What to do if your job is left unfinished

Most home improvement projects run smoothly, leaving you with exactly what you wanted. But occasionally things don’t go to plan, and while work starts on schedule, for one reason or another it isn’t finished as it should be.

This guide looks at what you can do if you find yourself in the situation where work is left unfinished by the tradesperson you hired.

What has happened?

While the outcome – the job isn’t finished – is the same, there are several different ways in which a customer and tradesperson can end up in this situation. Some typical examples are:

  • The job is mostly finished aside from a few “snagging” or finishing jobs to sort out, but now the tradesperson is unavailable.
  • You had a disagreement over something, such as the tradesperson’s conduct or how the work was progressing, and the tradesperson has left the project.
  • The tradesperson claims the job is finished, but you believe there is still work to be done.
  • Your tradesperson has said they will come back but is making lots of excuses for why they’re not working on your project, and you’re concerned they won’t come back.
  • The tradesperson hasn’t given any reason for not finishing the work but now won’t respond to any attempts to contact them.



Key questions

Working out how to proceed when work has been left unfinished depends on two main factors:

Was there a clear agreement in place, either in the form of a written quote or a contract, about what work was to be done?
How much money have you already paid the tradesperson?

If you have a detailed quote that sets out exactly what the scope of work should be, there should be no doubt over whether a job is finished or not. If the tradesperson has clearly failed to fulfil what is in the quote, it is evidence that you can use later if you wish to make a claim against them.

Read our guide to quotes and contracts to get the most out of them.

How much you have paid for the job up to this point is also important. If you haven’t paid anything in advance, or have only paid a small deposit, then you may be better off simply finding another tradesperson to complete the job. While inconvenient, you will not necessarily have suffered financially from the original tradesperson abandoning the job, making it difficult to make a claim against them.

If you have already paid a significant amount, either because you paid upfront or were paying in stages, you may have been left out of pocket, which can be a starting point to take action against the tradesperson.

If you have only paid a deposit and work has not yet begun, read our dedicated article on deposits.

Attempt to contact the tradesperson

The simplest and best outcome is that the tradesperson returns and finishes the work to a standard you are happy with, so make an effort to contact the tradesperson and ask them to put the matter right.

In some cases, the tradesperson will have stopped work because the company has gone bust – if that is the case, take a look at our dedicated article on what to do if this happens during your job.

However, if you believe your relationship has broken down completely and you have been left out of pocket, a civil action may be your only option.


Document everything

Even if you do not have a written quote or contract to work off, document everything that has happened so far with the project, including any texts or emails between you and the tradesperson, and take photographs of the work that has been done so far.

Make a record of any phone calls you have, or attempts to call them, along with notes of what was discussed.

If the work left unfinished is such that you need to hire another tradesperson to put it right, make a record of all the costs incurred as this will form part of your claim.

Making a claim

Making a civil claim should be the last resort if you have been unable to settle a financial dispute in any other way.

Before starting your claim, you should send the tradesperson what is known as a letter before claim or letter before action, a formal notice that lays out your claim and what you want in return, giving them a chance to respond before you initiate action.

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