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Question DetailsAsked on 6/11/2011

can you cancel contract with contractor within 3 days of signing in California?

My spouse and I signed a contract for a remodel of one of the rooms in our home. We understood about the 3 day stipulation where we could cancel within 3 days after the contract. We obviously wanted the work done and it was to start in two weeks. Unfortunately my spouse developed a health crisis and underwent major surgery 5 days before the start date, and so I requested with the contractor that we reschedule, with the expectation that my spouse would be home within a few days. However, my spouse has developed some unexpected complications and remains hospitalized and the doctors are not sure what is going on. I called the contractor and explained the nature of it and that it is uncertain whatsoever when the work can commence if at all due to health issues when my spouse is rehabilitating at home. Essentially it is highly doubtful that we can proceed for an indefinite amount of time simply because his healthcare team may not permit an atmosphere full of debris, noise, and disruption that may hamper my spouse's full recovery; if my spouse does recover from this. The contractor informed me that I cannot cancel due to this emergency because the 3 days window has passed. These are unforeseen circumstances!!! I cannot have this right now, nor in the near future; it will not happen as far as I can see. The contractor claims that the building materials have already been ordered and that he cannot return them. We supplied the contractor not only the $1000 down, but also nearly half of the cost for the job so the contractor can get started. So the contractor informed me the 3 days passed and I cannot cancel, and really the contractor is being very careful with his response to me, and says only to call him in a couple of weeks about the issue. NOTHING WILL CHANGE IN TWO WEEKS!!! If the work goes on at all, if I decide it is acceptable to my spouse's health I can only forsee sometime in the mid-summer. What can I do? I'd like to get my money back, but I can postphone, but I may not even be able to do that!

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Each state is slightly different, but a quick check for California shows they have the standard 3 day rule for cancellation without cause.

Since you are past this point, you need to review your contract to see what the cancellation / failure to perform language says in the contract. Assuming you notified the contractor in writing of your situation and desire to stop work (and not an undocumented phone call), all expenses accured after the date of that notice are negotiable.

The contractor has stated that supplies had already been ordered, which would fall on you to pay for. There is also the loss of opportunity; the contractor scheduled the work with you which means he could not schedule other work during this time. So you would be responsible for reimbursing the contractor these lost jobs/funds, also.

In this situation, I would recommend you 1) read the contract you signed so you know what options are actually spelled out - anything not in the contract can be negotiated and 2) you attempt to renegotiate the work with the contractor.

You are going to lose your money for the supplies and work already done (the contractor would have been pulling permits, hiring subs, etc. even if no work was started at your site) and quite possibly you will have to pay for the 'hole' in the contractor's schedule since they couldn't schedule other work during the time reserved for you.

If the contractor is willing to work with you, he might be willing to reschedule the work for 4 to 6 months from now, with an understanding that he is able to take on other projects and move your schedule further. You will still not get your deposit back, will probably be charged a storage fee for any custom supplies he already ordered and must hold and you will probably pay more for the work then originally agreed when it is finally done (make sure you negotiate this so you don't get surprised when it is all done).

Otherwise, you will have to break your contract. You won't get your deposit back, you could be invoiced for additional funds and may even be required to pay the entire contracted amount. While the situation is not your or your husband's fault, it isn't the contractor's fault either, so it isn't fair to expect him to take the loss. Hopefully he will recognize it is just an unforeseeable situation and he will be able to cover his losses with your deposit and you all can part on agreeable terms and perhaps recontract when your husband is back to normal. Good luck.

Answered 7 years ago by Kenny Johnson




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