How To Fight Back Against a Bad Contractor

Article From
By: Oliver Marks
Published: March 4, 2011

If you are having a villa or property built alike to The Villas At Rancho Pacifica, you need to be prepared for misconduct by your contractor. Although this is unlikely to happen, don’t take contractor abuse lying down. If your contractor has fouled up your home improvement project–or disappeared altogether–you have recourse. Maybe the contractors took on more work than they could handle or their credit dried up in the middle of a job. Worst-case scenario, they’re out-and-out scam artists. Ideally, before having employed someone, you will have covered all bases by making sure they have the correct insurance (on a side-note, if you need contractors all risk insurance , visit However, this may not have been the case. Fortunately for you, read the rest of this article to find out what to do next.

Don’t get mad: Get motivated to defend yourself. Here’s how.

Fire the contractor

Firing is the obvious, but not an easy, step when things go seriously wrong. Your contractor could challenge the firing in court as a breach of contract: You must show that he or she breached the agreement first.

Document each time they didn’t live up to the specifics of the contract, such as substituting inferior materials or failing to stick to the schedule. Then send a return-receipt letter to their business and home addresses stating that unless the problem is rectified within a specified number of days, they’re in breach of contract, and you will be terminating it.

The catch: Contractors probably won’t refund money you’ve already paid. If you’ve written any checks up front, this tactic can be costly.

Request a hearing

Some construction contracts include a binding arbitration clause, where parties agree to resolve disputes by arbitration, rather than in court. Arbitration is a relatively low-cost process in which each side presents its case to an independent authority, who makes a final decision.

Even if your contract has no such provision, you can request a similar hearing. The Better Business Bureau, a national nonprofit association, offers mediation services for free or for a nominal fee of around $50. Neither the home owner nor the contractor needs to be a member of the organization.

The catch(es): You must get the contractor to agree to mediation (good luck!). And mediators and arbitrators look to the contract for guidance. If you have a badly written one, you may be out of luck in mediation.

Hire an attorney

Hire a construction attorney who knows the ins and outs of state statutes and can work around weaknesses in the contract. If there has been a clear breach of contract, you could contact a commercial litigation lawyer. Unlike BBB hearings, the contractor can’t opt out of a lawsuit.

If the contractor has disappeared altogether, you may be able to collect money from a state contractor recovery fund consisting of contractor licensing fees, or from a bond the contractor posted at the start of your project, which is required in some states.

The catch: Attorneys charge $100 to $300 per hour for these cases. So unless you’re dealing with a big-ticket project, you’ll likely spend more on the attorney than you will collect from the contractor.

Take your case to small claims court

In small claims courts, you represent yourself and pay just a few dollars to bring a case. The rules depend on your local jurisdiction, but typically a judge hears from both parties, asks questions, and then resolves the issues.

The catch: Small claims are just that. In most places, award limits range from $3,000 to $7,500. In Kentucky, coming in lowest, it’s $1,500; in parts of Tennessee, highest, it’s $25,000.

File complaints and bad reviews

A slew of websites allow you to post information about bad contractors, including,, and You can also file a complaint with the state contractor licensing board, which could make the information public if it receives enough complaints.

If you are a business contractor and you don’t want this to happen to you either, then you should make sure that you have a good business plan. You can find out how to grow your business properly using a site like as this can help you not get any complaints from people and that would just make your life easier as a contractor.

These steps won’t fix your crooked tile, but you may take comfort in knowing that you’ve protected a fellow home owner from the same fate.

The catch: A contractor could sue you for libel over a bad review. State laws vary, but truth is a strong defense, says Atlanta attorney Alan Begner, president of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, a trade group. Still, a big contractor with deep pockets could force you to spend tens of thousands in your own defense.??To decide how–and whether–to go after your contractor, ask a construction attorney to review your situation. You’ll pay between $500 and $1,000 for a consultation, but you could save far more money (and aggravation) in the long run.

A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He’s currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.

Our Code of Ethics – What It Means For You


How does our Code of Ethics affect everyday real estate practices? If a REALTOR® represents you, whether you are buying or selling a home, you can count on that REALTOR® to:

1. Be honest with all parties in the transaction – not just with you, as his or her client, but also with the other real estate practitioner and his or her clients.

For example, if REALTORS® represent a buyer with a spotty credit history, they can’t be dishonest with sellers about this fact. At the same time, REALTORS® can help their buyer clients collect and assemble information, such as credit reports and audited tax returns, to demonstrate that the buyer has addressed the problem and improved their situation.

2. Put your interests ahead of his or her own, at all times.

A REALTOR® makes every effort to understand the housing needs of his or her client, thoroughly researches available inventory, and shares all relevant information with the buyer so that he or she can make an informed decision. This service is provided regardless of the compensation available.

3. Disclose all pertinent facts regarding the property and the transaction to both buyer and seller.

If a REALTOR® believes information provided by a seller is questionable, the REALTOR® is obligated to investigate. REALTORS® should recommend that buyers consult their own experts, such as home inspectors, to address concerns. For example, if a home seller asks his or her REALTOR® to conceal the fact that the roof leaks, the REALTOR® cannot comply; if the seller insists, the REALTOR® should end the business relationship with that seller.

