My dad recently had a guy in to repair the chimney, and he quoted a
specific amount for a basic repair. After he started working on it, it
became obvious the chimney needed much more extensive repairs, and he
gave my dad a new quote, which they agreed on. My dad was in the US
for most of the time the repairs were being done, and the guy has now
given him a bill that's $1100 higher than the quote, saying he had to
do "extra work" and my dad wasn't available to discuss it (though my
mother was here the whole time). He also hasn't done a couple of minor
jobs he agreed to do at the same time.
As far as I can tell, he doesn't have a leg to stand on since he gave
us a quote, but I just wanted to check with other people. I'm located
in Ontario, by the way.
I imagine it depends on the exact wording of the "quote" and the laws
in your area.
I have never had a tradesman actually do a job for the amount
originally quoted. Its usually at leasy 20% higher for the work quoted,
and opten much higher cause they "find" things that add to the cost.
Asking here makes about as much sense as asking us "Do you think it will
It all depends on where you live.
USUALLY, though, contracts go something like this. One party offers to do
work for a set amount of money. In the proposal, a good contractor says
what work they will do and how much they will charge.
If the work varies, the contractor MUST consult with the owner and discuss
what changes from the original plan are to be made. They then agree on a
CHANGE ORDER and they then do the same thing again. Describe the work and
set a price. Then they both sign it.
Arbitrarily changing prices doesn't fly in most places, whether it's chimney
work or car repairs. At least most jurisdictions have enacted laws that
prevent an owner from being held hostage by repairpeople.
Check with the contractor who did the work.
HE IS A CONTRACTOR, RIGHT?
If not, you may have recourse in your jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions,
you may just have to eat it. In mine, contracting is a felony. AND the law
defines contracting also to include merely offering to do the work, even
though no work was ever started or completed.
Check where you live, and not on the Internet.
BTW, do you think I will get rain tomorrow?
Silly question, isn't it?
I realize it's a rather general question, but even the information you
gave me is useful. Can you explain more what you mean by "he is a
contractor, right?" I don't know anything about him, but I will pass
everything on to my dad.
What you said about a "change order" makes sense. Like I said, he did
find there was much more extensive damage than we previously thought,
and he and my dad agreed on a new price (which was substantially
higher). He did the work while my dad was in the States, and now he is
claiming he had to do more than he expected and decided to go ahead and
do it since my dad wasn't available to discuss it. It was not
mentioned to anyone else in the house.
Thanks for all your help :)
P.S. if you let me know where you are, I can probably tell you whether
it's likely to rain tomorrow :P
The contractor should not have done work that was going to cost extra
without approval. However, what you fail to tell us was IF in fact the
extra work that he did really was above and beyond what he had already
agreed to do for a fixed price and IF it was necessary.
For example, if upon taking apart the chimney he found rot that was
part of the house the chimney joins to and repaired that for a fair
price, then I would pay him. Of course, in many cases, it could be
hard to establish exactly what he did or didn't do now that the job is
completed. I would ask him to show you what exactly extra he did. If
he doesn't have proof, like receipts for specific material attributable
only to the extra work, then he isn't in a very good position to
prevail if he tries to sue you for non-payment. You would need to
establish that there was an agreed to price and that the extra work was
never authorized. However, as I said, if you believe he really did the
work at a fair price and it was required anyway, then I would pay him,
or perhaps negotiate.
Thanks, that's good advice. As far as I know, he hasn't provided any
explanation for the "extra" stuff he had to do. The quote was done
after he had taken apart the chimney to the point that he knew
everything that was wrong with it, so I don't see how anything else
could have popped up. Anyway, I will pass all this info to my dad and
see how things work out.
Each locality has its own rules about contracting. Contracting is when I
say "I will paint your house for $1500." We have an agreement, and if we
have a dispute, it goes before a board to settle the dispute.
If you hire me for $15 an hour to paint your house, and at some time find
that I'm not doing a good job, or you run out of money, or I start not
showing up, the agreement is ended. Either party can end the agreement for
just about any reason.
But when there is offer and acceptance, there is a contract. If one or the
other doesn't perform, there are grounds for legal action.
Local laws set the rules for these situations so that homeowners don't get
taken, and so that there is less litigation in the courts. They also set
them so that there are some standards. For example, they test the
contractor applicants in different areas to make sure they know what they're
doing and that they know the laws governing the operation of a business.
In my location, Las Vegas, (where it hardly rains), it is a FELONY to
contract without a license, and that means to even make an offer to do work
for a fixed sum. Handy men can do all they want by the hour, but if it is a
permanent attachment to the house, they are supposed to have a contractor's
license. This is to standardize things and help get things done up to code.
You might want to investigate and see what the regs are in your area. Look
in your state's directory for contractor's board, or just ask around.
What you want is to get the job done and done right. But you don't want to
get taken advantage of. It was one BIG assumption on the part of the worker
to go ahead with a lot of extra work that wasn't authorized. That didn't
even give you the chance to have others bid on it, and perhaps get it done
for less. And now who's to say if the work was even needed or appropriate?
And why didn't he even ask you about it, in case you may have been able to
call your dad and get the okay?
I smell a fish here.
You're not a lawyer, eh? There's always a leg to stand on.
You said your dad was in the US, so I guess he's back now. Why are you
getting involved in an agreement between your father and a contractor?
If your father trusted the guy to do the work while he was gone,
knowing that there was no supervision, why are you second guessing him?
