Firing contractor and finding new one

TLDR: What is the process to fire a contractor and get a new one? Are there any legalities involved ? Any gotchas? Since I am in between inspections, how do I handle this with the city (Cupertino) ?

Long Read:
We started a project to add 490 sq ft to our ranch house in March. It took our inept architect 2 months to get the plan approved and the contractor started working from the last week of July. This is the 5th month and he is still not done. At this point I guess 70% of the work is done.
What’s complete:

  • Foundation and inspection
  • Framing and inspection
  • New roof shingles for addition and old house
  • Electrical wiring for addition
  • HVAC ducts and new heater
  • Reframe garage roof due to addition - somehow this work went unaccounted in the contract and I had to pay the wood workers directly to get this done.

But there has been long periods of inactivity.
What’s not done:

  • Getting inspections scheduled. Since the addition’s roof sits on the existing roof a thick wooden beam had to be attached to the existing beam that runs the length of the house ( imagine a massive inverted U with the arms at the ends of the house ). This has not been inspected and has been this way for a month now.
  • Special inspection - this involves work the contractor has to do at the foundation while the inspector is on premises.
  • No windows or skylights installed yet - ive been lucky with minimal rains but keep worrying about rain and warping.
  • I rolled a bunch of rehab work for the older portion of the house into this contract - installing 600 sq ft of pavers, replacing windows to double-pane, repolishing the floors - none of this is done yet.
  • My biggest gripe is that the beam installation ( above ) has made stucco/drywall holes in my living room and bedroom. With temperatures dipping to below 50 this month, I have had to get a bunch of heaters into the house and my kids keep complaining that the house is too cold.

From the contractor’s POV, he has friction with some of his workers - maybe due to better pay elsewhere. I am quite annoyed that he has not been able to find replacements for some of the deserters.

We’ve been very careful with payments and so still only paid 70% of my budget for this work.
I know a couple of other contractors in the area who can finish these last bits of work and am debating what to do.
So again - what is the process to fire a contractor and get a new one? Are there any legalities involved ? Any gotchas? Since I am in between inspections, how do I handle this with the city (Cupertino) ?

Getting permit with city/county services are always delayed, 3-6 months.

Two friends in Cupertino had similar issues, one planned 9 months, ended up finishing after 18 months, another got permit in 12 months, issues with neighbor swimming pool-window issue, extended the project another 12 months.

What is the guarantee that next person is not like this? Just a question. I know the pain.

IMO, this is common for first timer, see whether the delay is genuine and handle it carefully.

Is the permit in your name or in the contractor’s name? I think that the person who is named in the permit assumes the liability (quality/ warranty issues). If it is you, it should be easy to switch the contractor. If the contractor is named, then I am not sure. Problems after finalizing, the 2 contractors will blame each other.

@ptiemann Permit is in my name.

@Jil That is what is giving me pause. I have little control over the next contractor’s behavior.
Ive done an interior remodel in Sunnyvale in 2014 and that was fast. In scale and cost that was a much cheaper project. This one though is a different beast.

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Since the permit is with you, you can easily get rid of that GC and hire new one.

Exactly similar situation, my friend reduced the scope of the GC until 100% getting the city permit. It took long time 12 months as the contractor had multiple projects. He had later found another and completed the project.

I do not have any direct experience, but just came to know from my friend.

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Your list of uncompleted work is mostly framing. Pavers and floor refinishing are the last steps. Unless your contractor doesn’t have anyone working for him right now, he should be able to take care of most of these with just 2 guys in 1-2 weeks. You need to talk to him to see what the real reason behind the delay is. Usually he just needs to focus on another job because that owner is putting a lot of pressure on him to make progress. Do you know whether this is the case? Does your contractor sub out all jobs and he doesn’t have his own crew?

If you have already talked to other contractors about the remaining jobs and they are ok and you are ok with their prices, I would give the current contractor a final notice to ask him to perform. If you had a formal contract with him, there should be some exit terms that you need to be careful about. But doing something is better than not doing anything at all.

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Thanks @Jil and @maluka. Indeed pending work is no more than 2 weeks. I am waiting for the contractor to finish the special inspection before I decide next steps.

This is America, the land of the “I will sue you”.

So, was there any contract specifying the “do this and don’t do that”?

Contract is the heart of legality in this country, no contract is like no money, no honey.