It sometimes seems like remodeling or renovating your home is like playing a game of chance: Will the work go as planned and everyone, including you and your contractor, walk away enriched in one way or another, or will things go wrong and leave you locked in a dispute with someone who has torn apart your family room and now refuses to put any more work into it?
No matter how much effort you put into due diligence or how honest and sincere your general contractor is, disputes happen. When they do, you might immediately assume you have no choice but to file a lawsuit against your general contractor - but you have other options that might be much better suited to your situation. Here's a rundown of your choices.
The Licensing Agency
You did hire a licensed and insured contractor, didn't you? Then you have the option of contacting your state's licensing authority. They often have programs designed to help homeowners and contractors resolve disputes that may work for your situation.
Mediation or Arbitration
Check the contract you signed with your contractor (you do have one, right?). You may be required to pursue disputes using a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), most commonly mediation or binding arbitration.
Mediation involves hiring a mediator (usually at shared expense) who sits down with both parties, discusses the issues, and guides you towards a mutually agreeable solution. The mediator's not a judge and can't issue any orders - they simply facilitate the conversation.
Arbitration is like court-lite. The arbitrator - who might be a mutual choice unless the contract specifies the contractor hires them - will hear both sides and then render a decision. If the arbitration is "binding" the arbitrator's decision is final.
Finally, you might have to sue. Even here you have some choices, however.
Small Claims Court. In small claims court the money amounts in dispute are small - generally no more than $5,000. You don't need a lawyer and the case is decided very, very quickly. If your dispute is relatively minor, this might work just fine.
Civil Court. This is where you need to hire a lawyer and hurry up and wait - civil lawsuits can take months or even years and be costly. This option is only for when the amount of damages is large or when the issues are larger than simple invoice disputes.
Choose wisely! How you resolve a dispute is as important as how you choose your contractor.
If you are looking for a mediator to mediate all kinds of disputes, please call Henry Abelman at 770-625-5010. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Abelman is an experienced negotiator skilled at identifying issues, developing creative solutions and persuading agreements. Visit http://www.mediation.com/memberprofile/henry--abelman-30301-0a.aspx for more information.