What Should I Do if I Suspect my Contractor is Using Defective Materials?
Construction disputes can be complex and highly contentious, often involving multiple issues that parties have vehement disagreements about. Most of these have to do with perceived failures to meet contractual obligations, failures to meet performance standards, and similar matters. One issue that may come up during a construction project is the quality of the materials being used.
The cost of materials is obviously one of the major expenses that will be incurred during any construction project. With some construction contracts, the owner pays the contractor for time and materials. This may be a preferable arrangement when the scope of the project is not clear or has not yet been defined. When there is a clear scope and defined completion schedule, an owner may be more likely to prefer a fixed-price or lump sum contract.
With a fixed-price contract, the entire cost of the project is pre-determined based on the contractor’s estimate and any subsequent changes and negotiations. Property owners tend to like this type of contract, because it gives them certainty about how much everything is going to cost and a fairly accurate estimate about when the construction will be completed. That said, a fixed-price contract is not without its drawbacks.
From the contractor’s perspective, fixed-price contracts are risky. During the course of the project, unexpected costs may arise that go beyond the original estimate. A contractor typically accounts for these risks by adding a certain percentage to the fixed price, so they can pay for unspecified work that may need to be performed. This additional percentage is usually wrapped into the overall price of the project.
Another way a contractor may try to minimize their risk is by cutting corners on the materials they use and other major costs (such as labor). When the owner is paying a fixed-price, the contractor is usually the one purchasing the materials. They will often have agreements with building material suppliers, allowing them to buy the materials at a better price. If you are paying a contractor a specified price to complete a building project, using cheaper materials can increase the contractor’s overall profit. With this in mind, it is always important to look closely at the products they are using.
A contractor is obligated to perform work in a good and workmanlike manner and in full accordance with the plans and specifications of the project (as laid out in the contract). This usually includes a warranty to the owner that all labor, materials, and equipment furnished are of the type and quality required under the agreement, and that the materials will be free of defects. Even if these duties are not stated specifically in a contract, they are generally implied by law. This means that if a contractor is knowingly using defective materials, they may be liable for any resulting damages.
What Should I do if I Suspect my Contractor is using Defective Materials?
If you believe your contractor is using materials that are faulty or defective, it is important to take proactive steps to rectify the situation. The first thing to do is to take a closer look at the project as it progresses. It is best to do this discreetly and in a way that does not interfere with their work.
Go to the job site in the morning or evening and check out the materials that are being used. Look for defects such as warped lumber and similar problems. Take multiple photographs of the materials so you can show them to an expert. You may even want to consider bringing a building expert you trust to the job site to inspect the materials more closely.
If you do uncovered defects with the building materials being used for your project, start by having a conversation with your contractor about this issue. Politely explain your concerns about the quality of the materials they are using. It could just be an honest mistake or oversight on their part, and hopefully, they will agree to make things right by replacing the defective materials.
If, on the other hand, the contractor is hostile or defensive, talks down to you, or denies that the material is of low quality or otherwise denies responsibility, it may be time to escalate the matter. At this point, stop making any payments to the contractor and speak with an attorney to discuss your rights and legal options.
Contact an Experienced Maryland Construction Law Attorney
If you are having issues with a contractor that is using defective materials and refuses to do anything about it, the Law Offices of Matthew S Evans, III is here to help. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with clients in Maryland and Washington, DC. to help resolve construction-related issues and obtain appropriate legal relief on their behalf. For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 410-431-2599 or message us through our web contact form.