4. Be truthful in all communications with the public.

When REALTORS® distribute newsletters, create Web sites, or place advertisements, they must be careful not to represent other real estate professionals’ work product as their own. If recently sold or listed properties in the community are publicized, it must be clear whether the REALTOR® was actually involved in the transaction, or whether that data came from the local multiple listing service or other source. This ensures that the public understands the REALTOR®’s experience and can make an informed decision when choosing real estate representation.

Read a summary of the principles embodied in the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Code of Ethics. PDF



Published on: Mar 13, 2011

Newberg Downtown Coalition Features Bella Casa's Newberg Office

We are very excited to be featured right now on the “Potential” section of the Downtown Coalition’s new website – illustrating what they hope Newberg’s downtown will eventually look like. We really want to be a vibrant part of Newberg and contribute to the success of creating a beautiful and bustling downtown in the community. Visit the page where we are mentioned

The Newberg Downtown Coalition is doing wonderful things in Newberg! It’s primary mission is to develop downtown Newberg as a pedestrian-friendly destination that enriches the lives of those who visit or live there – via physical improvements, events, promotion, and the proper business mix.

We had the honor of having Mike Ragsdale, executive director of the Newberg Downtown Coalition, attend one of our brokerage meetings and share with us ways to get involved in the community. Thank you, Mike, for all of your work to make remarkable strides in Newberg!

Things to Do in the McMinnville Area This Weekend & In March

Sip! McMinnville Wine & Food Classic at the Evergreen Aviation Museum
March 11, 12,13 Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
For details visit:

McMinnville Public Market – Saturday March 12, 10am-3pm

• Get to Know Keromikos Decor
• Worm Composting Class 1:30pm FREE
• Yarn Arts Class for the Beginner 10:30-12:30 FREE

Amity Daffodil Festival & Coelho Winery

Coelho Winery Renovacao Pinot Gris Celebration & Amity Daffodil Festival, Sat/Sun, Mar 12/13, 11am to 5pm. Visit Coelho during the Daffodil Festival for a complimentary fresh daffodil and enjoy a spring Amuse-bouche “taste-bud amuser” paired with the 2009 Renovacao Pinot Gris.
• Coelho Winery—located at 111 5th St, Amity, open daily 11am to 5pm. For info call 503-835-9305,
• The Amity Daffodil Festival is an educational program of Amity School District 4J and is produced by the Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation class of Amity High School in cooperation with the Oregon Daffodil Society, the Mac Trackers Walking Club and the ADF Advisory Committee. The Festival started in the spring of 1995 and is located in Amity, Oregon. This class allows students to survey all of the hospitality field’s areas such as food and beverage, lodging and travel. Proceeds underwrite Festival expenses and projects and the Amity Daffodil Festival Scholarship Fund.
McMenamins Hotel Oregon St. Patrick’s Day Celebration!
• Thursday, March 17th featuring: The Brothers Dunne, The Mustaches, Bob Soper & Elizabeth Nicholson, along with McMenamins Irish Stout, Irish dancers, bagpipers and more!
For info or reservations 503/472-8427 or visit

Bistro Maison

• Grab the GREEN ensemble and celebrate lunch or dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday March 17th. Harpist Nadya King will perform Irish Celtic Classics.
• Special Evening, Sun. March 27th at 4pm. Bring Your Own Bottle for a blind tasting in the Paris Suite, 5:30pm. Enjoy a 4 course menu with specially selected wine pairings
• Call for reservations: 503-474-1888, menu and details available at

Mortgage Rate Update

Good Morning!  With the stock market(s) volatility comes rate volatility.  The good news is that it is only in small increments, there have NOT been any large swings one way or the other. This week is also quiet for economic reports – but that still leaves us world events.

The Fed is still planning to purchase $600 Billion in Treasuries through Mid 2011(June) because we need to see a long stretch of sustained job growth in order to remove the present helpful monetary policy.  This will keep rates from jumping to fast, but it will NOT keep them from moving with the market in some small measure.

Published on: Mar 10, 2011

First Time Homebuyers Class at Housing Authority in McMinnville

What: The Housing Authority of Yamhill County is hosting a class for first time homebuyers called ” The ABC’s of Homebuying.” To sign up contact Megan Ramos (503) 883-4300.

When: This Saturday, March 12th 9:00am – 4:00pm

Where: Housing Authority of Yamhill County, 135 NE Dunn Place in McMinnville, OR 97128. Located just off Hwy 18 near the Red Lion; see map below.

More Info: Find important homebuyer information and learn about the process of buying on Bella Casa’s website.

Published on: Mar 9, 2011

Mortgage Market & Rate Update

In the last two weeks we have seen rates fluctuate between 4.875% and 5.250%.  Having settled in the 5.000% range does take some of the pressure off from watching the market! I truly believe that we are officially in the 5.000% rate market and that rates will NOT be going down.  The other side of the coin is that we are seeing some lightening of Underwriting and each day brings additional program updates and changes.

Keep in mind that nothing is free, these more liberal guidelines do come with a price as evidences by Fannie, Freddie and FHA having a risk based pricing grid instead of just generic rates.  The more risk, the higher the rate.

Courtesy of Michelle Myhrvoid of Valley Mortgage Group, Willamette Valley Bank