I'm impressed by the thoughtful advice you guys provide in this group
and am hoping you can advise me here.
My home had a 78-year old front stoop, steps and walkway that was
shoddily done to begin with and was finally crumbling into ruins.
Viewed from the front, the steps were crooked from left to right, and
the top step in front of the stoop was way too low, causing everyone
who exited the front door to nearly break their neck on the way down.
My contractor agreed to fix this and did so, beautifully. However,
when he handed me the bill, it was almost two thousand dollars higher
than the top figure of the price range he had quoted in writing (the
price depended on the cost of the materials I chose, and the bluestone
and brick that I chose was well within the agreed-upon range). The
contractor then explained, AFTER THE FACT, that the front landing also
was not square to the front door, that he had to add six inches of
concrete to one side to make it even, add a frame to hold the
additional concrete, and that he had to do this over a period of days
to let each layer of concrete dry before adding more. In addition,
when he evened up the little stairs and the other end of the walkway,
he felt he had to add one more stair and did so, also without
discussing it with me first. (I thought the three existing steps were
fine.) At no time before or during the job did he tell me about these
problems. Had I known, I might have said no due to the additional
cost, downsized the job, or cut back on other repairs that I also was
doing at the time.
For all you contractors out there, what is the fair thing to do?
The front stoop and stairs were open, obvious, and easily measureable
all along -- this was not a case of discovering HIDDEN problems that
needed to be rectified before the job could continue. If the front
stoop was not even with the doorway and an additional step was
required, I think that he should have seen that when he first looked
at the site and then taken it into consideration when preparing a
quote for me. Even if he missed it, he should have discussed it with
me when he first became aware of it and gotten my ok to do the extra
work. Also, our town is extraordinarily strict about changes to the
exterior of the house (a fact about which I had previously informed
him) and I might have been required to file and receive approval for
this change from the town's real estate planning board first.
First, my contractor unquestionably did a superior job in the
actual construction and produced a thing of beauty. I am very happy
with the cosmetic result. However, I don't think he should help
himself to a few extra thousand dollars of my money without my express
prior approval. I carefully budgeted this repair and feel that he
should honor his original written quote because the extra charge is
due entirely to his planning mistake and, later, his lack of proper
communication. Whenever I have had other work done on the house, the
people are very careful to stop work, inform me of unanticipated
circumstances, and get my ok to possible higher charges before
continuing, a courtesy that I both expect and truly appreciate. I
often agree to go ahead. However, this huge additional bill after the
fact nearly gave me a heart attack. I really cannot afford it. Also,
is it ethical for him to present me with a bill almost 40% higher than
the top range of his written quote without having gotten my approval
for the extra work and price increase first?
Second, I now have to inform the town about it and may have to
tear it out. Not only do I NOT want to pay the extra charge, but I
feel I should subtract the cost of any additional alterations the town
may require from his bill. Do you agree, and what is your advice for
the best way to handle this?