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Stuart J
Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 23767
Experience:  Senior Partner at Berkson Wallace
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We have been presented with an invoice for £2000 by a

Customer Question

we have been presented with an invoice for £2000 by a painter who worked on our house 15 years ago. We had paid stage payments as agreed....but this last one raised concerns. We have bought the house and we going to move in once I had the baby I was expected. We were staying with my father in law 2 hours away. On two occasions we came to the house expecting to find the painter, only there was no sign of him. We had expected him to be further on etc.... It later emerged that his girlfriend had cancer and he had been taking her to appointments etc. We were extremely sorry to hear he had been through such a time. We did say we thought it was regrettable that he hadn't told us, because we would have been understanding and would have asked him to record his hours to avoid any issue. The long and the short, is that we agreed to disagree at the time.
JA: Where are you? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: Dorset
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: None. He presented us with his invoice yesterday, saying he had been talking to people in our village (he lives here too) about this, and what should he do etc. We are concerned that our name has been dragged in the mud over this without us being able to communicate our recollection. We want to ask him for evidence, a recording of his hours and materials at the time for the WHOLE job, and copies of the invoices (which we threw away after 7 years had passed). We don't want ill feeling and naturally would like to ensure things are this is the only thing we can think of.
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I recall that when we had found he was not here we were concerned that we had no idea whether we had paid for hours worked or not. As I recall the hours billed also went over the estimate but without our agreement. We raised this with him and my recollection is that he was vague. In the end, I offered him, if he would like it, a corner cabinet that was in the house and we didn't want. It was a simply a good will gesture. He accepted this. Since then we heard is 15 years later - so we are astonished and want guidance on how to respond. Would it stand in a small claims court?
Submitted: 15 days ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Stuart J replied 15 days ago.

Hello. Thank you for the question. It is my pleasure to assist you with this today.

Please bear with me as I will be online and off-line from time to time and therefore, may be delayed getting back to you. You will receive an email when I reply.

He wants paying after 15years?

how has this been presented to you?

Customer: replied 15 days ago.
He approached my husband by entering the driveway of a house in our village where he was working. He presented my husband with an invoice, stating £900 of materials and the remainder in labour. He said he has been talking to friends in the village, wondering if he should just come over and see us. He said when he saw Brooke going into The Chantry (whose entrance is just opposite his own house) he decided to approach him.
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
Our first query is to what extent he has any legal redress. Can he actually pursue this in small claims court?! Second query is that I want to write him a letter in response to say the following: That we are surprised that he has approached us after so long, and also saddened that a matter we felt was put to bed 15 years ago has been weighing on him. I would like to say that he would recall that we twice arrived at our house to find no evidence of him having been there that day, yet he was expected to be there. When he (and I can't recall exactly when) eventually said his girlfriend had been dying of cancer and he was having a bad time, we clearly expressed our sorrow that this had been the case but also said it would have helped if he had let us know this was the case. He was not able to provide any evidence of hours worked or receipts for the materials purchased for the job to evidence the extra charged, so we were completely in the dark. Obviously the issue is trying to recollect conversations 15 years ago. It is nigh impossible. All I can trust is that my husband and I are Christian, always pay our invoices, and would not query unless there was good reason. I am very upset to think that anyone in our village would have reason to think otherwise. I would like to put this to bed, but feel it should be done on the basis of evidence. That it is reasonable for me to ask for evidence of all his charges (including receipts and hours worked) and a statement of our payments. We can then check payment with our bank. What we cannot do however is check our original agreement with him because I no longer have the documentation. I keep documents for 7 years to tie in with financial records but that is it.
Separate to this.....he said that after his girlfriend died he fell apart, his business collapsed (he was self employed) because he was devastated and this is why he now rents a tiny bungalow in our village. He implied he has not been 'in a good way'. My husband said he was clearly distressed when talking about his girlfriend. Again, we are very sorry to hear this, but it makes us concerned about his state of mind.
Overall, I feel like this situation is bordering on the absurd, and as the Queen so elegantly put it 'recollections may vary'......
We don't want bad feeling with someone in this village, so what do we do?
Expert:  Stuart J replied 15 days ago.

Under the Limitation Act 1980, he only has 6 years to pursue a debt from the time when the debt was last acknowledged.  That 6 years would be either when the money was due to be paid or if you had made payments or agreed that you would pay, when the last payment or last suggestion that you agreed to pay was.  If you haven’t paid anything for a long time and more than 6 years, then if he does issue legal proceedings you have a defence that “the debt is statute barred as it is over 6 years old, under the provisions of the Limitation Act 1980.

Thank you for letting me assist you with your legal question.  I am glad that I was able to help.

I am not certain whether that answers the question for you or not, but I am happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

It will be my pleasure to help you again either further with this or any future questions you have

Kind regards

Customer: replied 15 days ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Stuart J replied 15 days ago.

It was my pleasure to assist you. Please come back if anything else crops up and needs clarification.
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