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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50178
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I'm an interior designer and I have a problem with a client,

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I'm an interior designer and I have a problem with a client, as follows.
We signed a contract prior to the refurbishment of some areas of her flat. We came towards the end of the project, when problems arose with my client.
When I asked her for payment for items purchased by me on her behalf, she refused to do so,and started to shout at me and asked my to leave the property.
My question to you is about the contract which I think she is in breach of.
In my view, she stopped the project when she threw my out of her property and I haven't been back since.
As per the contract, I asked her to put this termination in writing, because I considered this to be the case. She has not done so. She also has not paid the monies owing up to the date of termination, which includes money paid by me in order to complete the project ASAP.
Her point is that the project has taken too long, therefore I haven't managed it properly but she's forgotten that she asked me to do extra work on top. Nothing is written in the contract about me finishing the job on a certain date.
Please see text of contract below:
"Termination - This proposal may be terminated for any reason by either by the client or MFD, provided ten days written notice has been given. In the event of termination by the client, the client will pay the designer for all work done and expenses due up to the date of termination"
I believe my client is in breach of contract for the reasons above. She feels I am in breach of contract because in her opinion the project has taken too long. The contract never specified a completion date, as in this business it is not possible to do so.
Where do I go from here??
Thank you
Hello what are you hoping to achieve in this situation?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Is she in breach of contract? I want her to pay me and move on!
What exactly does she still owe money for?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Some of my fees and items purchased on her behalf with my money in order to finish project ASAP.Is she in breach of contract?
Yes the likelihood is that she is. As far as her rights are concerned, the law says that the work must be:· Carried out with reasonable care and skill (to the same standard as any reasonably competent person in that trade or profession);· Finished within a reasonable time (unless a specific time has been agreed); and· Provided at a reasonable price (unless a specific price has been agreed). So she is trying to say that it was not finished within a reasonable time. What a reasonable time is would vary from one situation to the next, depending on what the work in question is, its complexity, availability, etc. If she asked you to do extra work though it will increase the time within which it will be finished so that needs to be taken into consideration by both parties. So unless you had really taken an unreasonable length of time (and this will be determined by looking at what a reasonable trader in your position may have taken, considering the nature of the work), she cannot really try and withhold payment in the way she has. It therefore likely placed her in breach of contract. This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the next steps you need to follow to try and get payment from her, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Were do I select 2,4 or 5 so we can continue?
There should be a ratings section with stars, or something else which asks you to leave a rating. I will prepare my response in the meantime, thanks
Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Thank you. In terms of taking this further, whenever a dispute arises over money owed by one party to another, the debtor can be pursued through the civil courts for recovery of the debt. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:
1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the debtor to voluntarily pay what is due.
2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the debtor must be sent a formal letter asking them to repay the debt, or at least make arrangements for its repayment, within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to recover the debt. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.
3. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the debtor and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.
Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.
Hope this helps
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
What would you say in the reminder letter?
It is simply a letter to ask for payment, brief description of what it is owed for, how much and a date for payment - there is no need to go into great detail
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Do I send a letter and not an email? I imagine I do mention in the reminder letter her breach of contract.
It doesn't have to be a letter it can be an email. And yes you do mention the breach and what you are asking her to do
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I want to show you this:
This is what she wrote:
"Prior to any payment, I need to see receipts for all items given that there has been mistakes made on the spreadsheet and a break down in trust more generally.
Also, you breached on numerous fronts your project management responsibilities and therefore I refuse to pay you for those services. I am happy to pay you for your design services. In any event, I need to see receipts to calculate total costings and any related design fees. I look forward to receiving these for each line item"
I really can't spend or give any more time to her, plus why do I have to produce receipts?. She has an excel spread sheet with ALL the information from the beginning of the project which I was updating evey week. In this sheet it shows where the items were bought online and the prices. She can price all of them there. It would be impossible to provide receipts, as the receipts include items purchased for other clients of mine, e.g.: ***** ***** and other suppliers. There was ONE mistake where I doubled something, but she knows this was an innocent mistake, as proved on the spread sheet – this is what she is referring to. She I feel is using this so as not to pay me monies owing, which is absurd.
