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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50184
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I was part way through a bathroom refit and the client

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I was part way through a bathroom refit and the client decided they were going to with hold further payments until the end of the job. My invoices clearly state that they are for immediate payment and work will not resume until payment has been made.
I have stopped work on the property and the client is now threatening me with all sorts of actions.
What can I do? I am a sole trader.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today. Has all your work been to a reasonable standard and what are the reasons for the client's decision to hold payments?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The work has been completed to a high standard and the client has not made any reference to standard.
He felt that not enough progress had been made for the money paid despite our assurance that it would have been finished in 5 days and within the agreed estimate.
He had had some extra work done - that I didn't charge him for - which pushed his job into my holiday with my children who I do not live with and he was not happy with this delay either.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
All communications have been via email since he began threatening me with legal action, reporting me to trade bodies and cowboy builders.

What is he threatening to sue you for ?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The entire amount he has paid including parts and labour.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have been trying to return some money to him as I took some goods back to the supplier when he didn't pay and he had already paid for them. To date he hasn't given me his bank details.

Ok thanks I will respond later this eve

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I think his letter today is also suggesting that we pay to have it finished too. Thank you.

Many thanks for your patience. When a consumer enters 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 addition, any information said or written is binding where the consumer relies on it. This will include quotations and any promises about timescales or about the results to be achieved.

In the circumstances the issues are with the time it has taken to do the work. If the delay was solely or mainly due to the customer having had extra work done, in addition to the originally agreed work, then they will have to be flexible and understanding that this is not your fault and that you are not acting unreasonably in the circumstances.

Had the delay been unreasonable and caused by you then the client could have potentially asked for a price reduction or in circumstances where the work had to be done immediately and could not wait any longer – pursue you for the difference in price for getting someone else to finish it. They cannot get a refund for all the work and materials already carried out, so don’t worry too much about such threats.

The main issue as it stands is the breakdown in relationship between you. He may not want you doing any more work for you, you may not want to work for him or trust him with being paid at the end of the work. Unless you can work together and negotiate a way forward that works for both of you, you may not be able to resolve this. As mentioned, any potential action he can take will really be limited to the difference in price to get someone else to finish the work but it would also be relevant that this delay was caused by the extra work they had requested so it may affect how much you would be liable for as well.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the rights you have should they try and take this to court, 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 is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Ben Jones and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi. Thanks for that. I am not sure what you mean about a couple of things:
The work was on course to be completed within budget. Are you saying we will have to pay someone else to complete the work ? We have not been paid for it.
If this is the case can he get outrageous quotes and charge us that?
There was no timescale agreed at the start and we can show from manual time sheets that attendance on site was regular and reasonable.
Sorry but still a bit confused....

Thank you. Whilst there is nothing stopping the client from going to court over this, as mentioned it is highly unlikely they can pursue you for the costs of the work already completed – they cant just get free work done like that. So at worst it would be costs associated with them getting someone else to finish the work and it would have to be the difference between your costs and theirs – after all they would have had to pay your costs anyway.

As long as their claim is for below £10k it will go in the small claims court and even if lose you would only be required to pay what the court orders and not the other side’s legal costs so it is a relative low risk matter.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. Am I allowed to engage your services outside of this website to help resolve this? Ideally we should complete the work but as you say it would be difficult.

Unfortunately i cannot work with you outside of this site but you are more than welcome to get me on here if you need any further help

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Fair enough and thank you.
One more question - if he tries to bill me through the small claims court for an amount much larger than my original estimate am I allowed to get independent quotes myself to repudiate his?

Yes certainly - the costs need to be reasonable, so an average of what it may cost, not the most expensive ones he can find