Presumably this will end up in small claims court (I am making the wild
assumption you have small claims courts). Judges there are more concerned
with fairness than legality. If the contractor can convince the judge that
he did everything properly, gave good value, and had a good reason not to
have gotten approval first for the extra work, he will probably win. If he
can't, he will lose. And if you think about it, if the contractor is right,
he deserves to get paid, doesn't he?
I guess your question is whether a quote is a contract:
Can't always say. Dunno who said what to who and who wrote what down
and who signed what and who shook hands on what..
If the guy offered to do specific work for a specific price, then he
needed your father's agreement to change the work and price.
If he failed to get it, then your father should not be liable.
But ... whatif your dad said "What do you think needs doing .." and
the fellow said " I won't know till I start taking it apart ...
let's hope it';s only ..." and your dad said "Well, whatever ... it
has to be fixed."
See the point?
The guy either earned the extra 1,100 and did your dad a favour by
doing what had to be done, or he's a con man ..... how well was he
Surely, if the guy is an honest tradesman ... and your dad is a
reasonable guy , they can work it out.
this is an easy fix...it's called negotiation. (courts call this
If the fella won't see your point of view about "I didn't ask you to do
all this stuff you're charging me for" then you tell him.."ok, here's a
check for the amount you originally quoted."
Write "payment in full, services rendered to chimney on month/day/year"
If he cashes this he is acknowleging that you are not obligated to
make further payments. This will hold up in court. (doesn't do so
well if you do it on a car payment, i'd imagine ;-) )
I write that into the memo of anything and everything I have services
done for... I write checks like that to my dentist, doctor, optomitrist
Honestly though, if this guy isn't a quack he'll probably entertain
your offer of negotiation. Use the analogy "If the neighbor kid came
over and raked my leaves without asking first, I wouldn't feel it was
right to pay him either"
I can't see how if he had it apart when he upped it the first time, how he
could then justify an addtional 1100 bucks, all of which would have to be
labor as the cost of materials couldn't have gone up that from start to
finish of the job. I'm in Canada too, lets say he charges $50.00 an hour,
that's 22 hours of labor, that's 1/2 a chimneys worth on top of the original
I'm going to take a wild stab at this and guess that you've never done
any remodeling. In any event, regardless of your apparent lack of
experience, you have no information to support your assumptions -
certainly not enough to pass judgment.
I had asked the OP a question which went unanswered. It gets to the
root of the matter. If the father felt comfortable letting the
contractor work unsupervised while he was out of the country, and
agreed that additional work needed to be done due to unforeseen
conditions, why is the son getting involved? Is he "protecting" his
father or just sticking his two cents into something he doesn't
They don't charge for materials where you are? Using numbers to
illustrate a bad assumption is worse than the bad assumption. Did the
contractor have additional labor? I'd assume so - putting up a chimney
is rarely done alone, and almost never by a contractor. Two helpers?
What if there was damaged framing that needed to be replaced? Did the
contractor do it himself or hire it out? You see my point. No
information makes for nothing more than a guessing game.
You will not get complete information from the son, as it's his opinion
that the work was unnecessary and it's only one side of the story.
Besides that, he wasn't part of the agreement. Did you wonder why the
father didn't tag the son to be the supervision while he was away?
Kind of curious, no?
The real root of the matter is that he DIDN'T agree to pay for
additional work. I don't see how my motivation affects this.
I don't understand why this bothers you so much. When did I say the
work was unnecessary? As it stands, the extra charge has not been
justified at all, and the work has not even been completed to
satisfaction. I *was* dealing with the repair people while he was
gone, and additional costs were never mentioned. Both my mother and I
were readily available to discuss it on any of the several days they
were here, and they knew my dad was available by e-mail.
Um, Chris ...
You asked a question -- Is a quote a contract?
And you got the best answer this group can give you -- often it is,
sometimes it isn't.
Here are the elements required to establish a contract --
Offer -- You offer to cut my lawn for ten bucks.
Acceptance -- I say "Great. Thanks. Do it."
Consideration -- Doesn't have to be money. The exchange of promises
Capable of interpretation -- The example so far is not a contract,
because it cannot be interpreted -- when? for example.
Competent parties -- Obviously.
Legal purpose -- the purpose has to be legal for the courts to enforce
No duress -- I'm not holding a gun to your head.
Now, you can tell us whether or not there is a contract.
The reality is that in most circumstances, having a contract is not
really a lot of help. Being right doesn't really mean much.
Getting a resolution and moving on ... that's what it's about.
A contract only outlines an agreement between willing parties...
and in most cases, the amounts are small compared to the cost of
collection or suing for specific performance.
As to your father's circumstance, you've been answered several times.
1) We don't know, we weren't there.
2) If the work was necessary and was done properly, pay the man.
3) I f the work was unnecessary or was poorly done, don't pay the
If 2) and 3) are uncomfortable, negotiate something in the middle.
Lots of sound and fury about not-much here, eh? Let's wrap this up-
ask your dad to work this out with the tradesman, one-on-one, and
maybe info us on the resolution.
We all go through learning experiences, maybe even learn something.
a "contract" is "a meeting of two or more minds in agreement"...
doesn't even require a handshake.
What you are obligated to is the amount of work you told this guy to do
before he took off. There is no question that what he did while you
weren't aroung, and without asking, was not part of the original
agreement nor warranted in any way.
You did not ask him to do an additional $1100 worth of work, plain and
simple... When an electrician comes out and says "I'll wire up that
outlet for $20" then you *technically* arent obligated to pay $20.50 if
he wants to charge you for wire nuts or something.
Get a lawyer for cryin out loud. This has been answered fifteen times
by amatures and tradespeople alike in this forum.
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