Fox & Moghul has successfully represented many homeowners and/or contractors in construction defect and fraud cases that often involve unlicensed contracting work by companies in violation of Virginia Code 54.1-1110. Embarking on a home improvement project can be an exciting, yet daunting task. When hiring a contractor, you hope that your project will be completed professionally, on time, and within budget. However, in the unfortunate event that you experience issues with your contractor, you may be considering legal action. Here are five important things you should know before suing a contractor in Virginia.
Definition of What Constitutes “Contracting” Work in Virginia.
Before taking legal action against a contractor, it’s essential to understand the statutory definition of a contractor in Virginia. According to the Virginia Code § 54.1-1100, a contractor is “any person, that for a fixed price, commission, fee, or percentage undertakes to bid upon or accept, or does accept any order, contract or undertaking to construct, alter, repair, improve or manage, in whole or in part, for any person or firm, any building or structure to be constructed upon land owned by such person or firm.”
Classes of Contractors in Virginia:
Contractors in Virginia are divided into three classes based on the total value of a single contract or the total value of contracts within a 12-month period. These classes are:
- Class A contractors: Those who perform projects with a value of $120,000 or more, or have a total yearly project value of $750,000 or more.
- Class B contractors: Those who perform projects with a value between $10,000 and $119,999, or have a total yearly project value between $150,000 and $749,999.
- Class C contractors: Those who perform projects with a value between $1,000 and $9,999, or have a total yearly project value of no more than $150,000.
Each class of contractor is subject to specific licensing and regulatory requirements. Ensuring your contractor is licensed and in compliance with the appropriate regulations is crucial. You can check your contractors license on the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s website here.
Mandatory Clauses In Residential Contracting Agreements – 18 VAC 50-22-260
A construction contract describes in a very detailed manner, clearly identified TIMELINES, description of the product to be delivered, payment schedules, methods of verification of progress and payments based on such independent verification. There are time and materials contracts, and fixed or flat fee contracts. The type of job, scope and the complexity will determine what form will be used. However, regardless of form, there are mandatory clauses that must be included in a Virginia contract for construction work.
Remedies for Homeowners Whose House Has Been Destroyed by an Unlicensed Contractor:
In the unfortunate event that your house is destroyed by an unlicensed contractor, you have various legal remedies available. These may include:
- Filing a lawsuit for breach of contract, negligence, or fraud.
- Seeking compensation through the Virginia Contractor Transaction Recovery Act, which provides financial assistance to homeowners who suffer losses due to a contractor’s improper or dishonest conduct.
- Filing a complaint with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR).
Filing a Complaint with the DPOR against a Contractor.
The DPOR is responsible for regulating contractors in Virginia. If you have an issue with a contractor, you may file a complaint with the DPOR. Circumstances under which you may file a complaint include:
- The contractor fails to complete the project as agreed.
- The contractor performs substandard work.
- The contractor abandons the project.
- The contractor engages in fraudulent activities.
The relevant sections of the Virginia Administrative Code are as follows:
- 18VAC50-22-10: This regulation establishes the standards of practice and conduct for contractors licensed by the DPOR’s Board for Contractors.
- 18VAC50-22-20: This section outlines the grounds for disciplinary action against a contractor, which include fraud, deceit, negligence, incompetence, and non-compliance with applicable regulations, among other reasons.
- 18VAC50-22-260: This regulation specifies the complaint process and investigation procedures. According to this section, a complaint should be in writing and should include details about the alleged violation. The Board for Contractors will then evaluate the complaint and determine whether an investigation is warranted.
- 18VAC50-22-270: This section details the formal hearing process. If the board determines that a hearing is necessary, the contractor and the complainant will be notified of the date, time, and place of the hearing.
Before filing a complaint with the DPOR, it is recommended that you first attempt to resolve the issue with your contractor. If your efforts are unsuccessful, you can proceed with the formal complaint process.
Suing a contractor can be a complex and time-consuming process. It’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in construction law. They can help you navigate the legal system, evaluate your case, and provide guidance on the best course of action.
If you find yourself considering legal action against a contractor in Virginia, it’s essential to understand the statutory definition of a contractor, be aware of the different classes of contractors, and know the remedies available to you. You can also reference our other articles on this subject here and here.