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Question DetailsAsked on 11/16/2015

I signed a bid for a kitchen remodel for approximately $9500. He mailed me an invoice for $1000 more.

I questioned him on the additional $1000 as our contract states that "any alterations to the contract involving extra costs will be executed only upon written orders." He stated that the extra money is not an alteration; the electrical had an allowance of $1500 and it ended up being $1000 more; he didn't have to notify me since he was performing all the electrical work I agreed to and that needed to be done to complete the remodel. The contract didn't dictate he contact me if it went over the allowance. I only just received the invoice discovering the extra charges and confronted him. Can he legally do this?

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1 Answer


IF you signed a bid for $9500 that is the contract amount. If there were specific "allowances" for specific items, for each individual allowance item that under-ran the contract amount goes down by that difference, if there is an overrun he needs to justify it and get signed approval on a change order before he can charge beyond the estimated amount.

Tell him increasing the contract amount IS a fundamental alteration to the contract the same as a change in scope would be - plain and simple. The contract amount is an essential part of a contract, and no party can unilaterally change it. Unfortunately, a LOT of contractors (and clients) have gotten into the mode of signing contracts and then deciding they do not want to abide by the terms - like the statements a prominent political candidate has been credited with making about reducing contract final payment amounts because he did not like the work or thought he was being overcharged after the fact, despite having signed the contract up front for the specified amount - or car salesmen who verbally agree to a price and then their manager tries to bump the amount up on you at final paperwork signing. Just plain shyster behavior in my opinion, but becoming more common, as is clients trying to renogiate the job price in mid-stream.

Now as for the winning/losing part - if you in any way approved additional work despite the change order terms, you might be inferred to have ratified the change - especially if it showed up on approved documents. But just slapping it on an invoice does not make him eligible to receive more money for it, and it sounds like there was not change in scope - just an overrun on cost.

Now the slimy legal part - in a court fight he can argue you got the benefit of the extra $ spent on electrical, so he is due it because otherwise you would gain an undeserved benefit at his expense. Your argument (in negotiation and presumably in small claims court) would be that you would not have taken his bid if it were $1000 more, that the scope of work and materials did not increase so you got no added benefit for the added $ and it is just an overrun on his part, and you agreed on a contract amount with him with specific change order terms that he failed to follow, so you should not have to pay for because it was not (and would not have been) approved by you. The judge would then weigh the contract compliance issue against the "unearned benefit" to you - and would likely split the difference of the claim if there was only one difference of this type in the job and the work was actually completed. You would likely totally win only if the judge felt the contractor was trying to gouge you, and unfortunately the more effective he is in appearing incompetent in his estimating the more liikley he would win.

Obviously, the phrasing of the document matters a lot - if it was presented as an "estimate" that is very different than a firm priced "contract". The latter is addressed above - if stated as an "estimate" then if he can justify his overrun due to change of conditions, more difficult access than planned, etc he would likely win (especially if total job overrun was less than 10-15%, which it is) so might be in your interest to negotiate a middle ground.

And of course, when all is said and done, probably time to do an appropriate Review on AL.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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