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Question DetailsAsked on 5/23/2016

Can I sue a landscaper for an incomplete job that i have not paid for?

Agreement breached based on completion time, materials and failed drainage solution. Landscaper refuses to address and has deemed the job complete while the mulch is incomplete, the drainage solution failed to prevent washout of mulch and the plants planted were annuals vs periennials as I requested. Landscaper seeking payment for incomplete job, substitute materials and poor workmanship. I have not paid him anything, what recourse do I have?

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1 Answer


Obviously, any contract terms regarding non-performance or payment or such generally control.

Certainly do not pay for incomplete or substandard work, but generally you should pay under the contract terms for any satisfactorily completed work, if the amount applicable to that is determinable.

You can sue, but first step would usually be a written (certified, return receipt required) letter to him detailing his failure to perform by the contractual completion date, what work was not completed satisfactorily or remains unfinished, what materials are substandard or unacceptable, and demanding that it be completed correctly within X days (a reasonable timeframe), and that his request for payment is rejected (except for payment for any satisfactorily completed work beiong paid for) until the substandard or incomplete work is satisfactorily completed. Granted, if he is beyond a contractual completion date, especially if you can show some reason for urgency or important of that date, you can terminate him on that basis but bear in mind getting him to finish the job, if feasible and you think he is capable of completing the work satisfactorily, is generally cheaper and much quicker than getting another contractor on board to finish the job.

If work is then not done by the date in the letter, then normal next step would be to file a claim against his performance Bond, assuming he has one and that the contract spelled out scope of work and payment amount and such in sufficient detail that a third party could independently assess if he has performed per contract or not.

A suit (in small claims if under the $ amount for your state) would normally be your last choice, because the court system is skewed such that even if you win, you generally have to pay all of your legal costs to win and to recover the money. And that assumes you can actually recover, as the court does not help with that - if a small contractor he may not have the assets available for you to recover from.

In your case, since you have not paid him anything, if you sued you would likely have to pay him for at least any satisfactorily completed work and to-spec materials on the jobsite, so even if you win it is unlikely you will actually "win" any $ - you would likely (unless you can prove another contractor would cost substantially more than the original contract amount to complete the job) have to pay him at least part of the money, PLUS your time and $ to pursue a suit.

Be sure that any resolution of whatever type includes lien releases from him for his company, any significant suppliers, and any subs.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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