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Question DetailsAsked on 8/24/2017

i signed a proposal but the contracter never showed. Am I resonsible? no money ever changed hands

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Arghhhhj - Angies List computer is taking out the paragraph breaks again !!! The ====== below are paragraph breaks.


Money changing hands certainly is a confirmatory act ratifying a contract, showing pretty clearly that there was a contractuaal relationship - but a contract can certainly be in effect long before money changes hands - take for instance typical car repair, household utility repair, short-term work around the yard, etc where payment is usually made in-full upon completion of the job - but there is certainly a contract in effect in those cases too. I have worked large projects where a contractor spent several millions of dollars in preparation and mobilization before getting paid a dime, because the contract stipulated they had to complete certain milestones before being paid - like completing mobilization to the site or getting all applicable building permits, for instance.

========= Obviously for a case with an argument or dispute about whether there is a contract you would need an attorney's guidance, and as early on as possible to protect your rights. Following thoughts are from my work experience and from contract and business law courses I have taken. Hopefully you have a copy of what you signed - what does it say ? If you signed that you just acknowledge by signing that you received the proposal (not the usual form but some standard proposal forms have that phrasing pre-printed on them) then assuming that as usual there was not agreement regarding paying for the bid, you have no obligation to him other than the courtesy (and back-stopping confirming security) of notifying him he has not been selected for the job and thanking him for his bid/quote.
========== If it was just a proposal form or pro-forma invoice with address and price maybe, but nothing about it being a contract, then the signature would be meaningless because there would be no indication of what the signature was intended to mean - receipt of the proposal, acceptance of it and non-binding or binding statement intent to contract, or as a contract itself. So in that case, as above - no obligation on your part, and he can also revoke the proposal anytime before you accept it. ====== The most common case is the proposal has a full page of fine print on the back, typically a standard contract form off a tablet or computer form, which says if you sign the proposal that you now have a contract with him to do the work. If you signed on the front proposal part only and ALL the fine print indicating it is a contract rather than just a proposal is on the back, court cases have split on whether that constitutes a valid contract with nothing on the front saying so, but generally if the front says proposal and the back has the contract terms and you did not sign on the back, it is generally deemed to not be a contract if you take any step to disavow it as a contract (obviously before any work starts). ====== If you signed on the back with fine contract print on it then you almost certainly have a contract, assuming it contains the essentials of a contract - generally held to be the names of the parties to it, work location address or description if not just shop work to be done at contractor's place of business, some indication of what the work to be done is (scope of work) which might be a detailed scope of work with referenced plans and specs or can be something simple like - "build 10x14 concrete patio", contract amount (or unit or line-item pricing if unit-priced or cost-plus or time and materials), dated signatures by both parties (latest of those signatures is the contract effective date), and something indicating the period of performance - which might be specific start-by / start-after and completion dates or may be specified to be determined based on other events (like maybe "completion within 60 days of notification of drying-in of house" or "30 days after receipt of building permit" for instance. Of course, open-ended times like that are a bad idea - better to put in firm dates with milestone dates as applicable, then negotiate a contract amendment or change order if the schedule is unavoidably delayed by factors beyond his control down the road. ======== Now - assuming you signed something saying it is a contract or agreement for him to perform the work - if it has a specific start-by or completion date and he has missed one of those dates (with some legalese wishy-washiness on his having to actually start by the start date if he could still potentially complete by the finish date if he started now or in near future), then you have the option of sending him (I would strongly recommend by certified mail, return receipt, signature required) a notice of contract default. It should state that his work on your project (identify same way as on proposal - typically by job address) and preferably referencing the proposal dated X or accepted on X date, was not begun on or by the contracted date, so you are cancelling the contract for non-performance on his part. Obviously keep the mailing and return receipt card (be sure he or an employee signed it) and a copy of the letter. ========= What he can do - accept it, try to enforce the contract in court (starting from a pretty weak position if he failed to perform to the contract date(s), or come back claiming he had good cause not to start on the agreed-iupon date due to unusually bad weather, failure to receive ordered items (like special order windows or appliances or fixtures or such, as applicable), etc so the dates should be extended. Then you could be into a case of whether he has good cause for a change order with change of dates. That depends on how strong his case is, whether or not the delay was actually beyond his control and unanticipatable by a reasonable contractor,, and whether the contract stated that the performance dates were a crucial element of the contract or not. ========== If he comes back claiming you owe some monehy for his effort on the job or for materials he bought, or claiming he has already begun work by arranging for subs and ordering materials and planning the job, then you are definitely in a dispute situation and most likely would be well advised to get an attorney involved. =========== Also - one contractor trick in late-start situations like this - if you have sent cancellation of the contract, do not accept delivery of or allow delivery of any supplies to your property, or allow any workers on site - because doing so would constitute either at least implied ratification of the contract, or worse yet be implied initiation of a new contract without specific terms, which would generally mean a cost-plus situation - not what you want. ========== if this is an insurance-paid job, be sure to keep the insurance company in the loop too, so they don't send any payment direct to him not knowing you cancelled the contract.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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