LAWLINK – What can I do about a customer not paying for extra jobs?

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Photo: Callum Hill/Unsplash

Q: I am a builder and handyman and recently I was engaged by a homeowner to do a few bits around his house. I was initially asked to rebuild part of a wall and to lay a small path. I gave him a quote and we eventually agreed on a price for those jobs. As things progressed, he was happy with the quality of the work, so much so that he asked me to look after a few more jobs – tarmacking his driveway and putting down a patio. I never quoted him for those works, but he paid for the materials. He is now saying that he will only pay for the jobs I quoted, as “that was our agreement”. I don’t know where to go from here. I know I should have given him a quote, but we were getting on okay in the meantime. What can I do?

Dear Reader,

Situations such as these are quite common. What starts as a single defined job branches out in ways that the contractor or the employer did not first envisage.

Firstly, of course, you should get paid for the initial works that you quoted for and completed. This should not be controversial in that there is a clear contract as regards the works you envisaged and quoted for. The terms of that contract has been accepted by the homeowner and you are entitled to have those works paid for.

You should ensure, if you are paid for the agreed works, that you do not agree any such payment as full and final settlement. You should try and maintain a clear line of communication, be it via letters, texts, or emails. The detail of verbal conversations can be misremembered over time.

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While naturally it would be best to have a clear quote for these extra works, the fact that you did not quote does not mean that you cannot seek to recover. There is a concept known as ‘quantum meruit’, whereby you are paid what you ‘deserve’ for the works done in the absence of an agreed price. You can clearly show that the homeowner was aware of the extra works that were being done on the basis that he ordered the materials for you and clearly would have obtained receipts for these.

You should liaise with your solicitor and see if any agreement can be reached between you and the homeowner without recourse to the courts. It might be the case that they are willing to pay a sum, but that there is simply not agreement on the sum. An independent quantity surveyor or similar might be engaged to generate a figure outside of the influence of either you or your homeowner.

You should also take photographs of the tarmacked driveway and patio that you put down.

In the first instance I think you should approach the homeowner, point out that he ordered the materials, give him photographs of the works that you completed, and see if the matter can be resolved before engaging solicitors.