Law Offices of Gerard F. Lane
Established 1959

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Contractor/Homeowner Disputes







With the unfortunate exception of domestic cases, there is perhaps no more acrimonious and prolific controversies than those originating in the context of contractor/homeowner disputes.





Nature of the Relationship / Source of the Controversy


The Law Offices of Gerard F. Lane have worked both sides of contractor/homeowner disputes, and unfortunately they are often some of the most contentious civil cases we have seen.  The reason for the high intensity of these cases is generally two-fold. 


On the one hand we have homeowners who have invited contractors and work crews into their most personal space, and they have done so literally at times in order to tear apart that home - all of course with the goal of repairing and renovating the home.  Unfortunately, no homeowner is ever quite prepared for the chaos that develops from even the apparently mundane renovation project. 


On the other hand we have contractors who are trying their best to survive in an extremely competitive industry; one that is often poorly controlled despite voluminous regulations.  For the conscientious contractor who abides by the rules, it can be virtually impossible to compete with the unscrupulous one who cuts corners in the practices of pricing, materials, insurance, scheduling and hiring to name a few.


Couple the above with the reputation that unscrupulous contractors give the trades and we find that often when there is even a limited and reasonable difference of opinion on a job, the parties retreat to their corners quickly and proceed to firmly dig their heels into their respective positions.  We have the homeowners believing they have been swindled by one of the many contractors they have heard about, and the contractors believing they once again are going to be pressured into working beyond the scope of the quoted job for little or no additional compensation.  By the time we are consulted as attorneys by either party the situation is usually critical.


In many ways this relationship is not so unlike the aforementioned domestic case – the other caustic and prolific relationship.  What was once a trust relationship between contractor and homeowner, often where the homeowner greets the contractor with coffee and donuts in the morning, is now one where the homeowner doesn’t want the contractor on his premises and the contractor won’t even return the homeowner’s phone calls.  As with the domestic case we only wish we had been consulted earlier, but that is rarely the case.



Evaluate, Negotiate and then [when necessary] - Sue


Quite frankly we have been on both sides of this equation and thus we have seen unscrupulous contractors take advantage of innocent homeowners and we likewise have seen homeowners “game” the system sucking out the life of hard-working contractors.  We have seen contractors “staking the job” and moving on, paying ongoing projects’ subcontractors, employees and suppliers from new project deposits, and we have seen homeowners pushing the punch list envelope and unreasonably kidnapping the holdback only so that they can renegotiate a better deal than the one for which they fairly contracted.  These unethical practices disturb us no matter who the culprit is. 


We would never say that the contractor industry is not sufficiently regulated.  Perhaps it is just the opposite.  We do say though based upon our experience that there are gross flaws in the regulation, and disappointingly at times a lack of either knowledge or courage in the judicial process.  Oftentimes the just and legal result is obvious from the onset, but unfortunately unscrupulous attorneys and judges who lack fortitude and conviction can subvert all the regulations one can write. 

Contracts ought to be straightforward and clear, and most often they are, however the very foundation of a contract is honor – the gentlemen’s handshake if you will.  Without that honor contracts can be a virtual minefield for the innocent.


            -   and as so often is the case, that is where we come in.   



90 percent of contractor/homeowner relationships proceed without incident - fortunately.  It is of course for the other 10 percent that we are hired.  What you will get from us first and foremost is a reasoned and measured approach to the crisis.  It is not; despite the overwhelming majority of times clients want to do otherwise, generally a time to “stand for principal” regardless of the cost.  No one has been physically injured here, and no one is going to jail.  Usually the money involved and the work to be completed is not sufficient to literally make a federal [or state] case out of it.  But as noted above we understand that the emotions run high when a home is literally ripped apart, and/or when one’s professional skills and integrity are called into question. 


At this crossroad it is the time to regroup and renegotiate in good faith to accomplish 99% of what you bargained for in the first place – and often it is not too late do so.  Our first role thus is to take the emotion out of the situation, to reset the dial and to finish the job for all concerned. If we are able to do that for you, we will consider our engagement a success.


In that role you are in luck, because much like the domestic controversies, there are innumerable attorneys out there who would like nothing more than to run up a big bill on you so that you can “show” the other party that you were “right”.  They are not hard to find.  That however would not be our approach.  As noted, most of these controversies can be negotiated to an acceptable position for all concerned so long as both parties will take a little less than their current position to get quite comfortably close to their original one, and to thereby close the deal and move on.  And we have a great deal of experience and a proven record of accomplishment in dong just that for our clients. 


On the other hand as with all law, there is at times the right party and the wrong, and a wrong party may be accustomed to preying on the unsavvy or unprotected. 


-      once again that is where we come in. 

-      We are in this profession first an foremost to stand for the righteous against the unjust.


Should it become necessary, as with all cases we accept, we are prepared to litigate any claim to the bitter end. 


                    -    That’s what we bring to the table for you.




We have experience in the following types of claims - to name only a select few:

  • Contractor hired for multiple rehabs of two to three families in Cambridge, not paid by investor after first successful rehab;
  • Contractor hired for multifaceted job on two family – homeowner withholding full holdback despite homeowner punch list being a fraction thereof even if all homeowner concerns were legitimate;
  • Homeowner hiring “general contractor” not understanding that general actually had no professional contracting license nor had HIC license, general not fulfilling duties under purported contract yet retaining full deposit money;
  • Represented Contractor who performed six figure rehabilitation contract, re-executed several aspects of job to attempt satisfaction of homeowner so as to obtain release of final holdback, and finally defended same at Home Improvement Contractor’s Board when homeowner made complaint against contractors;
  • Represented Homeowner who hired contractor for construction of three-season porch addition to home, contractor “spiked the job”, didn’t return for some time and then when contractor did he dragged it out for over half a year, did not complete and eventually defaulted on job and left homeowner with bill from supplier.  Later represented homeowner in suit brought against him by supplier;
  • New construction flooring controversy when flooring defect was not noted until several years after move-in, due to concealment by contractor and/or seller/developer;
  • Advisement of Condo Association on persistent leaking roof years after construction completed;
  • Represented Homeowner in leaking roof controversy.  Homeowner lived on coast, hired contractor from list from large national hardware store to fix leak.  Paid in tens of thousands over one year and still had leaking roof only to have hardware store abandoned project.  Threatended suit, eventually negotiating settlement for new contractor to properly fix roof with enough funding to cover much of the legal costs.          




We would be thrilled to be contacted by you to hear that you are in the process of engaging a contractor and are seeking advice, or that you are a new contractor or one rethinking past practices who would like our advice on how to avoid pitfalls in the future.  

Although we expect many who are reading this page are not in those categories – there is always next time.  After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 


We offer a free initial consultation. 



If you are of a philosophy that dovetails with ours as described above –

Evaluate, Negotiate and then [if necessary] Sue,

we look forward to being of service to you.

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