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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I need advice about whether I have grounds to initiate a small

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I need advice about whether I have grounds to initiate a small claims case against a tradesman, and what steps to take next.
I got in touch with a professional car alarm fitter / automotive electrician to fit a new alarm to my car. We verbally agreed a price (£450) and booked a day for him to visit to do the work (18th April 2016). He estimated that the job would take around 5 hours.
The work dragged on an extra day and then he said he needed another morning. He continually says that it's a difficult car to work on and this job is much more complicated than normal. Long story short he's been 'working' on the car on and off over the last month with his latest visit being Monday 16th May.
Towards the beginning of the job we verbally agreed to a £50 increase in the initial quote to offset the cost of his extra time. As yet I have not paid for anything and the quoted price has not changed since we agreed the amendment I just mentioned.
He said at one point that he couldn't progress any further as there was a sensor module in the car that needed repairing (cost of £150) and that he would send it away to be repaired. There was some back and forth about who should cover the cost for this but it was basically pushed upon me to cover it. Again I have not paid anything yet but apparently he has an invoice for this module repair, and this cost will be added onto the total job cost.
The state of the car is that he has completed fitting the new alarm but the car does not start as there is no power getting through to the ignition. His opinion is that he has completed his work and that 'his work' (i.e. the new alarm) is working correctly, and that it is just his good grace that he is still attempting to get the car working.
In my opinion the car was working fine (albeit with a defective alarm, but still drive-able) when he started work on it. So it should be fully working after he finishes his work.
I feel that the situation is quite delicate as I don't want to upset him and cause him to not repair/bring the car back to working order, if I don't have any legal leverage to force him to fix it. But at the same time I'm really suffering due to not having the use of the vehicle, and I really need it back and fixed.
We still have cordial communication and although he seems to be dodging my phone calls, he is still communicating via sms/txt (Last communitation was today [18th May]), and most of our communication has been via text message so I have a growing collection of messages from him on my phone.
Having very quickly looked into making small claims it all seems to hinge of the interpretation of 'reasonable' with regards ***** ***** taken to complete the work and quality of the work.
I just need some guidance as to what my next steps should be, as a 5hr job has dragged on for a month, is that 'unreasonably' long, as it feels like it is?
Thanks, Hugh.
Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi there. Please can you tell me whether you have tried to get a second opinion with regards ***** ***** new fault. Please can you also tell me whether you had ever signed an agreement of any kind with the tradesman.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I haven't attempted to get a second opinion yet, as Charlie (I will use his first name for brevity) still has all the keys to the vehicle and as far as I know some of the parts. Regarding your second point, no I have signed nothing and I was only ever quoted prices over the phone and in person verbally.
OK, thank you for your response. I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you as soon as I can. Please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you
Many thanks for your patience. You are quite right that the time taken so far has been unreasonable, considering it was due to take 5 hours and it has now been a month. Also you do have grounds to state that the job has not been completed to a satisfactory standard because whilst the alarm has been fitted, assuming the ignition problems are as a result of his work then he has failed in his duty to take reasonable care and to leave the car in its original state. The car was working before he started and it should still be working when he finishes with it. It is only if this issue was completely unrelated to the work he did that he can avoid any liability. The law says when you have entered into a contract for work and materials, where the main focus is labour and skill, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 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). In terms of the small claims court, this is not an option yet if you have not paid him anything. This route is there if you wish to claim some money back from him, let’s say you had already paid him and he returned the car in non-working order. Alternatively it could happen if you have to go and get someone else to fix the car and need to claim that money back from him. However, if you have not yet paid anything and are in dispute over the total owed and the state of the car, it is best to try and resolve it with him and then whoever is owed the money can consider commencing the claims process. So in effect if you have not paid him and you have to get someone else to fix the car and the costs are not higher than what you owed for the alarm work, you can withhold that money and it would be up to him to sue you if he wanted to get paid. On the other hand if you have paid him or you have had to pay for additional works which take the costs above what you should have paid him, you can consider starting the claims process to recover what you believe you are owed now. This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps you need to follow should you decide to issue a claim, 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, there I no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Ben, thank you very much for your thorough response. I have left you a 5* rating. I would very much like to hear your advice on what to do in the event I need to file a claim.Regards, Hugh.
Thank you. 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.