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Enjoyable sustainable renovations

Dealing with contractor no-shows: legal and practical advice for homeowners

28 January 2024

Many homeowners face the frustrating challenge of contractor no-shows or project delays. These issues can lead to significant inconvenience and financial strain. However, there are effective strategies to manage these situations and prevent them from happening in the first place. In this blog, I'll share some practical and legal advice to help you navigate these challenges.

Understanding the problem

Firstly, it's important to understand why contractor no-shows or delays occur. Reasons can range from poor management, overbooking, personal issues, supply chain problems, to unforeseen circumstances. Recognising the cause can often help in finding a solution.

Legal preparation: contracts

Clear contractual terms: Before work begins, ensure you have a detailed contract. This contract should clearly outline the scope of work, timelines, payment schedules, and clauses for delays and cancellations.

Delay clauses: Include specific clauses that address delays and no-shows. These might involve penalties for delays, conditions under which extensions are permissible, and remedies for breach of contract.

Right to terminate: Ensure there's a clause that allows you to terminate the contract under certain conditions, like repeated no-shows or excessive delays.

Communicating with your contractor

Open dialogue: Maintain regular communication. If a contractor is unresponsive, send a formal email or letter expressing your concerns and citing the relevant contract terms.

Document everything: Keep a record of all communications, including emails, texts, and notes from phone calls. This documentation can be crucial if legal action is necessary.

Practical steps to take

1. Thorough vetting: Research and vet contractors thoroughly before hiring. Check their references, past work, and reviews.

2. Payment schedule: Set up a payment schedule that aligns with project milestones. Avoid paying too much upfront.

3. Set regular updates and check ins: Agree on regular progress meetings or updates. This keeps the contractor accountable and allows you to monitor the project closely. Schedule regular on-site check-ins to assess progress.

4. Flexible scheduling: Understand that some delays are inevitable. Being flexible can help maintain a good working relationship, as long as it's within reason.

5. Backup plans: Have a list of alternative contractors or solutions if the current one fails to deliver.

Legal recourse

Mediation: Before taking legal action, consider mediation. A neutral third party can help resolve disputes without going to court.

Small claims court: For smaller projects, small claims court can be an effective way to resolve disputes.

Consult a lawyer: If the situation is complex or involves a significant amount of money, it may be worthwhile to consult a lawyer.


Contractor no-shows and delays are challenging but manageable. With a combination of careful planning, clear communication, and understanding your legal rights, you can minimise the impact of these issues. Remember, preparation is key, and a well-drafted contract can save you a lot of headaches down the road. Stay proactive and informed to ensure your home renovation project stays on track.