Contractors in Spokane, WA are still completing work on homes, roofs and fences after last year’s windstorm. And some people are starting to realize that the work done by their contractor is defective, that the construction contract was breached, or that the contractor just didn’t to the work they promised. Disputes with contractors can be difficult to resolve, and the GREEN LAW OFFICE can help you negotiate your claim against a contractor either by working towards a settlement with your contractor and his insurance company, or by filing a lawsuit against your contractor and their contractor’s bond.
There are a lot of things to consider when deciding how to proceed with your claim against a contractor for breach of contract, negligent construction or just shoddy work. Let’s take a look at some of the issues that arise in a lawsuit against a construction contractor and their bond.
Breach of Contract
The foundation for any lawsuit against a contractor is going to be a breach of contract action. The contractor and the homeowner had an agreement about each party’s obligations, or duties – the work the contractor will do and how much the homeowner will pay for it. If the contractor did not do the work he was paid for under the contract, then he breached his contractual duty to the homeowner. Once it is established that a breach of contract took place, then the homeowner needs to figure out how much they should be able to recover – the damages. Damages are the amount of money someone is entitled to, and equal to the amount of money it will take to put them in the same position as if everyone had done what they were supposed to do. This usually means the amount of money it will cost to have another competent contractor finish or correct the defective or abandoned work.
If these elements can be proven – the existence of a contractual duty, the breach of that duty, the existence of damages, and that those damages were caused by the contractor’s breach – then a homeowner should prevail in the breach of contract action against the contractor. There are other considerations, though. Unless there is a provision for attorneys fees in the construction contract, a homeowner would have to pay their own fees and costs for the lawsuit whether or not they win. And, if the contractor disappears, has no assets, or files bankruptcy it may become difficult or impossible to collect on a judgment. That is where a good attorney can help you assess whether there are other legal actions you can take against the contractor in order to better your chances of recovering some money.
Contractor’s Registration Statute
RCW 18.27 is the Washington Contractor’s Registration Statute. It requires that contractors are registered (licensed) with the state. In order to maintain registration a contractor must have a bond. General contractors must keep a bond in the amount of $12,000.00, while specialty contractors only need to keep a $6,000.00 bond. If a homeowner sues a contractor and is successful, then they can recover this bond money directly from the bond company, and not have to worry about collecting a judgment from the contractor. Bringing a construction bond company into a lawsuit against a contractor is a little more involved, though.
There are a lot of details and procedures that need to be followed correctly if a homeowner is going to collect a contractor’s bond. Specific language must be contained in the complaint, and the complaint must be filed in the proper venue. The complaint on the bond company must be served through the Department of Labor & Industries, as well as having the complaint personally served on the contractor. The bond company will join the lawsuit through their own attorney, who must be included in the proceedings. Eventually, if the homeowner prevails, special arrangements need to be made to assign part of the judgment to the bond company in exchange for payment of the bond proceeds. This can all be very complicated, and it is important to have an experienced attorney assist you if you are going to recover from the contractor’s bond in a lawsuit against a contractor.
RCW 18.27 has other benefits for a homeowner who was wronged by a contractor, as well. If the contractor failed to have proper registration, the proper bond, or provide proper notice of certain things to the homeowner at the time of the construction contract, additional causes of action against the contractor may also be available. There is also a provision in the statute whereby a homeowner who prevails in a lawsuit against a contractor under the statute may also collect attorneys fees and costs.
Consumer Protection Act
RCW 19.86 is Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) . The CPA does not always apply to construction defect claims or lawsuits against contractors, but if there were deceptive statements made to induce a homeowner into hiring a contractor, or the contractor employed deceptive or unfair practices to get business or money from someone then the CPA may provide an avenue to increase damages and recover attorneys fees and costs. It is important to have an experienced construction law attorney analyze your case to make sure a CPA claim is appropriate.
Contractors in Washington are required to carry insurance that provide coverage for the work they do. Unfortunately, a great deal of construction defect claims and claims by homeowners against contractors for breach of contract and other actions are excluded from coverage under most contractors’ insurance policies. These policies almost always contain a specific exception for just plain shoddy work, so if a contractor just does a really bad job the insurance won’t cover the claim. Sometimes, however, a knowledgeable construction law attorney can help to craft your claim in such a way as to apply to coverage that does exist and can involve the insurance company in settlement efforts. Just one more reason why getting a good construction law attorney to help with your homeowner lawsuit against a contractor is so important.
There can be a lot more to a claim for construction defects than meets the eye. If you have a problem with a contractor in Spokane or Eastern Washington, contact the GREEN LAW OFFICE, PLLC to see what can be done.