How to Stop Payment for a Contractor's Poor Work


Outsourcing work on a home to a contractor can be stressful, and the stress is made greater when the contractor's work performance is questionable. Legitimate, quality contractors are open to discussion during projects and will act promptly to remedy problems.There are instances, however, when the customer may need to withhold payment to a contractor in order to resolve a dispute over the quality of workmanship.

Things You'll Need

  • Word processing software or typewriter
  • Printer
  • Camera, preferably digital, or smartphone
  • Permanent marker or arrow-shaped labels
  • Copy of the contract

How to Stop Payment for a Contractor's Poor Work

  • Assume that the dispute will go to court. Contact the contractor in writing and detail the complaints with the workmanship. Stay on topic and be specific. For example, rather than writing, "the flooring is bad," state the specific issue, such as, "the flooring was installed poorly and isn't level in many areas. The laminate was scuffed in several places... ." State what remedies are acceptable, and that further payment will be withheld until those remedies are implemented. The letter should be dated and signed.

  • Take pictures of the examples described in the letter. Include the photos with the letter. Highlight the defective areas photographed with a marker or stick-on arrows if they are not obvious.

  • Mail the letter of complaint and photos using registered mail. Keep a copy of your letter, the photos and the return receipt from your letter in a file folder. If the contractor does not comply with the request for remediation and / or sues for payment, these items will serve as evidence on your behalf if you file a counter-suit against the contractor.

  • If payment was made using a credit card, call the credit card company and explain dispute. Notify the company that payment will be withheld for the amount charged to the account by the contractor. The credit card firm will forward paperwork for you to complete and return so that the account won't go into arrears. The firm will also notify the contractor that his or her charges are in dispute, and the payment will not be settled into his or her bank account until the dispute is resolved.

  • If subcontractors are involved, each should also be notified in writing of the dispute with the general contractor and a lien waiver signed, if possible, ensuring the subcontractors will not file a claim on the property as security for what they are owed. Many times a general contractor will refuse to pay subcontractors if payment to the general contractor is withheld, and some subcontractors will file mechanics liens against the customer's property.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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