A verbal agreement is binding in exactly the same way as a written agreement.
The difficulty with his claim is that you didn’t tell him to go ahead and he says you did.
There is no proof that you told him to go ahead so if this went to court, it would depend who the judge believed on the day.
These matters are decided on the balance of probabilities and hence, the judge only needs to prefer one person’s version of events slightly more than the other and that persons claim or defence will succeed.
You ask whether you’re legally bound to pay for his time, not based upon what you have told me where you quite simply didn’t tell him to proceed.
If he is minded to issue Small Claims Court proceedings, you will have to defend them.
Can I clarify anything else for you?
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It appears that he presumed you wanted him to go ahead.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable that he would have to measure up before giving you a quote in any event. It does seem somewhat unusual that he spent a long length of time there particularly if you had not instructed him to go ahead.
I think this is the case of breakdown of communications on his side and a load of assumptions.
You could pay him a nominal amount if you wanted to get rid of it and I could tell you how to deal with that so that he doesn’t claim it’s a part payment. Otherwise, you are waiting for him to get round to issuing court proceedings which he could well do while you are away and then, if you didn’t get that paperwork, you would be coming back to a county court judgement which you would then have to set aside and the fee for setting it aside on its own is £255.
The wording of the heading of letter containing any kind of offer which we spoke about is, “Without Prejudice Save as to Costs”
With that wording, he cannot produce the letter in court as any kind of admission that you are anyway liable because it gets treated as a genuine attempt to settle and get rid of the matter rather than an admission of guilt or liability.