Whether you’re unhappy with the number of changes being made to the original scope of work, fed up with the attitude of the owner or design professional, or just burnt out, you need to think twice before walking off a construction project. If you have a contract in place, you could be in breach and find yourself in court. When that happens, you may not only be responsible for the damages suffered by the owner or contractor in having to replace you and finish your work but you might also have to pay back some or all of what you’ve already earned. Not good.

And it could get worse. One contractor who walked off a job after having cashed a number of checks he had received for work he had yet to do on a contracted remodeling job was found guilty of theft. He appealed, showing that he did actually perform some work on the project. In fact, the contractor only stopped working when the owner, who had run into permitting problems, couldn’t decide whether to continue the remodel or build a new structure. The evidence showed that at the time the contractor accepted and cashed the checks, he had no intent to defraud the owner and the charges against him were dropped.

Though failure to perform under a construction contract isn’t usually enough to have a defaulting contractor arrested or charged with a crime, it can happen. So remember, walking off a job does come with some significant risks. You could be sued; you could be responsible for more than you’ve already been paid; you could even be arrested. Before you make such a drastic decision, do the following:

1. Determine if you have a valid construction contract in place, and if you do, see what termination options exist within the contract;
2. Figure out if you have accepted more money than the work you have actually accomplished;
3. See what materials have been ordered, what’s been paid for, and whether those suppliers have either filed notices to owner or claims of lien; and
4. Meet with the owner or general contractor and try to reach an amicable resolution through confidential settlement negotiations.

An emotional decision to walk off a project may be temporarily satisfying but the fallout could be expensive. Become informed before you let your feet do the talking.