Residential and Small Commercial Dispute Resolution Services - Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q: My contractor was licensed when they started the work but now they are expired or suspended. Can I still file a complaint?
A: As long as the contractor was actively licensed at one point during the work period and the current property owner has a direct contractual relationship with the contractor, CCB can likely take the complaint.
Q: What is a direct contractual relationship and why does it say current property owner?
A: If you have work done before selling the property and defects are found after the sale but within one year of the end of the work, neither party may file a valid complaint unless there is an assignment in the sale agreement documents that links the new owner to the contractor (you may need legal advice from a real estate attorney). The current (new) owner did not hire the contractor so they could not file the complaint and the previous owner had the direct contractual relationship, but they are no longer the owner.
Q: My 30-day pre-complaint notice was returned undeliverable, unclaimed or refused, what do I do now?
A: Under the law, by mailing the pre-complaint notice by certified mail to the contractor’s address of record at CCB you have met your obligation. The contractor was legally served on the date you mailed the pre-complaint notice and after the 30 days has elapsed, you may file your complaint.
Q: I’ve sent the pre-complaint notice by certified mail to the licensed contractor and 30 days has passed. What happens next?
A: You need to fill out the appropriate complaint form on our website, list the items in contention and submit it to CCB. You may only file a complaint beginning 30 days after the pre-complaint notice is mailed and not later than one year after the last day of work on the project. There are a few exceptions, so please call 503-934-2247 if you are close to the one year filing deadline to see if any exceptions apply.
Q: What happens after I file a complaint?
A: One of the CCB Dispute Analysts will review your complaint and make sure it is within our jurisdiction. If the work was performed on a residential or small commercial property, the work was done less than a year ago, and the complainant must also have a direct contractual relationship with the contractor, the Analyst will send a letter to notify both parties that the complaint is within CCB jurisdiction. The complainant will then need to pay the $50 filing fee and the complaint is assigned to a Mediator for either an on-site or telephone mediation of the dispute.
Q: How does CCB decide on the type of mediation (on-site or telephone)?
A: If the workmanship defects have been corrected by another contractor it would likely be telephone mediation since there is nothing to see at the site. If the work is still incomplete, the complaint would likely result in an on-site mediation with the contractor and the property owner.
Q: Why can’t CCB force the contractor to pay me my money?
A: The CCB is not a decision making entity. Our role established by the legislature, is to assist the parties in settling the dispute prior to having to spend the time and money going through litigation. We do this by holding mediation, where the mediator is there to help the parties through negotiations and reach an agreement.
Q: What is the mediation and how does that work?
A: The purpose of the mediation is to attempt to resolve the disputes to avoid what can be a costly and lengthy litigation process. This could be that the contractor completes or corrects the items in contention or there could be a monetary settlement. In either case, both parties need to be prepared to make a decision at the mediation. The mediator is not going to be interested in “he said - she said” or text and email trails. The mediator will not let emotions get in the way of a settlement and they are not biased toward either side, they just need to find a result that will resolve the dispute.
Q: How will I know what a reasonable monetary settlement is?
A: If a homeowner has replaced the original contractor or has estimates to correct the workmanship issues in the complaint, they would have an idea of the cost to correct the work. If the homeowner has not had the work corrected yet, having estimates is going to be a very good idea to have on hand. That gives us a starting point for negotiation.
Q: The mediator has met the contractor before. Isn’t that a conflict?
A: The mediator may have been doing this work for as much as 15 years in your area. It is not uncommon for the mediator to have negotiated with your contractor in the past. If the mediator has any direct relationship with the contractor they will declare a conflict prior to the mediation and the complaint is assigned to another mediator that does not have a conflict of interest with the contractor or property owner.
Q: How often are these disputes settled at the on-site mediation?
A: Typically about 70% of the disputes are resolved at mediation when both parties participate. Keep in mind that CCB mediators are not going to assign blame or fault for the dispute. Their job is simply to find a resolution and end the dispute.
Q: What happens when we have an agreement during mediation?
A: The mediator will write up a settlement agreement at the meeting and both parties sign the agreement. The complaint remains open until the terms of the agreement are completed. We don’t like to let agreements reach beyond 6 months.
Q: If mediation is not successful, what happens next?
A: When mediation is not successful, the complainant must file in court in order to keep the complaint open. The Analyst will send a letter advising the complainant that they need to file in court and provide the Analyst with a copy of the court filing document within 30 days in order to recover any damages from the contractor or the surety bond.
Q: I can’t get a court filing within the 30 days so what do I do?
A: Stay in contact with your Analyst. If you file in small claims court for your county, the process is quick and simple in most cases. Filing in circuit court generally requires an attorney and can take longer to develop the complaint, so be sure to stay in communication with your Analyst.
Q: I couldn’t get the court case filed and the Analyst sent me a letter saying the case was being closed. What do I do now?
A: The Analyst can reopen the case if you give them the court filing document and the case was closed no more than 60 days prior. Once 60 days has passed from the date of closure, the Analyst cannot open the complaint file again.
Q: My damages are about $12,000 and small claims court has a $10,000 limit. What do I do next?
A: The residential/small commercial surety bond does not cover any attorney fees. You will need to decide whether to file your complaint in small claims court and accept a maximum judgement of $10,000 with no attorney or file in circuit court and present your case with an attorney. Attorney fees can run into tens of thousands of dollars if you have to go to a circuit court hearing. Only you can decide the best path to follow with where you choose to file your case.
Q: I don’t want the hassle of going to court but I still want to be paid for the damages and mediation was not successful. What now?
A: The ONLY path to recovery from the surety bond is with an active CCB complaint AND a court judgement or arbitration award. If you do not go to court or through the arbitration process, you cannot collect from the surety bond.