Fixing a Botched Job


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If you’ve ever seen the TV show “Holmes on Homes,” featuring Canadian contractor Mike Holmes, you know that there is a lot of shoddy construction and contracting work out there. If you’re called in to correct another contractor’s poor work, there are potential complications you might not have considered. If handled incorrectly, you or your company could potentially be on the hook legally and financially.

However, your first consideration should be whether fault for the customer’s dissatisfaction actually rests with the former contractor, according to Richard Trimber, lead attorney for the business law and advisory practice of General Counsel, P.C., located in McLean, Virginia. Trimber also served as Chief Operating Officer for two home-improvement contractors in the Washington, D.C. area.

“Is the job botched or is the customer just not happy? Do you have a customer that has expectations that can’t be met? Make sure the contractor was the issue and not the customer,” Trimber said.

If the Previous Contractor Did Shoddy Work

If in fact the contractor’s work was not up to par, you must determine what must be done to make things right. That includes presenting the customer with a realistic assessment of what must be done, how long the work will take and how much it will cost, according to Trimber.

“This sort of professionalism will take you a long way,” Trimber said.

If the work done by the previous contractor was truly sub-par or not performed to code, you may be faced with what is essentially a do-over. That may mean performing extensive work at substantial additional expense to the customer. While it’s necessary to explain the extent of the necessary scope of work to the customer, trashing the previous contractor is counterproductive, according to Trimber.

“The more you’re focused on that (trashing the former contractor), the less you’re focused on getting the work done,” Trimber said.

Whenever you take on another contractor’s botched job, your general liability insurance and workman’s compensation coverage should protect you against potential adverse legal action for shortfalls related to the work done by the previous contractor, provided that you’ve properly documented everything before you start work. Nonetheless, it’s essential to document every step of your work with the customer to minimize the possibility of future misunderstandings, according to Trimber.

“Show them (the customer) that you’re doing it (correcting the previous contractor’s poor work) on a daily basis. That way you lower their anxiety level. I don’t think it’s possible to over communicate what is wrong and how to fix it,” Trimber said.

If the Customer Is Simply Unhappy

In some cases, a customer’s complaint of shoddy work is simply a result of unrealistic expectations that the former contractor failed to meet. For instance, a customer may not like the way the grain flows on a countertop, but the workmanship by previous contractor is just fine. If you take on a job with such a contractor, you may find yourself in the same situation – with the customer complaining about you, Trimber warned.

“Look at the other parts of their house. If the rest always looks absolutely perfect, make sure that you can meet their expectations. Construct the contract so that you can meet them (the customer’s expectations) profitably,” Trimber advised.

Best Practices

It’s essential to remember the three major reasons why people are wary of contractors: they think the work will take too much time and cost too much. They also don’t want to get ripped off. To ease those fears, the contractor must ensure that the customer thoroughly understands what the job will entail. While this sort of transparency won’t get the job done faster or make it cost less, it will help alleviate the customer’s sense of being ripped off, according to Trimber.

A common quip associated with essay writing advises writers to “Tell them (readers) what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.” A similar approach should be applied when dealing with a customer. Outline the job, do the job and review the job, Trimber advised.

“Tell the customer here’s what can be done. Here’s how much it will cost. Here’s how long it will take. The better you can calm the customer the better your chances of getting work done. Remember that you’re walking into a volatile situation,” Trimber said.

In fact, effectively dealing with a demanding customer unhappy with a previous contractor’s work involves utilizing strategies that represent good practices for any job, according to Trimber.

“This approach is not just for a bad job site. It should be standard operating procedure,” Trimber said.

Audrey Henderson
Latest posts by Audrey Henderson (see all)

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