How do I resolve conflict with my contractor if they damage my property?


You must decide if your complaint falls under the following criteria before you take action against your contractor:

1) Did the contractor purposefully damage your property or were you negligent in any way to contribute to the damage? I have noticed that homeowners often do not consider their home as a construction site, albeit that is exactly what it is when you hire a contractor to make improvements to your home.

2) Did you pursue practical communication skills to try to resolve the problem? Being a good communicator involves active listening skills. See the H.U.R.I.E.R. model of listening.

Hearing–focusing on and attending to the message

Understanding–obtaining the literal message meaning

Remembering–recalling the message for future action

Interpreting–expressing sensitivity to contextual and nonverbal message aspects

Evaluating–logic applied to the assessment of the message value

Responding–choosing an appropriate response to what is heard
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I have learned that the very essence of the communication process is Shared Meaning. If one person encodes a message a certain way and the receiver decodes the message wrong and misinterprets the encoding what occurs during this process of communication is called a communication disconnect. This happens all the time which is why active listening skills are the key to effective communication with your contractor.

3) Was the damage an act of God or something completely out of control of the contractor?
Sometimes things just happen on a job site that the contractor cannot control. For example, I was doing a door and trim installation job a week or two ago and water flooded in the homeowners garage where the spray booth and drop clothes had been set up. This was completely out of the control of both the homeowner and the contractor. It may have slowed down production a little bit and caused a little bit of water to be tracked into the home but we both realized that we just had to deal with it and not complain about it or blame each other.

4) Were you rational/calm or angry/upset when you approached the contractor about the damage (s)?
The attitude that you bring to the table when approaching your contractor about the damage may greatly influence his or her reaction toward you. Utilize the 3 C’s to your advantage and stay Cool, Calm, & Collected.

5) Could you honestly look yourself in the mirror each day knowing that you are about to potentially ruin and or tarnish someone’s reputation and if so, what would it feel like if the shoe were on your foot and you were legitimately trying to run a business like the contractor? This question you must answer on your own. This is up to the individual and I cannot sway you either way, I just want to point you in the right direction and give you another lens/perspective in which to view the situation.

6) Finally, What does your contractual agreement state as far as recourse and remediation for damaged property are concerned?
When in doubt follow the guidelines set in the contractual agreement. If your contract does not have any clauses concerning damaged property have the contractor add it to the contract so that both you and the contractor have some sort of recourse in case damage occurs on the project..

As you answer these questions, please realize how difficult it is to be a small business in this economy. If the contractor does good work; his reputation will speak for itself and yet if he or she makes a mistake please take the time to bring it to the contractor’s attention by making a concerted effort to communicate your displeasure so that he or she may have an opportunity to resolve the issue before you move to the complaint stage. In other words, I suggest that you ought to extend grace through humility as you move forward with your contractor.

In most cases you will be delighted to know that business owners have their faults too. While they may make a mistake here or there, wisdom will show that they learn from them and are more than happy to oblige to make the homeowner happy by fixing, replacing, or repairing what was damaged. Please give your contractor the benefit of the doubt and allow them an opportunity to prove their character, integrity and values through word and deed.


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