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Question DetailsAsked on 11/4/2016

Can I challenge a contractor who presented a final bill that was 50% over his original estimate?

I had work done on my houseboat by a boat yard. Their original estimate was $17,500. I just received a bill for $33,000. At no point did the boat yard advise me that the work was exceeding their original estimate by such a stunning amount. Am I responsible for paying the full bill?

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2 Answers

0
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Certainly you can challenge it, and you are certainly not obligated to pay it without full justification for the overrun - and in many cases not even then since you did not get notified of and agree to the overrun.


If the original contract was for a firm price you are on firm ground (assuming you did not ask for or agree to changes in scope or materials or cost or such along the way). If it was presented as an "estimate" rather than a firm price contract, you can still challenge it - but generally courts hold that final prices within 10% are within the estimate limit - and up to 20-25% is sometimes held to be reasonable with justification, but the issue still exists that they did not notify you of the overrun so the overrun might be disallowed, at least partially. Over about 20-25%, from what I have seen and read about, generally the courts take a very dim viewand tend to put the burden on the contractor unless he can prove act-of-god factors for the overrun. And the fact they did not notify you when they first knew they were going to overrun the estimate amount put them in a very bad light - especially if there were no changes in scope due to unplanned and unknown rot or such which was encountered in the course of the work.


Now the problem - if you do not pay they will undoubtedly hold the boat pending payment (not legal in many states) and file a mechanic's lien on it. You may have protection under your state mechanic's lien and estimate laws - many or most states have laws that a "mechanic" or "repair shop" cannot go over the estimate without your PRIOR approval or they lose any opportunity for payment for the overrun. In at least some states trying to recover for an undisclosed overrun like that is actually criminal fraud. However - would take some research on whether boats are covered for that - might or might not be in your state, as some apply to any type of repair facility, some only to transportation conveyances or such terms (which yours might or might not be classified as), some refer to motor vehicles (which one might argue yours is but again not clearly so), some relate to "vehicles" which also leaves it open.


Also, some states have similar laws about home construciton and repair cases - which again might or might not be deemed to apply in your case, because in some states houseboats are considered boats (watercraft), in others they are covered by "home" laws.


Whether the work being done was work on the boat, or on the engine, might also make a difference in whether your state's laws on estimates cover it or not.


Considering that a houseboat is probably not specifically referred to in the law in such terms, and the $ amount involved, I would say you definitely need an attorney who specializes in contract law and liens. (Sorry - Angies List does not list/review attorneys).


And personally I would not pay them anything till it is resolved - if you are holding the full (remaining) amount you have a lot more power over them than if you were to pay the original estimate amount, because then they would have at least a major portion of their direct costs covered so might be more inclined to pursue the additional $ without negotiating or compromising.


One other thing to talk to the attorney about - depending on the circumstances, and particularly on whether they encountered rot or similar major deterioration causing the overrun (and can prove it), is the possibility of filing a criminal fraud charge against them. Obviously that is the nuclear option, but viable if you feel they are just plain trying to rip you off without justification, and would put a LOT of pressure on them to relent on the billing overrun. Ditto to filing a complaint with any state licensing board they have licenses with, and with the state or city regarding their business license. - though those actions, while putting pressure on the vendor, will not generally actually help you recover any $.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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Hi,

This is Chris in Member Care. I'm happy to help!

I've found some highly rated providers from the List. I’ve sent the providers via email.

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If you would like information on additional providers through this forum, please let us know. You can respond to this thread or submit a new Answers post. You can also reach us at memberservices@angieslist.com. We're happy to help!

Answered 2 years ago by Member Services




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