The often staggering cost of litigation has prompted an equally staggering amount of regulatory complaints against contractors in recent years. Why? Because filing a complaint against a contractor may not cost a complainant anything but time. And any litigation expenses are mostly borne by the contractor/respondent, who is anxious to defend and protect their license and reputation (i.e. their livelihood).
Here are some tips for pursuing or responding to a complaint and getting the best out of your state’s contractor regulatory agency (in Arizona, the Registrar of Contractors):
(1) Respect the Registrar. Your regulatory agency is probably understaffed and overworked. It does no good to blame them for your predicament. Show proper courtesy, and you’ll be better off for it.
(2) Be Timely. Deadlines set by the regulatory agency are not suggestions. If you miss a deadline, you may be admitting to issues raised in the complaint, or your complaint may be dismissed and closed.
(3) Engage regularly with the assigned Investigator. The agent investigating your complaint will typically prioritize complaints in the order received and assigned. If you need to update information and keep the Investigator informed about your complaint or response, call or email accordingly. All of these updates will be added to the file.
(4) Document attempts to reach a resolution. Complainants often have exceedingly high expectations, and contractors sometimes take complaints personally. If one side is being unreasonable and thwarting legitimate opportunities to settle, the best way to memorialize this is in writing to the Investigator. Being unreasonable will inevitably affect the outcome.
(5) Support your position with credible evidence. Appreciate that your Investigator is probably very experienced at distinguishing frivolous vendettas from genuine complaints about bad construction. Provide photographs, repair estimates and opinions by experts to support claims of un-workmanlike construction or to demonstrate that the work meets applicable building codes or regulatory standards. Quality, not quantity, is the key.
These are just a few tips to assure that your position is fully and fairly considered. Keep in mind, however, that once a complaint raises a concern to protect the public against a contractor, the agency may take over. This makes it more difficult for the complainant and respondent to resolve the matter without the agency’s involvement and approval. In addition, complaints that wind up contested at a hearing may result in having issues fully decided and binding on the parties in other forums. So think twice before simply filing a complaint to try and leverage a contractor. On the other hand, as a contractor forced to oppose a complaint, defend it diligently or you could lose your license, jeopardize your bond security and face scrutiny in other states as well.