How to write a letter to a bad contractor

Written by lalla scotter
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How to write a letter to a bad contractor
It's essential to manage contractors and address problems immediately. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

When having work done on your home, collecting references, getting a selection of quotes and signing an apparently watertight contract won't stop a shoddy contractor letting you down. If you have a complaint about a trader's work, it's important to address it immediately by speaking to your contractor. If you don't receive a satisfactory response, write a formal letter of complaint.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Original contract or letter of agreement
  • Quotes supplied by the contractor

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  1. 1

    Look carefully through the contract or letter of agreement you signed with the contractor, as well as through any quotes he supplied. Note every occasion on which he failed to deliver according to the contract. For example, write down every time he was behind schedule or examples of when his work was not according to the specified standard.

  2. 2

    Decide exactly what you want him to do as a result after receiving your letter. You may want him to re-do part of the project, for example, or to give you a discount. You may even want to sack him so that you can appoint another contractor to complete the work properly and withhold part of his fee.

  3. 3

    Format your letter formally. Don't write it as an email. Make sure you include the contractor's name and address, the date and the reference numbers of any quotes, contracts or letters of agreement. Start the letter using the contractor's name.

  4. 4

    Open the letter with a clear statement. Use formal, measured language -- no slang, no swearing and no excessive punctuation, such as multiple exclamation marks. For example: "I am writing to express my disappointment that, despite many promises on your part, my kitchen extension is still three months behind schedule."

  5. 5

    Write down, in list form, all the ways in which he has failed to keep to the contract. Keep your tone factual and objective. For example: "The work schedule agreed as part of our contract stated that you would remove the old kitchen cupboards in the first week and dispose of them immediately. They were not removed until three weeks after the start of the project. In addition, they were left in my front garden for a further two weeks after you had taken them out."

  6. 6

    Conclude with a paragraph stating what you want him to do. Give him a date by which you want it to be done. For example: "I would like the project to be completed, with all the remaining units fitted and the dishwasher and fridge plumbed in, by 30 June. I will be withholding my final payment until I am satisfied that the kitchen has been completed according to the standards we agreed in our contract." Sign the letter "Yours sincerely" as you opened it using his name.

  7. 7

    Pay your contractor for the work he has completed if you're going to sack him. If you calculate that you owe him money, state exactly how much you are paying him and what it covers. Enclose a cheque with your letter. For example: "I am enclosing a cheque for £500 to cover the work in stage four of our schedule. I paid up to the end of stage three on 28 February."

  8. 8

    Send the letter by registered post or special delivery. This means that he will have to sign for delivery and cannot claim that he did not receive your letter.

Tips and warnings

  • Make your letter stronger by enclosing copies of the contracts, quotes and letters referenced. But make sure you keep the originals.
  • If you decide to sack your contractor, he may try to sue you for breach of contract. That is why it is important to show in your letter that he breached the contract first. If he takes you to court, your letter will become a legal document.

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