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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46213
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Hi, We have a contract with our child minder for Mon, Wed,

Resolved Question:

Hi, We have a contract with our child minder for Mon, Wed, and Thur for our son. In May we informed her that I may be starting a new job and would require Tue in addition from September. She asked us to confirm our requirements in June so that she could update the contract; we confirmed by email that we would need Tue in addition to the current. She did not update the contract. Subsequently I didn't take the job and therefore we no longer needed the Tue, we informed her verbally of this in late Jun, again no contract update was forthcoming. We therefore assumed that as she hadn't updated the contract to add Tue that she was just leaving it as is. She has however just billed us for Tue in addition to the usual days for the month of September, stating that we have changed our minds twice and she has turned away another customer because she was holding the Tue for us. She has insisted we pay the additional amount for Tue for the month of September (the notice period in the contract) and that the fact the contract doesn't mention Tue is irreverent as she has the email stating our requirement for Tue.
We do not wish to pay the additional as we have kept her informed of our intent and at no point has she raised any concern or suggested we may need to pay any additional. We feel that the onus was on her to update her contract to accurately represent the required situation in a timely manner.
Where do we stand on this? Are we in the right? Does her claim that an email overrides the signed contract have any validity?
Thank you for your help, this is causing us a lot of stress.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Customer:

Hi Ben, thanks for your assistance.

Ben Jones :

An email, or even a verbal discussion, can override a written contract and it is not a legal requirement that the contract was changed for the new arrangements to become legally binding. If you had informed her of the changes that would have required her to work Tuesdays and she accepted this then this would have become legally binding, even if the contract was not subsequently amended. If you then went on to make further changes and remove the Tuesdays from her working rota then this would amount to another contractual change and generally would need to be done with the child minder’s consent or by giving her reasonable notice. If she did not consent to it then it would really come down to hat notice you gave her. For example if you only informed her at the end of August, or with not enough time for her to be able to make alternative arrangements, then you may indeed be liable to pay her for this month as you have lost her business as a result. But if you gave her sufficient notice which would have enabled her to seek alternative work on those days, then she has not suffered any losses and cannot now claim for the month’s fees for these days. The problem is that there is no specific notice you can refer to and it would vary from case to case, depending on the circumstances and how much the notice would affect her ability to seek alternative arrangements.

Customer:

Ok, thanks for that clarification, we confirmed verbally at the end of July that we would not need Tuesdays, this is more than the four weeks notice detailed in the contract, but she included them in Septembers invoice and disputes that we informed her of this change. unfortunately she has a habit of forgetting what was said which usually results in a text message or email confirmation following, but not in this case. I guess we have no way to prove that was said so where does this leave us, our word against hers? Is there any value in having a contract if it is superseded by all other communication?

Ben Jones :

A contract is the basis of an agreement between two parties but that can subsequently be changed as necessary, whether verbally or in writing, depending on the intentions of the parties. So if the changes were done verbally then it would essentially be your word against hers and this will only become an issue if she decides to go to court over this, whether she goes that far is another matter

Customer:

given that the value of the Tuesdays for the four week period is £170 I assume should it end up in court the expenses will far outweigh the value? what would you suggest as the best course of action, should we engage a solicitor to write to her outlining our position?

Ben Jones :

well she will have to pay a claim fee of £25 and a hearing fee of £25, although if she wins she can get these back from you. There is no need to get a solicitor at this stage, or at all, as it would just escalate the costs for you for what is a minor financial dispute so you can write to her directly to explain your position

Customer:

Ok we will do that, thank you Ben for your assistance it is very much appreciated.

Ben Jones :

you are welcome, all the best

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46213
Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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