contractor fails to finish a job or leaves behind shoddy workmanship
If a home contractor fails to finish a job or leaves behind shoddy workmanship, grab
a camera and start recording the evidence, Ottawa paralegal Amri Murray tells
If you intend on taking legal action, you will
need to illustrate that you suffered damages because of the contractor’s actions, or
inaction, depending on the specific situation ,”
Murray, principal of AJ Murray Legal Services. “Most photos and videos are quite
admissible within the small claims court to prove that what you got is not what you
contracted for,” she says. “It’s your job to prove
Murray gives the example of a client who used a video camera
to show how a newly installed railing shook and wobbled when used. She advises
homeowners to hold onto all invoices, receipts and any other related documents.
“You want to document the entire process,” she says. If you intend to hire other
contractors to finish the job, Murray recommends getting more than one estimate, so
the court knows you are not giving an inflated price
for the cost of repairs.
Sadly, poor workmanship happens all the time,”
she says. “There are shoddy contractors out there, who make themselves out to be
competent when they really are not.
People signing a contract for home renovations deserve
quality work for their money, Murray says, “and it is reasonable to expect that it
will be performed to the standard within that specific industry.”
She cautions that in some cases, a contractor may have a
valid reason for not finishing a project on time.
If the job is incomplete due to unforeseeable
circumstances, such as acts of nature or something that was not within the control
of either party, then there is a possibility that the matter may not be actionable,”
“The reason for not finishing the job is one of the determining factors as to the
recourse the homeowner is able to take. , she
Murray says the maximum amount that can be claimed for
damages in the small claims court is $35,000. “If the botched home renovation is a
really big job that’s worth more, it will then be actionable in the upper courts,”
Small claims court matters, heard by deputy judges, are
guided by simplified rules and procedures compared to the upper courts, Murray says,
“ensuring that the relatively high volume of everyday legal issues may be
with great efficiency.”
She says a settlement AJ Murray Legal Services is held before
an actual trial, where many claims are resolved. If the case goes to trial through
the small claims court, most trials are over in two days.
Murray says a majority of people in small claims court are
self-represented, “which has been noted to sometimes contribute to certain delays,
as judges often need to pause to explain processes and procedures to them.”
However, she is starting to see a shift.
People are seeing the value of using a
paralegal in these matters,” Murray says. “We provide affordable legal advice and a
sense of relief for people who may be stressed or confused as they try to navigate
their way through
our legal system.
Murray has this advice to anyone thinking of taking a case to
small claims court: “Balance the cost of litigation against a reasonable estimate of
how much compensation you will receive, should you receive judgment,” she
says. “The process doesn’t add up for some people.”
Many disputes with contractors can be worked out through
dialogue, Murray says.
It’s always good to try to reason with the
other party, and come to some kind of arrangement before going down the road of
litigation through a small claims court action
,” says Murray.