By Alexander Barthet

Whether you’re unhappy with the number of changes being made to the scope of work, with the attitude of the owner or design professional, or just burnt out, you need to think twice before walking off a job. If you have a construction contract in place, you’ll likely be in breach and could be sued. If this happens you may not only be responsible for the damages suffered by the owner or contractor in having to replace you and finish the work, you could have to pay back some or all of what you’ve already received.

One contractor who admitted to having cashed a number of checks he had received for work he had yet to do on a contracted remodeling job was found guilty of theft. He appealed, showing that he did perform some work on the project. In fact, the contractor only stopped working when the owner, who had run into permitting problems, couldn’t decide whether to continue the remodel or build a new structure. The evidence showed that at the time he accepted and cashed the checks, this contractor had no intent to defraud the owner by not performing contracted work.

Though failure to perform under a construction contract isn’t usually enough to have a defaulting contractor arrested or charged with a crime, it can happen. So remember, walking off a job does come with some significant risks. You could be sued; you could be responsible for more than you’ve already been paid; you could even be arrested. Before you make such a drastic decision, do the following:

1. Determine if you have a valid construction contract in place, and if you do, see what termination options exist within the contract;
2. Figure out if you have accepted more money than the work you have actually accomplished;
3. See what materials have been ordered, what’s been paid for, and whether those suppliers have either filed notices to owner or claims of lien; and
4. Meet with the owner or general contractor and try to reach an amicable resolution through confidential settlement negotiations.

An emotional decision to walk off a job may be temporarily satisfying but the fallout could be expensive. Become informed before you let your feet do the talking.

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