Help on Plumbing bill situation


My wife's 35 year old son(by a previous marriage I hasten to add)called a plumber to "unplug a drain blockage" in a rental unit that he owns in Spokane Washington. No written or verbal estimate of time or dollars was given by the plumber nor was one asked for by wife's son. All of the conversation was verbal and brief between the plumber and my wife's son.
Day and a half later the plumber calls and says "We did 12 hours work looking for the block and were unable to find it. You owe me $1200.00".
This is the crux of the situation and all of the facts that were given to me.
Over the years I have received lots of great advice, information,etc from this group.
I certainly would appreciate suggestions,ideas,etc.]
Some of the bases have already been covered(i.e. asking for a written itemized, checking with other plumbers about their hourly rates, calling the state board of consumer affairs,etc) but I am sure there are many other ideas,etc.
Thank you very much,
Bob
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No contract, either written or verbal? The Owner signed nothing? Plumber is on thin ice. If he takes the Owner to court, what evidence does he have? TB - Not an attorney
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The phone authorization constitutes a verbal contract.
What is at issue is whether the effort was expended or not and whether the rate is reasonable if it was.
Question I has is twofold -- was there an actual blockage and is there still one (which it appears there should be if the plumber was unable to correct it)?
If it was a wild goose chase from the git-go, my guess would be best could hope for would be some negotiated settlement. If there were an actual blockage at one time but isn't any longer, then would be hard to get judgement the plumber again for anything other than perhaps a reduced fee even if didn't know what he did that solved the problem. If it was blocked and still is, then there's something to argue over as he hasn't resolved the problem. But, still undoubtedly will owe at least something for the time involved so far. Best I can see you can do is find out from the renters (assuming the were there) how long they were actually on the job and go from there.
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Yeah, that would by my issue... Why the hell did it take you 12 hours to decide you couldn't do the job?

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Where's the contract- no explanation of work to be done. No estimate. No meeting of the minds. Clearly the plumber is trying to milk a distant property owner.

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On 5 Feb 2007 10:27:18 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net"

Verbal contracts still are valid. Are you sure (hint, hint, wink, wink) that the plumber didn't say the typical job is 1 hour? I mean, wouldn't the plumber have a hard time explaining to a judge that he was authorized to spend 12 hours on a what he suggested (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) was a simple snake job?
xxx
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Since this happened over the phone, I assume the son is much too far from the rental to be there when there are problems, right?
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Crappy plumber if they spent 12 hours and didnt find it. I am surprised that they have even the balls to ask you for money considering they didn't solve the problem. If it was fixed then thats a different story. I wouldn't pay it, but would question the whole point to be charged for 1200.00 and they didnt get it.
Skipping out on the bill isnt the right thing either, If they know what they are doing on collecting bills they can put a lien on the house for the amount owed. Its a nice surprise when it comes time to sell the house and they get their chunk out of it then.
Tom

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The hourly rate seems fair, but after 2 or 3 hours, the plumber should have taken other steps. Perhaps a drain specialist should have been called.
I speak from some experience as I had a blockage a couple of weeks ago. I invested two or three hours and could not solve the problem, but I then got professional help. I called the town and they figured it was a damaged line. I called a drain guy that confirmed and repaired it. I don't know the cost as the power company that did the damage is paying. My point is, it did involve about 5 or 6 man yours to pinpoint the problem, then another few hours to dig up and repair the line. The plumber probably should have taken other steps in the meantime.
I'd have a specialist check it out, find the problem, negotiate from there. The original guy is certainly owed something. I'm not sure what that is until we find out what the problem is and if he should have been able to find it easily.
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Theres a question here of what would be reasonable for the customer to expect of a professional tradesman.
I cant see a pro plumber taking more than 1 hour to locate a blockage , if he doesnt find one in that time he should be into the main sewer line.
What was he doing for the other 11 hours ?
I had a new sewer lateral installed , trench dug , pipe laid and refilled and it took less time than that.
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Let's hope the son has learned a lesson from this.
Craftsmen see a landlord coming and you're wearing ONE BIG TARGET!
I am sitting here laughing at the size of his brass ones. $1200 for NOTHING?
Fix it yourself and send him $100 for his time and explain you were able to resolve the matter with Liquid Plumber for $1.98.