With regard to my project management, her comment is unjust. I did everything I reasonably could to manage the project. In this business one meets unforeseen problems, where delays can happen. In fact some delay was caused by her delaying the project at the beginning, which created difficulties for me hiring workers during the summer period. Also further delays were caused by my client wanting ‘extras’. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I did everything I REASONABLY could to manage well. I’m an experienced designer of 20 years and more
I gave her 150% of my time because she was going through a divorce, moving to a new home with a 5 year old and she’s in therapy. I know this is not of interest legally, but gives you some idea of what I’m up against!Thank you
I completely understand your frustration and it is certainly not uncommon for there to be a distinct difference in opinion between trader and client. Often these may not be resolvable through direct negotiations which is where the small claims court would come in Obviously it is a last resort but there if you need it
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. I do understand.One more thing please. Do I have to give her receipts?Thank you
If you have bought things on her behalf that she keeps then you will but if it is materials which you have used then no
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
In 20 years I have never given a client my receipts as they are on the name of my company. At the end of the project I give them an invoice instead.
You do not automatically have to, but if they ask for them then you may be require to because they have bought the item from you basically and they may need it for warranties if asked for proof of purchase.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Sorry I have been away.I have one question. The carpenter was doing the job received a deposit money for the job he was doing. Then he was away when I had the problem with my client. Now I'm not working for her anymore. Should he deal direct with my client by sending her the invoice and get paid for the rest of the money? Thank you
Hello, if he was employed directly by your client then he would need to deal with her directly for that money.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Are you saying that because he was directly employed by me I have to try to get his money?
It would depend on who he had a contract with - not necessarily a written one but who instructed him and who he had direct dealings with as that is who would be legally responsible to him
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The contract : "In the event of termination by the client, the client will pay the designer for all work done and expenses due up to the date of termination"Would you think this will include the carpenter's payment too as he was employed by me? thank you
Only if there was an understanding that the carpenter's work would be included in the agreement you had between you, if it was part of the deal you had
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Specialist Consultants - "The client will pay the fees direct to the Builder, Architect or Structural Engineers
(Where applicable)"By reading the above text of the contract, would you agree that his work was included in the agreement?
Yes as the carpenter will be included in the definition of a builder, unless there is a specific part of the agreement which defines a builder as a specific party which does not include the carpenter
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi BenI did pay extra for a plan membership plan. So can i continue asking you questions?Now I know that the client is giving all this excuses because she has not money to pay the carpenter and she is hiding behind the fact that I supposed to pay him? She owes me money too but as you know the small court is only up to £5000. So by taking her to court it will be only to get the carpenter's moneyMy question - how can I be responsible to the payment to all the trade people I brought to the project where I have not contract with them. Also they have let me down on several things during the project which has jeopardise my relation with my client. But this is the nature of this business.
How far do i have to go to get the carpenter's money from my client? I asked him 3 times to give me the invoice so I could pay him before he went to Australia for 4 weeks. He didn't so now we have this problem. My client has run out of money after 4 weeks but she new we were waiting for his invoice.The client and carpenter have been in contact and they have a very friendly relationship. The client asked him (not me) to come and finish some small carpentry job. His answer to her ( not me) was yes (?). I asked him by email, how can you do this when the client does not want to pay you and that I didn't want him to do it. That was a week ago and I have not heard from him since then. I'm surprise, when before this he was asking me for the money.I feel something unusual is going between them.So how do I deal with the carpenter? What is the way forward on this? I'm sure this is not black and white. About me having all the responsibility and him none.Thank you
Hello, you certainly can continue asking questions but they need to be posted as a new, separate query, rather than continuing on the original thread. So just post your quesiton as you did with the initial one but start it with 'Hi Ben' so others know it is for me, thanks