Navigate Defective Work Claims for Residential Contractors

Contractors often take great pride in their work. With the construction industry being so full of hardworking folks, it is a common frustration for the contracting community when they receive a claim for defective work. Whether it is for an oversight from a previous construction project, a problem that arose from your finished work, or something you are altogether unresponsible for, it is important to know how to proceed when faced with a defective work claim as a residential contractor. In this blog, we will break down how to respond when faced with a defective work claim and how you can be preventative next time so that you don’t ever receive one, to begin with. Let’s jump right in and learn more about how to navigate defective work claims for residential contractors!

Follow the Golden Rule: Respond in Writing

You should always abide by one essential rule when facing a defective work claim: respond in writing. Do not run from it if the homeowner thinks there is an issue with your work. Respond, either saying, “Yes, this is an issue, and here is what I will do to fix it,” or, “No, this is not an issue, and here is why.” Communication is key in this situation, and nothing can C.Y.A like a clear, easy-to-understand explanation.

Using your construction contract as your defense in this scenario has many advantages. Spelling out exactly what your work is, what you aim to accomplish, and what your work doesn’t include is essential and gives you a backbone to lean on and limits what you are responsible for. Most of the time, clearly explaining what you will do within a strong contract can also cover you for additional claims. If your contract explicitly states precisely what you are responsible for, you are significantly less likely to receive a claim for something outside the contract’s parameters.

For example, say you are a painting contractor, and you are painting the walls of a basement. Your contract states you are responsible for removing the wallpaper, priming the walls, and painting them. After your work is done, the homeowner files a defective work claim because the basement ceiling is leaking. Under the parameters detailed in your contract, that has nothing to do with your work and is not related to your responsibilities. Having this written in your contract will enable you to ensure you are better protected should the homeowner push the issue.

The Cromeens Law Firm is here to protect you and your business. Our hope is that you never get stuck in a legal battle because you were not adequately informed or prepared. Work with us to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to protect your business and your hard-earned money.

Prepare for the Punch List!

Another important thing to emphasize to the homeowner who has hired you is a project close-out procedure, and that you will do a punch list walkthrough at the end of the job as part of that procedure. In many instances, homeowners do not realize that this is a part of the process, and they may not understand what a punch list is. If you do not explain this to the homeowner who has hired you on the front end, they may not understand that you will address the small remaining issues and blemishes at the end of the process. It would be best to let them know about this part of the process up front, so they are anticipating it. You can even include this part of the process in your contract, allowing for extra clarity and a paper trail detailing your process and showing that the homeowner has agreed to said process.

Below is an example of how you can do this.

Close-out Procedure

As part of the close-out procedure, and before the final payment request, Client and Contractor will walk through all the work performed by Contractor and point out any issues that need to be corrected or completed.  Small issues and blemishes in the work should be addressed during this close-out procedure and should not be included in a defective work claim or complaint before the close-out procedure has started. This means that if client sees small issues while Contractor is still working, to make a list of them and point them out on this final walkthrough.


After the walkthrough, Contractor will send the Client a list, via email, of all the things that will be corrected, this is the Client’s last opportunity to add anything that needs to be corrected. Contractor will complete all items on the list and at the completion of all items on the list, Client will issue final payment to Contractor and sign off on acceptance of the work. No warranty claims will be honored until Client has signed off on acceptance of the work and payment in full has been received.


Navigate defective work claims by equipping your construction company with the processes and paperwork needed to execute your work efficiently and with clarity. Implementing a section like the one above in your contract can save you serious struggles and even keep you out of court. The homeowner you are working with will appreciate the transparency you provide when you discuss this on the front end. And should they still have a bone to pick, creating a paper trail will keep you, your team, and your work significantly more protected.

Conclusion: Navigate Defective Work Claims with Proactive Communication

Nobody likes receiving a claim for defective work, but it happens plenty. The key to navigating and mitigating the issue in question is communication, communication, communication. It is your responsibility as the contractor to do your part in communicating to ensure your client’s expectations are in line with the reality of your process. Take the initiative. Don’t let a minor miscommunication cause you to have to take the fall for damage you didn’t do. For help fortifying your construction contract to better protect you against defective work claims, reach out to our team of experienced construction lawyers here at The Cromeens Law Firm. Your work deserves to be protected.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.