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Question DetailsAsked on 5/17/2016

I gave a project budget of $1,500 and contractor accepted job. He sent a bill for $2,700, do I pay?

This is in the state of Montana. He had done the same project in a neighbors condo. Asked for a written bid and he said it wasn't necessary. Also work was done in December of 2015, I sent in payment of $1,700 in February after attempting to get a clear answer as to why the project went so far over budget without being notified - he refused to clarify what the verbal agreement was. Today I was notified by my bank that my check has not been cashed. Can he put a lien on my property?

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1 Answer


When he said a bid was not needed. that was red flag time - you should have come right back and said you wanted a written firm price proposal.

Ouch - job budget was $1500 and you paid $1700 in February - so you really weakened your position in any argument by paying more than the agreed upon amount. And of course if "project budget" - which as opposed to a firm contract price, is sort of a blank check which is not a great idea as it is an invitation for that to be the MINIMUM charge rather than maximum on an estimated job - wasnot in writing you are also in a weaker position.

I am not clear why check has not been cashed - and more to the point, why did your bank notify you that it had not been cashed ? I have never heard of a back notifying of a check not being cashed (unless you asked them if it had been) - or do you mean it showed as a skipped check number on your statement ?

Technically - you made payment (accepted but not cashed) of the full original amount - he should have to justify any overruns. Here is a recent more detailed response on that issue, with more info FYI -

Technically if he claims you owe $2700 total, he can file a lien - which is something you need to take immewdiate action because not only does it prevent sale of the property in the future (or is automaticlaly paid out of escrow proceeds), but a lien can be considered a default event on other loans, mortgages etc - even if unrelated to house. For instance, most car and personal loans and many mortgages have terms that make them become immediately due and payable if you have a lien or attachment or garnishment filed against you, so don't let a lien go unaddressed. Certainly check with county recorder's office (at County Clerk's office in Montana if I recall) to be sure no lien has been filed.

What you do now - I don't know. You could sit and see if he sends you a bill or notifies you that he lost the check, or refused to cash it because it was not for the $2700 - might just go away, though he probably has about 3 years to claim payment from you.

Or you could send him a letter (certified return receipt best) indicating that your $1700 check of February the n'th has not been cashed and you want him to deposit it as full payment on the account and provide you with a lien release on the job - though that might give him the idea of filing a lien claim for the full $2700 (or $1000 more if he deposits the check).

Unfortunately, if this gets in to a spitting match, since the agreement was verbal it comes down to a he-said, she-said situation, probably in small claims court if you challenge a lien or claim by him. Without a written contract and with you having paid more than the original amount agreed to, his bonding company will almost certainly say you did not have a firm price agreement so they are not liable to holding the job to the original price.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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