come into the situation angry or thinking everyone is out to get you. Instead, come into the situation thinking your provider will want to work with you to come to a resolution. Be assertive in sticking to the facts, but show that you are willing to work with the other party.

· Document everything: Document every part of the process, including every name, date, time and price that relates to the complaint. Documentation, such as receipts and written estimates, can be crucial evidence when trying to seek resolution. If a job was not completed or the work was performed poorly, take photo and video evidence to help prove your claim. Also, be ready to explain exactly how you want the situation to be resolved.

· Explain the consequences: If the contractor's response is not sufficient, explain what will happen if you do not get action. If you have been a long-time customer, let them know that they will no longer have your business and you will not refer the company to friends and family.

· Report your contractor to the state: Your state's contractor licensing board is a great place to start and will help you check licensing, credentials and provide critical information about the details of the construction process, such as how much a contractor is legally allowed to charge for a down payment. This is also the place you can report your contractor should something go awry. In the case of issues with your health care providers, you should contact your state's medical licensing board as well.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.