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Good point if Liquid Plumber works. If you have a collapsed or broken line that costs $5000 to repair, you have a much different situation. We don't have the facts here.
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12 hours!? He could have just replace the entire drain system. I wouldn't give him a dime.
--
Steve Barker


"Bob" < snipped-for-privacy@spiritone.com> wrote in message
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wrote:

So if the drain is still clogged, your son will have to hire someone else to find the clog, I presume.
One of the things he should look for in a new plumber is someone who is willing to write a detailed description of the problem as it now stands, and his expert's opinion as to what the problem was in the first place and how long it should have taken to fix it. I guess you should also ask in advance if the man is able to judge such things.
I'm not at all suggesting he should lie (I'm not winking), but if your son was overcharged (and it seems he must have been -- what kind of a clog can't be found in less than 12 hours?)
I dont' think the judge will look favorably on them if they haven't fixed it. That is, he'll be dubious, he'll react the same as we have. But that doesn't mean he'll rule your way. Especially if they have "evidence". If they do this sort of thing fairly often, they probably have ways to "document" the time they were there, for example, maybe a spare truck they parked outside while they went to do work elsewhere even.
OTOH, this seems like a new wrinkle. They may have lost in court in the past when they said they fixed soemthing and it wasn't really fixed. So no;w they say they *didn't* fix it, and they don't look like they're lying about that part. See if you can find out how many times they've been to court in your county and even surrounding counties, and see if you can get the other litigants to testify for you. Maybe start off with notarized statements. I've never understood this part: you're allowed to pay a witness fee, but I don't know if that is only for experts, or it would be for those simlarly situated to your son. If there was actually a trial, maybe you could get certified copies of testimony, both the plumbers and the customers. I have no idea about that, or if it would be admitted. Find out how much copies are also. In Baltimore it used to be a dollar a page, but a neighbor had the neighborhood covenants photostated and they were only a quarter a page. I don't know if that is because a new county clerk lowered the price, or because there is a difference between trial transcripts** and public documents of other sorts.
**I once had to sue someone in District court, not small claims, and the county clerk people had a list of sample real cases. If you said you wanted to get an injunction, as I did, they had an good injunction case they would give you to read. Then I had copied enough pages to duplicate the format and wrote up my own papers. I did fairly well for a first case, for a bad law school student and dropout. I forced them to have new HOA elections where both my nemisis (the prior president) and I lost, because the neighbors who hadn't followed things couldn't be sure who was wrong or right. But I was totally unprepared when the judge heard my motion for immediate trial(or whatever my motion was called) and I didn't know how to "compel production" of the items I subpoenad. The other side, which had a real lawyer paid for by the HOA's insurance, refused to produce every single thing I asked for (I think that is typical, especially when they think the other side won't know what to do next), and I didn't know, at the time, what to do next. but I'm still glad I did it.
The president who lost came back the following year, and has been president ever since, since no one wants the job. In the last year or two she seems to think we're friends, and since I ran for the board again last month, she said she wanted me to win and that she voted for me. At first I believed her, but then I thought she was just putting me off guard so she could steal another election. But I won (along with 4 others) so I'm not sure what is going on. She probably doesn't think she ever did anything wrong, so she's figures I respect her. (Before the election years ago, she said "Don't bother handing in any proxies because I'm going to destroy them." And she basically did that. Two weeks afterwards she seemed to sincerely not remember saying what she said. Amazing.)

You should get a detailed statement of who was there and what hours. Before things look real bad (although they may foresee a dispute anyhow) you want to know who should be testifying at the trial.
And not just materials but what materials and how much. The new plumber may be able to tell if they were used or not, but don't say that.

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......can be supervised by a local property manager. It seems the son is not in the same city as the property he owns, which is a really bad mistake unless there's a property management company involved.
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If it goes to trial, you will need a professional plumber to say in person, or maybe by affidavit, all the good things that people here have said. You won't get anywhere quoting a bascially anonymous voice on the net, and you wont' get anywhere saying, I was told....
A judge can use stuff he already knows, like about plumbing but I don't know how anyone could know the answer to some of these questions without looking at the pipes now.
wrote:

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