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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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A carpenter is billing us £420 days work and threatening

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A carpenter is billing us £420 for 2 days work and threatening to take us to court if we don't pay. The situation is that we are having renovations done on our house and we approached this person for a quote to install windows. He was phoned on Friday and he told my husband he would call the following week. He called on Tuesday and gave us a day rate of £210, and said he would start the next day, we told him brackets required for fitting were being sent by the manafacturer and would not arrive till lunchtime, clearly annoyed he said he would come on the Thursday. Unfortunately the brackets did not arrive and as soon as we confirmed that the delivery was not going to happen, the carpenter was telephoned. Several weeks later he phoned about other work we had asked him to quote for but by that stage we had already accepted a quote from someone else. He then billed us for 2days he never worked and is threatening us with court proceedings. Does he have a case in law?
Thank you
Alice H : My name is ***** ***** I'm happy to help with your question today.
Alice H : Have you asked him exactly in what basis he is making this claim if he did not do any work? Is he saying, for example, that he had to turn down other work to make himself available for your job?
Alice H : I need as much information as possible to help you please.
Customer : He has implied that he lost work as a result of "booking" 2 days with us, but I believe that on the day he came to quote he had a longstanding booking cancelled for 3 days work and hoped to quickly infill the time with us. Given we told him that we were awaiting delivery of an essential fitment I believe that he would have told us he had the possibility of another job or would subsequently have told us that he had turned down another job in preference to ours. The first time he mentioned losing work was in his email to us one month later . He was verging on rude when my husband phoned to inform him that despite the manufacturers promises , the brackets hadn't been delivered at that stage he did not mention losing work nor did he mention this issue when he phoned several weeks later looking to quote for another carpentry job which we had already employed someone else to do.
Alice H : There is an argument to say that a legally binding contract has not been created between you and the carpenter because the offer to accept his services was subject to delivery of the bracket which did not happen. So your defence to his claim is that the requisite elements under contract law have not been met and, therefore, no monies are due. Furthermore you can ask m to breakdown exactly on what basis he is seeking this money and for him show what he has done to mitigate his losses. You can ask for this information under the Civil Procedure Rules pre-action protocol. Once you have some further information from him you can decide whether to stand your ground or offer him a smaller sum to settle the matter. You should also consider asking for arbitration which is a less formal than court and involves a round table discussion to resolve the matter with a qualified arbitrator.
Customer : Another issue which might be a red herring this all started after we had problems with the bricklayer/Groundworkser on our extension we discovered some potentially expensive errors in measurements having spoken politely to him about the issue he submitted a massive bill, £3000 (labour only) for one person on site for 5 days! We challenged this and asked him to explain the costing , he promised to do this but never has, we just get increasingly abusive emails from him. We know the carpenter and bricklayer are friends but from the coincidence of emails from them both arriving in tandem late on Thursday evening , they seem to meet on a regular basis. This may sound paranoid but the carpenter did not send us a bill until his friend had unilaterally walked off site leaving us to desperately search for replacement builders prepared to correct the problems created the previous builder
Alice H : OK. Is there a question you would like to ask?
Customer : Well it's a dificult one it at times feels quite threatening and my husband and I both feel harrassed by these demanding emails. For example when my husband went to visit his parents he insisted I be careful going to the front door not to open it to the builder and to phone the police if he/they went around the back of the house ( the back wall is knocked down and security only provided by some flimsy boards. The builder hasn't actually threatened violence but is a macho type very unlike my husband.
Customer : Sorry , the question is do you have any suggestions of things we can do or do we just have to wait and see what they do next and then respond?
Alice H : OK. How much did you agree with the builder for the work? How much have you actually paid?
Customer : He quoted £24000 for 2 extensions and Groundworks, this did not include materials which we were ordering ang paying for. He invoiced us £3000 which we paid in full for the foundations but then 2 weeks later having barely been on site he billed us £3000 for the labourer he employed who was on site for a week . Our quantity survey said that when the walls were up to "plate" height (which they were almost to but not quite) £4500 in total was the figure. We there fore paid him another £1500 to bring the £3000 up to £4500. We have told the builder we are willing to examine his figures and have our QS look at them . He did say he would send his figures on but despite repeated requests hasn't done so. He just says he want to come here to discuss the situation which seems pointless without the figures to discuss and just seems like an opportunity to intimidate us, as I said my husband is not a macho type and to be honest despite all the problems caused by half finished,jobs there was some relief as felt he spoke to my husband rudely and always wanting to put him down.
