Contractors have a bad reputation. Many people view them in the same light as used car salesmen and circus clowns. In general, most contractors in my industry are honest, hard working and conscientious family men who take pride in their work and do their jobs well with integrity. There are always outliers of course. These range from the all out scumbag con artist who intends to steal from you day 1, to the clueless contractor who starts out with good intentions, but has no idea what he’s doing and screws up the job purely on ignorance.
Reality Check -You come home one rainy evening to find a big hole in the side of your house where your old porch used to be with only a fraying blue tarp between you and the outside, flapping around like a bed sheet hung out to dry on a summer day. Water is dripping down the walls and pooling on the floor and your worst nightmare is coming true right before your eyes. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first or even the second time your contractor has left the job in a precarious state and you finally come to grips with the fact that you hired the wrong guy. But how can you get rid of him? There is no simple answer to this but, the bottom line is that he has to go and you simply have to fire him. Now what?
Stop! Hammer Time-
Dropping the proverbial hammer- Most people don’t realize you have the legal right to fire your contractor. The building code (at least here in Massachusetts) is very clear on what your rights are. As the owner of the property and more importantly, the one who hired the contractor, you can simply go down to your local building dept and submit a letter that you are removing the contractor of record from the building permit and then kindly inform Mr. Contractor that his services are no longer needed. You need to offer no explanation or reason. The code also states that the contractor has the right to do the very same thing. The reason for this makes perfect sense when you consider what could happen if either party started to operate and conduct themselves in bad faith. Nobody has the right to force you to stay in a situation where the contract agreement has been breached.
On several occasions, I have personally seen building inspectors try and take matters into their own hands and deny a home owners request to remove a contractor from a building permit. In one particular case, a homeowner had to hire an attorney, not to go after the deadbeat contractor but, rather the building inspector who wouldn’t let her replace him without his approval. In a nut shell, this part of the code exists so that neither party can hold the other hostage. However, your “right” to do this, does not protect you from the contractor’s potential claim that you are at fault and breached the contract. If the job has reached a point where this action is necessary, then the contractor has most likely already breached the agreement and you will be able to defend your action in court if needed.
Imagine this scenario-
You are in the middle of a large kitchen renovation and the GC and his crew are hard at work everyday while you are at work trying to make the money to pay for it. Then at lunch time you receive an email notification from the nanny cam that is set up in your bedroom. You go online and see whats going on and then watch in horror as your once trusted contractor goes rooting through your jewelry box and steals your grandmas diamond earrings.
You can finish the story from here, but basically after a violation of trust such as this (and this kind of crap happens every day!) there is no recovery. The contractor has to go and the law allows you to get rid of him. If, for some reason he feels that he was fired unlawfully (breached your contract) then he can take you to court. Its not the building inspectors job to arbitrate and decide when and if a contractor can or should be fired.
Whether you find yourself in a situation of thievery or outright incompetence you have the right to get out. Yes, it may be a hassle and create legal problems for you but sometimes that is better than staying in a situation that does harm to you, your home and your pocket book. I have found that i’d rather pay for peace of mind than stay on a sinking ship. Finally, if ever in doubt, consult an attorney before you take any action or better yet, make sure you the right contractor in the first place.