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HomeBUSINESS & FINANCEWhat You Should Do When a Contractor Ghosts You Mid-Project

What You Should Do When a Contractor Ghosts You Mid-Project

When you’re ready to undertake a major home renovation or repair, it can be difficult to locate a reliable contractor. In part due to a paucity of skilled tradespeople and in part due to the economics of construction, it may be difficult for an established, busy contractor to give you the time of day. Your half-bath renovation may not be profitable enough for the contractor.

This could lead you to employ an individual with less experience, which could result in a nightmare scenario in which they abandon you after starting the job, leaving you with a mess.

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If you skipped some background checks in your haste to employ someone, it is too late to do so now. However, there are measures you can take if a contractor disappears.

Review your agreement and initiate a paper trace.

Priority comes first. Read your contract. Unless you hired someone under the table and off the books, you have some type of written agreement with your contractor. This agreement will detail issues such as deficient work and nonperformance, as well as the procedure for terminating the contract and essentially firing the contractor. Even if you are outraged and furious about your contractor’s behavior, you are still bound by this agreement, and violating it could cost you, so pay attention.

Next, ensure that all actions from this point forward are recorded. Send your contractor a written report of what’s incomplete, what they’ve been paid for, and what’s next on the agenda. Notate any deficient work (such as incomplete items or shoddy craftsmanship) and specify how you would like it corrected. Then, request a response with a schedule for completing the work and a plan for addressing the issues.

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If they respond with a plausible explanation and address your concerns, you will need to perform a vibe check to determine if you wish to continue. Even if their explanation is acceptable, you should not agree to pay anything additional until the work they have already undertaken is complete. Insist on adhering to the terms of a contract that specifies a payment schedule based on completed work. In the absence of a contract or a defined schedule, insist that payment discussions take place only after the work has been completed.

If you receive no response or a response that is unsatisfactory, you should refer to your contract and terminate it per its provisions. This most likely involves composing a formal letter. The following measures will depend on whether the contractor owes you money.

Employ a new contractor to complete the project.

If your previous contractor left your project at a distinct stopping point and the materials and labor you’ve already paid for are complete and accounted for, you only need to find someone to complete the work. This will not be easier than hiring the first contractor, but if you failed to have a formal contract, check the contractor’s bond and license, obtain references, or establish a clear schedule of work and payments, now is your opportunity to do it correctly.

Leave feedback to warn others.

After you have severed ties with your ghostwriter, you may wish to warn others through the power of online evaluations. If you discovered your contractor through a service such as Angi or HomeAdvisor, leaving negative feedback may prevent someone else from experiencing the same anguish in the future. Additionally, you could locate their Google profile or Yelp listing to warn others.

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You may also consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, although this is no more effective than leaving reviews elsewhere; however, disseminating the word about this contractor as widely as possible may prevent others from experiencing the same issues in the future.

What to do if you have already paid a contractor who disappears without a trace

If your contractor owes you money or unfinished work, you have two options:

Make a claim on the surety

Many (but not all) states require reputable, licensed contractors to post surety bonds in order to conduct business. These bonds exist to ensure that contractors adhere to state laws and regulations, as contractors can be compelled to pay them if found to have violated them.

A contractor pays for a bond, in contrast to an insurance company, which pays for insurance, so they have skin in the game. If your state or municipality requires licensed contractors to be bonded, you can file a claim against their surety for unfinished work. Contact the bond-issuing company and file a claim. If you are one of the numerous individuals who have had this contractor abandon their tasks, you won’t have much luck here.


If you cannot access the contractor’s collateral, your only option for recovering at least some of your money is to file a lawsuit against them. Your state’s dollar limits for minor claims range from $2,500 to $25,000. You do not need an attorney for a minor claims action; simply present your evidence, review the court’s procedures, and argue your case.

If the amount owed to you exceeds the small claims limit, your only recourse would be litigation; however, you should consider the additional costs if you must hire an attorney and pay court fees. Currently, it may not be worthwhile.




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