Alice H : With regard to the rudeness and harassment - if you feel distressed by the behaviour you can take legal action against the builder including a report to the police. Nobody is allowed to bully you over a dispute about payment. Bullying behaviour of this nature is a criminal offence. With regard to the monies due to the builder you need not pay him more than reasonably due for the work that he actually did. So if you have a QS who can help you then you should try and negotiate a settlement if you can and offer him reasonable payment for the work done; if you cannot settle this then any negotiations that take place can be mentioned in court if the but,DRR decides to sue. But I think you need to deal with this matter proactively by stating your case to him in writing supported by any reports you have from the QS. As a matter of law the Supply of Goods And Services Act 1982 states that the builder should exercise "reasonable care and skill" - so any offer to settle should take this into account when the discussion arises as to how much he should actually be paid.
Customer : Just realised on rereading I didn't clarify that the bulk of the quote was for a much larger more complex build at the front of the house and that all our QS figures show that yes the rear extension is 1/4 of the build but he hadn't finishes it. Getting the steel beams in position has involved 3 men on site for 3 days and we have employed a bricklayer for4 days to correct defects and finish
Alice H : OK. I suggest you and the builder should go to arbitration. You are clearly unhappy with his work and conduct and he claims you owe him some money. Arbitration is the quickest and cheapest method of resolving this dispute.
Customer : When you say " reasonable care and skill" do you mean we can reduce the amount because we have had to pay someone to correct faults? I should think this is academic as according to the QS we have probably overpaid and I certainly don't wish to take him to Court I just want to move on and get on with finishing the build. You mention the police if we feel harrassed but surely we could hardly involve them unless there was either physical threats or coming on to our property without consent.
Customer : Alice thanks very much for your helpful comments.
Customer : Alice sorry about that thanks for your helpful comments, my husband isn't about and I would like to have him look at your advice. So we may be back in touch tomorrow.
Customer : My husband has just asked how we go for arbitration? Is this a court procedure?
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You mention arbitration do we wait for him to start court proceedings and then suggest arbitration or do we proactively suggest it, if so how? Also our builder despite at least 3 requests from us that he justify his invoice he has failed to do so. His invoice to us merely says that he wants £3000 for " work completed" which we feel is inadequate as according to the detailed figures from the QS the work completed amounts to a lower figure and this is confirmed by the work log kept by my husband which shows the number of man hours on site to be substantially less than is being claimed for. As I said the builder has suggested a meeting at our home ,we are reluctant as we feel he sees it as an opportunity to intimidate us and without a detailed invoice doesn't give us anything to discuss. But I don't want to give the impression we are unwilling to negotiate if this does go to court. Can we insist on a proper breakdown of the work as a prerequisite to a meeting with him?
Yes, you can ask for a full breakdown without meeting him.
The Civil Procedure Rules which governs the conduct of civil proceedings states:
7.1 Before starting proceedings –
(1) the claimant should set out the details of the matter in writing by sending a letter before claim to the defendant. This letter before claim is not the start of proceedings...[...]
2.1 The claimant’s letter should give concise details about the matter. This should enable the defendant to understand and investigate the issues without needing to request further information. The letter should include –
(1) the claimant’s full name and address;
(2) the basis on which the claim is made (i.e. why the claimant says the defendant is liable);
(3) a clear summary of the facts on which the claim is based;
(4) what the claimant wants from the defendant; and
(5) if financial loss is claimed, an explanation of how the amount has been calculated.
2.2 The letter should also –
(1) list the essential documents on which the claimant intends to rely;
(2) set out the form of ADR (if any) that the claimant considers the most suitable and invite the defendant to agree to this...[....]
You can refer the builder to the above rules in support of your request for a detailed breakdown of his claim.
In respect of arbitration you can either conta your local County Court for details of arbitrators or go the following website:
Hope this helps. Happy to discuss further.