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Question DetailsAsked on 11/18/2016

no estimate or quote from contractor

A friend (not a contractor or licensed contractor) sided my house and replaced my deck, and a back door. He never gave an estimate, or quote. Money was never talked about before or during the work. We did some of the work also, suck as wrapping the house. Afterwards he hits us with a bill that was about 3 times what I was going to pay a friend for doing the work he did. We paid him more than we planned to thinking he would be happy with what we paid. Kinda a meet in the middle kind of thing. Now he is threatening to add interest to the remaining amount he billed and take legal action. Can he do this? There was never a mention of money at all until he hit us with this bill afterwards. He didn't finish the job nor did he clean up his mess. He is even claiming he can put a lean on our house if we don't pay the difference of his bill and what we did pay.

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3 Answers


Sounds like you need an attorney (and no Angies List does not list/rate attorneys) - and you need to revise your Christmas card list and move him from the gift to the coal category of your Christmas gift list.

I guess you realize what a big mistake it was to have him do the work without up-front agreement in writing on the cost - and if you expected it to be free either you expect an unreasonable amount from your friends or you really have gullible ones. But lacking a contract up front, there was no "meeting of the minds" on the scope and the corresponding compensation - so any court action or arbitration would concentrate on whether it was legal for him to do offer to do the work or not (to act as a contractor), and if that factor did not prohibit compendsation under the law, then on the fair market value of the work he did considering what a one-man pro outfit would have charged and possibly taking into account the quality of the workmanship and failure to clean up and so forth.

Assuming you agree this friendship is trashed, your first step after starting to get an attorney on board (one specializing in home improvement contracts and contracts in general) might be to confirm if the type or $ amount of work he did requires a contractor's license in your state (contact state contractor's licensing board or access their website). For the type of work he did, if in a buyer-beware state like Texas say that does not license handymen and such, he might not have to have a license, so you could not use the lack of that against him. In other states like California and Virginia and NY say, he might be able to recover nothing if he offers his services without a license.

Whether he was required to have a business license in order to offer himself up for work on your house might also factor into it - in some states if not operating a business legally (business licensed) a court will disallow any business-related claims by that company as a penalty.

One other consideration is if this type of work required a building permit and he did not get one, could be they will be after you on that failure - either if an inspector happened to be passing by and saw the work going on and noted it was not on the inspections roster, or maybe at sale time if they notice a change in age or size of the deck - because decks over 1 to 6 feet off the ground (varies by locale) typically require a structural design and a building permit. So you might have to get a retroactive building permit (with a penalty cost commonly) and have to get a civil engineer to certify to the design and to the adequacy of the work to make the work "legal". Usually, replacing a door (without resizing the rough opening) and residing do NOT require a building permit for public safety reasons, though does in areas that assess permit fees based on job value for revenue purposes. For decks commonly any cantilevered off a building, with height off the ground over and sometimes square footage (commonly if over 100 or 120 SF if that is a criteria) are common qualifying factors that mandate

On the question of whether he can add interest - generally not without a written contract stating interest will be charged on late payments and the rate, though a court might award interest at the standard court judgement rate (typically about anywhere from less than 1% to about 5%) - but generally interest is only allowed from date of court judgement till actually paid. However, some states do allow it from date of billing plus the stipulated payment period (commonly 1-4 weeks) IF the billing was legal - i.e.. he did not have to have a license.

On the lien - if he is required to have a license and files a lien, in many or most states that is fraud and/or the lien can be eliminated on that basis by a judge - commonly by a directed verdict without a trial. If he did not have to be licensed or was actually properly licensed and you just did not know it, then yes a mechanic or builder or such can file a lien on your home, which can wreck havoc on your credit ratings and possibly accelerate other even totally unrelated debts (like mortgage or car loans or student loans) and can also result in credit cancellations or increases in interest rates on current accounts/debts under "mutual default" clauses.

One other thing - by paying him you may have shot yourself in the foot to a substantial extent - both because you potentially ratified his claim, and also you set a lower limit on the "value" of his work, so you took away much of the bargaining power you had when you had paid him nothing - so definitely talk to an attorney.

Oh - one last thing - because you did not have a contract or apparently other means to validate that he was a "contractor", and if he was unlicensed then that will actually strengthen his case, is he could claim he was yuour employee - making you subject to potential penalties for not registering as an employer and not making applicable social security, medicare, unemployment, state disability, worker's compensation, etc deposits, and for not properly documenting his employee status (W-4 withholding and I-9 immigration/right to work status) and withholding required SSA and state and income tax amounts and depositing them with the state or feds. If he wanted to get nasty he could really get you into a potential bind by claiming employee status - even more so if the amount you paid him is not more than minimum wage for your area, so be sure your attorney addresses that issue and substantiates the "contractor" status (legal or illegal) of this guy in this business relationship.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Your in luck my friend, seems to me that you just paid the so called friend half of what he didn't accomplish. To better answer your question, Only a licensed contractor can place a lein on your property. In my line of business in Florida. if the customer is not satisfied with the work done to date, only then in the end we have to pay them back in full. Simply because the job was not completed in a substanial workman like manner nor the job was ever completed in a timely manner. I suggest obtaining a litigation counselor, going to a local consumer affairs board, going to business tax licenseing office near you, state licensing board in your state and explain to each one of these sources your issue. Also I would suggest going down to the local court house and file a petition for a small claims suit against the other party. These actions may eventually get your money back so you can finish the work that he started by another reputable contractor.

I have heard this time and time again by homeowners, they had an indiviual also known as a non-compliant contractor do repairs or work on a residents home. This is why laws are made so people such as yourself won't get hurt in your pocketbook and have shotty work done on their home. There is actually a reason why you should pay a reputable contractor to do repairs on your home. Simply because there actual is laws in place for rules and regulations for contractor is required to abide to. The reputable contactor also has many years experience by using the proper use products, correct installation, the do's and don'ts by years of practicle knowdge, and has alternative sources to make sure your job goes smothly and correct so you can enjoy many years of great service from it. This is the main purpose why you should spend the little extra money to hire a professional craftsmen or tradesman to perform work on your home. I believe you really should not be hesitant hiring a professional contractor simply because you get rewarded in the end by obtaining a guarantee for the work done.

Source: Handyman

Answered 4 years ago by MrFixItHandyman


Note that what MrFixItHandyman may apply in Florida and a few other states - but that rigid a set of requirements on contractors certainly do not apply in most states - and if you are in a state where the type of work he did does not require licensing, or where the law does not prohibit liens by non-licensed contractors (and from your statements you are considering him a contractor, so under Uniform Commercial Code he probably CAN file a lien unless prohibited by law) he may well be able to file a lien against your property and possibly also a UCC Notice of Default (whcih would go on your credit report also), so you definitely need an attorney.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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