Five Ways To Get Your Money Back From Bad Contractors

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners tackle major projects in their home each year, with the majority using licensed contractors to get the job done. Construction contractors in both residential and commercial lines of work are required to meet certain licensing guidelines in order to operate their businesses legally in the state where they work. This means they may have to complete an exam covering construction practices and skill sets, hold certain bonds or insurance coverage, or have a specific number of years in the industry. While taking the time to vet a contractor in terms of his or her license status, bonding, and insurance, or experience, there are instances where things do not go as planned.

Homeowners who end up working with a bad contractor may face challenges in recouping their losses. However, there are a handful of steps homeowners can take to get their money back, either directly or indirectly, when a contractor did not fulfill his obligations. The best practice, though, is to pursue one or more of these remedies after having a conversation with the contractor. If that does not create a viable solution, determine which fix works best for your circumstances.

Go to Small Claims Court

Small claims court is a legal venue for homeowners who feel they are owed money back from a contractor. In small claims court, individuals bring small monetary claims against other individuals or companies, typically with damages of no more than $10,000. However, the amount you can claim depends on the limits of your state. During a small claims court case, you present your claim against the contractor for faulty work, a failure to meet contractual obligations or other issues that you feel left you with a loss.

If the contractor does not show up to the case, you will win your judgment by default. However, you will be responsible for collecting the amount you won which may be easier said than done.

Hire an Attorney

If you have a case worth more than your state’s small claims limit, or you feel as though a legal expert may help in the matter, hiring an attorney is an option as well. Attorneys with experience in the construction industry will know how to find weaknesses in a contract, as well as how the work performed or left incomplete violates a contract. The attorney can help you determine what you may be owed, and the best possible route for pursuing the contractor or business.

Hiring an attorney is the most costly remedy. You may pay a few to several thousands of dollars to get legal help, and the process to file a lawsuit takes more time than other options.

File a Complaint with the State

Depending on your state, contractors in the construction industry are required to have a license in order to operate a business legally. The licensing details are submitted to a state licensing board for verification and approval, and they are renewed every one or two years. If you are having trouble getting money back from a contractor, get in touch with your state’s licensing board and file a complaint. While the state board may not provide assistance directly with recouping your losses, a complaint against a contractor may mean the loss of his or her license. This could prompt the contractor to return what is owed to you.

Pursue a Bond Claim

Part of the licensing process for contractors is getting a surety bond. A contractor license bond provides some peace of mind to customers in the event something goes wrong. If a contract is not completed per the terms of the agreement, you may have the ability to file a claim against the bond. Surety agencies will work with you to determine the best solution to the issue, whether that is a payment for damages, hiring a new contractor or maid service, or prompting the initial contractor to complete the work they promised.

Post Reviews

One of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to get a contractor’s attention and potential reimbursement for losses due to bad work is using online review platforms. Any combination of social media, online review sites, or community boards can be used to provide detailed information about your experience with a contractor and the less-than-quality work completed. Contractors want to maintain their reputation in the community, so posting a negative review could prompt them to make the wrong right.

However, it is important to post reviews that are true and to have evidence of the shoddy work if possible. Contractors have the ability to sue you for false statements or libel if you post a review that isn’t honest.

One or more of these remedies can help you get your money back from a bad contractor, or prevent the contractor from performing low-quality work for another customer in the future. Be sure to first take time to speak with the contractor to see if a resolution can be made before pursuing any of these strategies.


  • Sabrina bowen

    I hired a contractor I have paid him a total of $18,000 and the work on my house it’s still yet to be done what can I do

  • John Spires

    If you live in Lousiana and you make a contract with someone to make home improvements on your house if they don’t begin the work within 45 days of receiving the payment then they are in violation of RS 14:202.1. Check your state law for similar laws.

  • Mike

    I paid a contractor $5500 to finish my patio project and he keep ignoring my calls and is not showing up. I am in Houston, TX. Does anyone know if its a violation of state law and what is that law and its terms. can anyone please revert.

  • Kristen Hill

    I live in CT and had a Contractor come in after my first and second floor was completely Demo’d as a result of a flood. So this is a homeowners claim.
    That said, I paid him over $20,000; not only did he not come back to finish. But the workmanship is beyond shoddy. It’s so bad, I now have to hire someone else to cone in and fix everything. Dealing with him and his incompetent workers was an absolute disaster-
    Not showing up on days he was supposed to, showing up on days he wasn’t. In fact, he’s send over his guys announced, who’d just walk into my home (he obviously told them where my hidden key was). On one occasion I was in the shower, at home with my toddler and they scared the crap out of me. They wreaked of alcohol, sorbet more time making “Home Depot” or on breaks, than they actually did in my home. The Contractor we hired never even came back to look over their work!! They helped themselves to tools in my garage without asking. Which they either ruined or took off with, they damaged $900 worth of cabinets, I mean the lust goes on and on and on.
    I’m also pretty certain he misrepresented himself/his capabilities. Which wasn’t smart of me.
    Considering the fact that his company name is
    “____ Drywall”. However, he was a referral from my Father in Law. So I trusted that he knew what he was doing. We all did!!! Lastly, I do believe he gave us a bogus license number. Because I can’t find him on the Government Registry. Again, this was through a homeowners claim. So they were given all this info. Therefore I assumed everything checked out. Idk. I’m just at such a loss, beyond devastated and I have no idea what to do or where to even start.
    I’m also curious to know if misrepresenting himself would fall into the violation of chapter 93 A.
    Any assistance would be appreciated more than you know. Thanks so much in advance.

  • Michaelangelo Castillo

    If a contractor screws you over check in with your states Contractor’s license and registration Agency. Usually the department of buildings or department of consumer affairs. I had a terrible experience with someone who claimed to know how to do the work. He didn’t. He violated every aspect of the contract. Had he been forthcoming I would have easily parted ways after firing him and he could have taken the money I already paid him, but he had the audacity to invoice me for 10,000 dollars and demand it and started threatening me. So I sued the crap out of him (not small claims court) I sued the crap out of him for civil and consumer fraud. Those are your best options because you’ll get every dime back even if it takes a year lol just seeing him destroyed gave me peace of mind…. such an arrogant little boy he was.

  • Marie Bartkowski

    I hired a contractor, in January,to build a 14 x 20 composite deck with a polycarbonite roof. It’s now July and I only have deck, no rails or roof. I have texted and called this contractor endlessly, but his excuses are endless. I still owe him $3,000 and he won’t be getting that. Is there anything I can do to hold him accountable.

  • Shonelle

    I hired Metropolitan home improvement and paid 6 figures. He provided nothing but subpar work. His workers used my brand new toilet. He refuses to provide receipts. He brought materials and other stuff in my house without my approval. I asked for a REFUND since last year. He ships supplies and expects me to put it in my house. Now he refusing to finish the job. Also the electrical wasn’t changed because my fuse keeps blowing. Plumbing is still bad as before yet he claims it was changed. Almost caused my house to burn down by connecting my dryer to my oil burner. I’m in New York and need assistance. I tried BBB and Consumer affairs. Please tell me my options. He was referred to me by National Housing Renovation Program. Everything was suppose to be custom but instead a major NIGHTMARE

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