In Toronto, summer is the season of renovations and construction. For some homeowners, however, a summer of renovations or construction results in winter litigation. In this post, we discuss what to do if your contractor did a bad job on your renovation or construction project. We deal with two situations: the first is when you paid for the job upfront, and the second is when you paid a deposit, and decided not to make full payment because the work was so poorly done.
When you paid for renovations in full and they turned out badly
If you are in this situation, you can sue the contractor who did the poor job in Small Claims Court (if the dispute is for $25,000 or less). You can sue for some, or sometimes even all, of the money you paid, as well as for compensation for damages that resulted because of the bad construction work (such as walls that were damaged and not repaired after window installation, for example) and possibly other damages. Predictably, in this situation, it would be most important to show that the renovation was, in fact, poorly done. It is always best, and often even necessary, to have an independent expert provide a report about what was done in the home, why it is poor, and how much it would cost to replace or repair it. You should also be prepared to provide any emails/correspondence you had with the contractor over the time of the project, and your own photographs of the work being done and the final project, as this evidence, too, could be very helpful to showing the low quality of the work in small claims court. If you can show, with expert testimony and otherwise, that the construction work that is done is entirely useless, you may be entitled to a full refund. A partial refund may be a more appropriate remedy if some of the construction work done is still usable. The amount you can successfully claim will usually depend on the assessment of the cost of repair or replacement of original work, as quoted or actually charged by an independent expert or another contractor.
When you did not pay for the renovation in full… and it turned out badly
In this situation, most people start out by simply refusing to pay because the renovation was poorly done, and seeing how the contractor would react. Some may understand the issues with their work and negotiate a settlement, or just let it be. Other times, if you don’t pay in full, the contractor may sue you in small claims court for the remaining amount. In this situation, it is similarly important to have expert and other evidence that their work was poor, in order to justify your non-payment as part of your small claims court defence. In addition, if you have to incur other expenses to repair the issues with the original renovation, or if the work done is entirely useless and everything must be replaced, you may also be able to get some or all of the money you had paid the contractor as a deposit. In order to claim this refund, in addition to a defence, you will also need to file a defendant’s claim (essentially, a counter-claim) where you lay out the reasons for why the contractor actually owes you, and not the other way around. Again, evidence of poor workmanship and your cost to replace or repair the bad renovation job is essential.
Construction or renovation cases are some of the most detailed and technically complicated matters in Toronto Small Claims Court and other Small Claims Courts in Ontario, and they often require knowledge of the Building Code, communication with expert witnesses, and otherwise very thorough preparation. These types of cases are also unique, as each job varies and each matter has its peculiarities in terms of how much can be claimed and why. If you are in a situation where the contractor did a bad job on construction or renovation in your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free case assessment.