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Can You Sue a Contractor and Get All Your Money Back?: An Interview with Scott Green of The Green Law Group, LLP

By Scott Green

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

I'm the managing partner of The Green Law Group, LLP located at 1777 E. Los Angeles Avenue in Simi Valley. We have seven attorneys and two paralegals and most of our cases involve disputes between contractors and owners involved in construction projects.

What are some of the most types of common contractor disputes for homeowners in Southern California?

In my 35 years of experience as a construction attorney, home remodeling projects generate the highest number of construction-related legal disputes. Some of the most common problems between homeowners and contractors involve disputes over the scope of the work to be performed, the quality of the work, payment for work and the time necessary to complete the work.

What are the first steps a homeowner should take if the work on their house was not done properly?

Before hiring a contractor a homeowner should clearly define the work they want to be performed, the type and quality of materials they want incorporated into their project and determine how much the work is likely to cost and how long it will take to complete. Property owners who retain an architect and/or a designer to help them plan their projects before they get bids from contractors are more likely to avoid common missteps. The next step in the process is to obtain written bids from at least three licensed contractors with extensive home remodeling experience and references from area homeowners.

When should they consult with a lawyer?

The best time for a homeowner to consult with an experienced construction law attorney is before they sign a home remodeling contract to make sure that the contract terms are clear, that the correct insurance coverage is provided and that the contractor is complying with the numerous consumer protection laws designed to protect homeowners from unscrupulous contractors.

Can you briefly talk about when a homeowner wants to sue a contractor but the work was done properly?

California law requires contractors who perform more than $500 of construction work to be properly licensed at all times during the performance of their work. If a contractor is not licensed at all times during the performance of their work, as a penalty for contracting without a license, California law allows homeowners file a lawsuit to recover all the money they paid to the unlicensed contractor regardless of whether the work was properly performed.

What advice would you give Southern California homeowners about making payments to contractors?

If you have a written contract which was negotiated with the help of an experienced construction law attorney, then progress payments for performance should be made in accordance with the terms of the contract after the property owner has confirmed that the work has been properly performed.

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