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Question DetailsAsked on 4/26/2017

my contractor won't give me list of all the materials costs

We asked our contractor doing our bathroom remodeling for a list of material costs because it didn't seem to add up to the $2,385 on our contract. We felt we were being overcharged $1,500.00 and asked to see the invoices to see how they add up. The contractor admitted he added his helper wages and the dump fee to the materials list. We said we thought the helper's wages should be included in the labor costs at: $3,325.00. We scheduled a meeting to talk to him the next evening and he wanted to quit the job and still did not have the invoices to show how he added up the material cost. We talked him into finishing the job but I felt intimidated. He called me a penny pincher for adding up every dime and nickle. We still don't know the cost of all the materials. The store where we picked out all the materials said they could not show us unless the contractor said it was OK. Don't I have a right to know?

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If this is a fixed-price job, you have no right to the invoices - he makes or loses money on the job depending on whether he meets his cost estimate, but you pay (subject to any approved change orders) the original contract amount regardless of what the materials cost him.

Assuming this work is being done on time and materials (a risky way to do business), or maybe a fixed price plus materials cost for specific items like fixtures, then his putting the helper labor on the materials invoice is a BIG red flag - that would be fraud if he did it knowlingly, and would be enough for me to boot him and call his Bond to get the job finished - though without a firm price on the contract calling the bond is real iffy because there is no specific contract cost for them to adhere to - but is an option.

The dumpster fee would, if he is charging time and materials (T&M) directly, probably legitimately be considered a "materials" fee - especially if he could put any other needed subcontractors in the "materials" part. That one I would not make an issue of unless he has a lump sum "job tools and supplies" cost item in the contract, where that might normally reside. But basically, it is like a material - obtained specifically for the job and paid for out of his pocket to a third-party, so I would call that probably legit on a T&M job.

Assuming you are paying him cost or cost-plus for the materials in question, go ahead and tell him maybe you are a penny pincher - you are on a budget and value your money, as he evidently does too if he is trying to shed labor cost into the materials invoice, but you still have a right to pay only what is called for in the contract, and if that incluldes reimbursement for certain materials you certainly have a right to see proof of the cost you are paying for. It may be he is tacking on a markup which was not included in the contract and thsat is why he does not want to show the invoices to you - or perhaps he used substandard materials contrary to the specs in the contract - like maybe Pex or PVC instead of copper pipes if the contract called for copper, for instance.

Certainly, he should be billing per the initial written agreement, and you should not pay for work not done, and not do final payment (in the agreed-to amount) until the work is totally completed and you have the lien releases from significant vendors and any subs (commonly exchanged at time of final payment). Istrongly recommend you do NOT let him get into a situation where he is "ahead" of you on the job - where you have paid more than the completed work is worth. Also, if you pay for certain fixtures and materials and such, be sure that is receipted for on an invoice marked as PAID by you and dated, and they should be stored at your house, so if he then takes them away with him if he quits the job that is theft and actionable by police action.

Whether you are better staying the course with him or not is your call. At this point I would tell him you want to resolve the issue and work out total charges to date, and do change orders you actually asked for or agree with (for actual "changes" of conditions or scope, not just overruns on his part), with him preferably giving you a firm to-completion cost, dated and in writing - basically converting it, as of this time, to a fixed-price job. If he won't go for that, I would get a to-date summation and pay only what is required by the contract to this date (based on completion milestones or with certain holdback or whatever per contract). Otherwise you risk him running up overruns from here on to try to recover what he evidently underbid on. If he will not do that, then maybe time to terminate him for failing to adhere to the contract terms by overbilling on the materials invoice (which is quite possibly evidence of fraud) - though terminating him would likely take an attorney because you NEED those lien releases so he or subs or suppliers can't come back against you later on if he did not pay them in full for their work.

Couple of related previous questions with answers about similar situations FYI -

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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