where do i start to sue a shoddy remodel contractor and what are my rights?
1 Answer from Attorneys
This is outside my area of expertise - it depends on your level of damages. Assuming that your damages are $5,000 or less, you can go to small claims court if the other party resides in NC. Anything over that and you will have to go regular court.
Before you head off too court, this is what you need to do:
(1) take detailed pictures showing the shoddy work/defects;
(2) pay to get a written and detailed repair estimate from a licensed legitimate contractor. Find out what the first contractor did wrong or failed to do and what it will cost to fix it. I would suggest getting 2 of these reports. Why 2? Because you want to make sure that they are in the same ballpark as to what is wrong and cost to fix - if they are wildly different, you want to know why and to get explanations.
(3) you can try writing to the first contractor or paying a lawyer to send a nasty demand letter. The letter will recite that the contractor was hired to do work, that he failed to do it or failed to do it properly, that it will cost $x to fix. Demand the money or that the contractor fix the problem (if you want the contractor to do that - if the job was really bad, you don't want this guy back in your home). Demand that he respond in 15/30 days of the date of your letter or else you will pursue further legal options.
Keep a copy of the letter and send via certified mail or FedEx/UPS. Get proof of delivery. I would recommend using FedEx or UPS - people play games with certified mail and will refuse it and the letter will be returned as unclaimed. That does not happen with FedEx or UPS packages. Pay extra for the signature confirmation - otherwise, the person may claim they never got it.
Have you paid the contractor already? If you still owe money, that brings up other issues. I am assuming that you have already paid.
If this is a shoddy contractor, it is unlikely that you will get a response. If less than $5,000 is owed, you can file a small claims complaint for money owed. If this guy is a sole proprietor, sue in the county where he resides. If he is using a trade-name (like Joe Blow d/b/a Shoddy Home Repair), he is supposed to be registered with the court in a fictitious names index. His address will be listed there if he is registered. If he is an LLC or corporation, then he is registered with the NC Secretary of state. In such case, you sue the LLC or corporation at its business address. The papers can be served on either the registered agent of the LLC/corporation or an officer of the company. Costs more but I would suggest you do both.
Bring to the hearing your letter, copy of any written contract, pictures and get one of the contractors from whom you got an estimate to testify if they are willing. If not, then bring the 2 estimates.
As a service to your fellow consumers, don't forget to file a complaint against this contractor at the BBB, Ripoff Report and any other consumer site you can think of. Stick to the facts about what was done wrong or not done. Don't tell people not to do business with him. Just tell your story and let the reader decide.
If the person is a licensed contractor, you can also file a complain with the general contractor's licensing board. However, repairs under $30,000 don't have to be done by a licensed contractor so if this was a small job, the contractor may not have a license.
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