Your Legal Options For Resolving a Contractor Dispute

A dispute with a general contractor can crop up even when you have extensively vetted the individual you chose.  There are options to resolve it, and you’ll be better off understanding your different options for dispute resolution.  Never fear, because you are not locked into one form of resolution.  You might be surprised to learn that an alternative form of resolution is more suited to your needs, especially once you factor in the cost of your time and energy.

Stay Out of Court Completely

You have a few options here, including mediation, binding arbitration, or working with a state or local agency.  In mediation, you’ll work with a neutral third party to help resolve the issue at hand.  Whether it’s contractual or specifically related to the project, you can select a mediator who is experienced in the field.  This speeds up your resolution time and cuts down on costs, too.  In binding arbitration, an individual will hear both sides of the story and render a decision.  Bear in mind that in arbitration, the decision is binding and you have no right to appeal if the case doesn’t go your way.  Finally, if your contractor is linked with a state of local licensing agency, that agency might have resources for dispute resolution.  Investigating one of these options can save you a lot of time and money.

Small Claims Court

If you take someone to small claims court, no lawyer is required.  The downside of this is that awards are limited to small amounts, typically under $5,000.  This route won’t help you if you’ve got a larger dispute.  You’ll also have to pay for filing and then you could still even pay collection costs if the contractor doesn’t pay up.  You may end up preparing a great deal for this avenue only to find out that there’s no guarantee that you’ll win or recoup your losses.

Civil Court

In this scenario, you’ll want a good attorney.  This is an option for those of you with dispute amounts higher than $5,000.  Your attorney can help walk you through the filing process and court procedure, and filing fees will be higher than in small claims court.  Make sure you plan on attorney’s fees here, too, since many charge by the hour.  Speak with your attorney upfront about whether he or she takes a contingency fee (a portion of what’s recovered) or an hourly fee for their work.