What Happens if a Contractor Abandons a Job?

Jeff Varcadipane

May 15, 2024

You hired a contractor you believed you could trust. You paid a significant portion of the renovation cost up front, and the contractor started on the agreed-upon work. Then, without warning, they disappeared in the middle of the project. So, what happens if a contractor abandons a job?

Now, you’re stuck with a half-completed project, limited funds, and no idea what your next step should be. Unfortunately, you are not alone, as this happens more often than it should.

The good news is you might have legal options. For example, if a contractor fails to fulfill their contractual obligations, such as completing the work within the agreed-upon timeframe, it may constitute a breach of contract. As such, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for damages.

You should never hesitate to reach out to an experienced New Jersey consumer protection and contract attorney who can determine your options and pursue a civil claim on your behalf when possible.

New Jersey’s Home Improvement Contractor License

In New Jersey, a Home Improvement Contractor license is required for contractors to legally perform residential home improvement work. However, obtaining this license does not guarantee the skill or capability of the contractor. Unlike other professions that require rigorous testing and education, obtaining a Home Improvement Contractor license in New Jersey is relatively easy.

To obtain the license, contractors only need to pay a nominal fee and provide proof of liability insurance. While this may provide a sense of assurance for homeowners, it is important to note that this license does not require any formal training or demonstration of skills.

This lack of regulation can be misleading for homeowners who are looking for contractors with expertise and experience. That’s why it is crucial to do thorough research and not solely rely on the contractor’s license. Retaining an attorney who understands construction contract law in NJ can provide homeowners with the guidance and protection they need when dealing with contractors.

New Jersey requires that all contractor work over $500 be agreed upon in a written contract, and an attorney can help homeowners understand the terms of their home improvement contracts, ensuring that all necessary details are included and protecting their interests. They can also assist homeowners in taking legal action if a contractor abandons a job, helping them recover damages and find a resolution to the situation.

Common Jobs a Contractor Might Not Complete

Contractors can abandon various types of renovation or construction projects, leaving homeowners in a difficult situation. Some common jobs that contractors might not complete include:

  • Kitchen or bathroom remodels: These projects often require skilled labor and can be time-consuming. If a contractor abandons the project, you may be left with unfinished spaces or critical installations that are not functional.
  • Roofing or siding replacements: Failing to complete these projects can leave your home vulnerable to water damage and other elements.
  • Foundation repairs: An incomplete foundation repair can compromise the structural integrity of your home.
  • Deck or patio installations: If a contractor abandons a deck or patio project, you may be left with an unusable outdoor space and potential safety hazards.

Losses from a Contractor Not Completing a Job

When a contractor abandons a job, homeowners can suffer significant financial and time losses. Here are some potential consequences:

Financial and Time Losses

  • Loss of funds: If you paid a substantial portion of the project cost upfront, you may not be able to recover that money if the contractor disappears. Additionally, you may have to hire another contractor to complete the job, resulting in additional expenses.
  • Delayed timelines: An unfinished project can disrupt your daily life. You may have to put other plans on hold while waiting for the project to be finished.
  • Opportunity costs: If the incomplete project was part of a larger plan to sell or rent your property, the delay could result in missed opportunities and financial setbacks.

Risks of Injury Due to Unfinished Projects

An unfinished project can pose safety hazards to you, your family, and any visitors to your property. For example:

  • Open electrical wiring or exposed plumbing can increase the risk of electrocution or flooding.
  • Construction materials left lying around can trip or injure someone.
  • Unsecured construction sites can attract trespassers and increase the risk of accidents.

Increased Payments to New Contractors

If your contractor abandons the job, you may be forced to hire a new contractor to complete the work. However, hiring a new contractor under these circumstances can come with additional costs:

  • Additional fees: The new contractor may charge a higher rate due to the unfinished condition of the project and the need to fix any mistakes made by the previous contractor.
  • Duplication of work: The new contractor may need to undo and redo certain aspects of the project, resulting in unnecessary expenses.
  • Inefficiencies: The new contractor may need time to familiarize themselves with the project and understand any existing plans or specifications. This learning curve can result in delays and additional costs.

Do You Have a Breach of Contract Claim Against a Contractor for Unfinished Work?

If your contractor abandoned the job without a valid reason, it is essential to determine if you have a breach of contract claim. Here are some factors to consider:

  • The extent of the work abandoned: Assess the percentage of work left incomplete and the importance of the unfinished tasks. This evaluation will help determine the potential damages you can claim.
  • Payment in relation to work completed: Compare the amount you paid to the contractor with the value of the work actually completed. If there is a significant disparity, you may have a stronger case for breach of contract.
  • Review the contract: Examine the terms and conditions of your contract with the contractor. Look for any clauses that pertain to the contractor’s obligations, completion timelines, and dispute resolution procedures.
  • Verify if the contractor quit or if other factors contributed to their abandonment: It’s essential to understand the reasons behind the contractor’s actions. If they quit without justification or external factors force them to stop working, it strengthens your case.

Meeting With a Consumer Protection Lawyer About a Possible Case

Dealing with unfinished work can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you feel like you’ve been left with no good options. In such situations, it is wise to seek legal advice from a construction contract lawyer.

A skilled lawyer can evaluate your case, gather evidence, and guide you through the legal process. To prepare for your meeting with a lawyer, be ready to:

  • Provide details of the abandoned project: Including the type of work, the current state of completion, and any specific issues.
  • Share documentation: Gather all documents related to the project, including the contract, notes, text messages, emails, invoices, and proof of payment. Additionally, take photographs to document the current state of the project and create a timeline.
  • Be prepared to answer questions: The lawyer will likely ask you various questions to understand the circumstances surrounding the abandonment and assess the strength of your case. Questions may include the amount of work abandoned, the funds paid, any contractual causes for abandonment, and any other contributing factors.

Consult Our New Jersey Construction Contract Dispute Attorneys Today

Having a reputable and experienced construction contract lawyer by your side can make a significant difference in resolving your situation. At Varcadipane & Pinnisi, PC, we understand the frustrations of dealing with bad contractors who abandon their projects and take advantage of homeowners.

Our team of New Jersey construction insurance claim attorneys will fight hard to protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve. We have extensive knowledge of the laws governing breach of contract claims and will guide you through the legal process with confidence.

If you’ve been left with an unfinished project due to a contractor’s abandonment, don’t hesitate to contact us at (201) 588-1500 or online to schedule a consultation. Let us help you work towards a fair resolution and overcome this inconvenient and costly problem.

Jeffrey W. Varcadipane

Jeffrey W. Varcadipane is a Certified Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey and a Founding Partner of the Firm. He handles a variety of matters including civil and commercial litigation, appellate practice, real estate, and business law.

University: J.D. Fordham Law School

Bar Number: 29472005

Locations: New Jersey, New York, and Florida.

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partners, Varcadipane & Pinnisi, who have more than 40 years of combined legal experience as personal injury attorneys.

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