Few things are as frustrating as a dispute with home contractor. If you're dealing with such a dispute, should you file a lawsuit?
Whether it's shoddy construction work, protracted delays, or a disagreement over money that is causing problems, sometimes a lawsuit may seem like the only way to get what you feel you bargained for when you hired your home contractor.
But if you're considering a lawsuit against a home contractor, here are three things you may want to consider:
- Will it be worth the time/money? Although in some instances you may be able to collect attorney's fees from your contractor if you are successful, bringing a lawsuit can be an expensive and time-consuming process. And even if you win, the contractor you're suing may have little to no cash on hand -- i.e., nothing to pay you with. For disputes that involve relatively small amounts of money, small claims court may be a better alternative, saving you both the time and the expense of pursuing a full-fledged case in civil court.
- The contractor may sue you back. If you sue your contractor, he may very well turn around and sue you back by answering your complaint with a counterclaim. In some instances, a contractor may be able to obtain a lien against your home for money a contractor claims is owed. A lien can make it very difficult to sell or refinance your home, and you may have to spend even more time and money to have it removed.
- Did you agree to alternative dispute resolution in your contract? Many home-construction contracts contain clauses requiring all disputes be handled by some form of alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration. If you agreed to this term in the contract, you may be obligated to pursue your case through alternative dispute resolution instead of in court -- though you may want to check with a lawyer to see if that clause is even enforceable in your particular case.
If you are considering legal action against a home contractor, a housing and construction defects attorney can advise you on how best to proceed with a lawsuit.
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