How to Fire Your Contractor

Contractors have a bad reputation. Most people view them in the same light as used car salesmen and circus clowns. Most contractors in my industry are honest, hard working and conscientious family men who take pride in their work and for the most part do a decent job at what they do. There are always outliers of course. These range from the all out scumbag con artist who intends to steal from you from day 1, to the clueless contractor who starts out with good intentions but for various circumstances proves to be unreliable and gets in over his head and becomes insolvent or both while on your job.

Reality -So here you are with a gaping hole in the side of your house, a tarp clinging to life as at flaps like sheet hung out to dry on a summer day. Water is dripping down the walls and pooling on the new subfloor and you finally come to grips with the fact that he is really not coming back. Now what?

Time to fire his ass!

Most people don’t realize that you have every right to do this. The building code (at least here in Massachusetts is very clear on what your rights are) As a the owner of the property and more importantly, the one who hired him, you can simply go down to your local building dept and submit a letter informing them that you are removing the contractor of record from the permit. You need to offer no explanation or reason. The code also states that the contractor has the right to do the very same thing. The reason this is set up like this makes perfect sense when you consider what could happen if either party started to operate and conduct themselves in bad faith. I have personally seen building inspectors try and take matters into their own hands and deny a home owners request for this, all in the name of fairness. In one particular case a homeowner had to hire an attorney, not to go after the deadbeat contractor but, rather the building inspector who wouldn’t let her replace him without his approval!

In a nut shell, this part of the code exists so that neither party can hold the other hostage.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario.

The Thief.  Imagine you are in the middle of a large kitchen renovation and the GC and his crew are hard at work everyday while you are at work trying to make the money to pay for it.  Then at lunch time you receive an email notification that the Nanny cam that is set up in your bedroom just got logged some activity so you go online and see whats going on. “There’s no work going on up there” you think to yourself. You then watch in horror as your once trusted contractor goes rooting through your jewelry box and steals your grandmas diamond earrings.

You can finish the story from here, but basically, after a violation of trust such as this (and this kind of crap happens every day!)  there is no recovery. The contractor has to go and the code allows you the right to make him go. If, for some reason he feels that he was fired unlawfully then, THAT is what the courts are for. Let the judge decide. Its not the building inspectors job to arbitrate and decide when and if, either party is justified to be removed as the contractor of record.

This also applies for electricians and plumbers who are also required to pull separate permits for their respective work.

Hopefully you will never be in a situation where knowing any of this will be required and if you do your due diligence before you hire your next contractor, your chances are even slimmer.


Nathan Dishington has been a General Contractor in the greater Boston area since 2002.  He shares his experience, advice and anecdotes from the wild world of residential remodeling to TRY and help bring some sanity for both contractors and homeowners alike.


Nathan Dishington

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