Half my family is builders; the other half is lawyers. At Thanksgiving, we debate who is probably going to Hell first.
Over the years, I have represented numerous different parties in the construction process. I have handled dozens of jury trials, arbitrations, mediations and of course pre-suit settlement discussions. I have represented owners, contractors, sub-contractors, sub-sub-contractors as well as suppliers and lenders.
Lien litigation is also something I have had extensive experience in. Oftentimes a contractor will place a lien on an owner's property causing delay and obstruction from the owner either selling the property or refinancing. Fortunately for owners, if a lien is placed on an owner's property and is fraudulent or exaggerated, the lienor can be assessed a penalty including attorney's fees.
The process starts with identifying what the defects are. Then you determine what the solution is to correct the defects. Then you demand that the responsible contractor step forward.
The owner will typically start the dispute resolution process (whether it is a jury trial or arbitration) with some level of sympathy on their side. After all, the project clearly has defects which shouldn't have happened and have to be repaired and corrected. However, since the property may already have been sold to you at a completed closing, you have already signed a contract which was prepared by the contractor and it probably substantially limits your rights. For example, verbal promises made by a contractor are usually prohibited by virtue of what is called a “merger and integration clause”: this means that everything has to be in writing and typically has to be signed by each of the parties.
Finally, homeowners over the age of 65 are given some protection in that they are allowed to move their case up in priority and to obtain earlier dates for completion for such processes as mediation (which is a voluntary settlement conference usually required by most judges and many statutes).