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Question DetailsAsked on 10/28/2015

disolving a contract

Contractor verbally agreed to use a licensed plumber in bathroom remodel. day one tear out no plumber arrived. When asked contractor when is plumber coming to install new tub and shower valves he said "we do it all". the plumber is only on the permit but doesn't do the work". This is a breech in our verbal agreement. Want to cancel contract for contractor lack of quality and cutting corners that has cause a trust issue..

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Sorry - the days of sending someone to the Assizes because they do not pay a debt went out a long time ago - basically you cannot jail a person for not paying a debt (though sometimes a judge will jail a person for contempt of court for failing to make a court ordered payment that he has the assets to pay).

And of course, you have not yet demonstrated that the contractor does owe you anything.

Because you have a contract, it would be criminal basically only if he took the money and skipped out, which would be fraud. Otherwise, as DriverNerd says, your contract dispute would be the subject of civil law, not criminal.

You don't say if you have a written contract, because generally a verbal agreement is not binding if it modifies a written contract.

If the contract has specific terms (perhaps on back of Proposal) about contract cancellation and deposit then you are ruled by that, subject to any state limits on amounts of deposits and forfeited deposits or down payments. Note - there is some case law regarding terms on the back of bids or proposals not being valid if you do not initial or sign the back, on the premise that the signing party (not the one who prepared the document) might not have been aware of those terms, assuming of course you did not see them at time of signing.

Lacking specific contract terms, that would generally be considered an advance or down payment on the contract, and how much he could retain would depend on state law - or in court, on how much he could convince the court was reasonable for his time and effort so far, for having held the timeslot for the work, losses due to lack of work for his employees during that scheduled period, loss of profit and so forth. What he is allowed to claim varies by jurisdiction, and also by whether the homeowner had good cause to cancel (because of some contractor fault or act of god) or did it arbitrarily.

Since in this case the homeowner seems "in default" by having signed a contract with one contractor and then changing his mind to go to another, the homeowner's position appears to be the weak one here unless he/she had substantive reason to cancel the contract - and the reasons allowed for that are limited - just getting a better deal is NOT a good excuse to cancel a contract.

I would google state/local law (search phrase like this - MyState plumbing license requirements) about licensing requirements for plumbers - if plumbing work requires that the contractor be licensed, you have good cause to cancel the contract. If the plumber's name is on the contract but is not doing the work that is fraud and falsification of the permit - I would talk to the city/county building permit supervisor about this - they may issue a cease and desist order on the contractor.

You can also file a complaint with the state licensing authority if a person has to be licensed in your area to do plumbing work (which is very likely the case).

On the quality and shortcuts issue - you have the right to tell him to stop new work until he fixes deficient quality work, and if he fails to remedy errors or substandard work (though of course that is a subjective judgement call) then you can cancel the contract fro his failure to perform. Though expect an argument and hassle regarding payment for tearout and work satisfactorily done and in getting lien releases - attorney likely necessary for those.

The trust issue is a lot more nebulous and would require an attorney's input - that is a valid cause for cancelling a contract but generally requires allowing him to remedy his ways, whereas violating licensing laws or falsifying permits would be generally be a good legal cause for concellation.

Note - if signed at your house, there are state (and some large cities) laws on revocation period (and procedure for notification of revocation) - time period varies by jurisdiction (commonly 3-5 days, calendar or business varies by state. There is also a Federal 3 day recovation period for in-home signed contracts. (Note this sometimes only applies to once where he comes to your home and you sign a contract at that time - not if you talk and he comes at your request to give a bid and you then signn a contract. However, sound like you are well past that period.

Depending on the timing, urgency, and $ involved - you may well want to consult an attorney dealing in contract law.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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