I hired a contractor to demolish a deck and build a new one. All the materials needed were purchased by myself and thus the contractor simply had to come and do the work. The quote for labour was $4500 ($1000 for demolishing and $3500 for building). The demo was done without a problem and thus I paid $1000. After this is where the delays started.
What was said to be done in 4 days turned into 4 weeks of constant delays and coming to do minor work here and there. The minor work was mainly removing debris and cleaning up the deck area. After pushing to have the deck done, the contractor finally started work on digging holes for 10 posts, and eventually cemented them with posts in them (which almost took a week for whatever reason). Then the delays started again, so at this point I got fed up and told him no more work is needed and that I am cancelling his service, and that I will go with another contractor.
I offered to pay for his work done up to that point, but he is pressuring me to pay him half of the total labour costs ($1750, i.e. $175 per post) for the 10 posts, which I feel is unreasonable, as the going rate for such a job is $55 per post ($550 total). I've obtained more than a dozen quotes from other contractors for the exact same work, and thus that's how I got the average pricing of $55 per post.
Now the contractor is threatening to take me to small claims court and put me through such a hassle and headache. There wasn't ever a contract in place, just verbal agreements and texts, none of which itemize anything, just listing of total labour costs after 100% completion of the deck.
Is this something that the contractor is able to get away with? I can't see on what grounds the contractor thinks they deserve that much money verses other contractors and companies.
Anyone can sue anyone for any reason that seems appropriate to them. However the cost and duration of a suit is prohibitive especially for $1750. I believe $55/hole is on the lower end. I usually pay my post hole crew $60/hole. just to be sure. I would pay the rate you feel is right plus 10% as a gesture of good will. he will not succeed in court. fyi: this time of year deck builds are tricky due to weather and soil conditions, sometime heavy equipment can cause severe damage to the terrain and work conditions can become dangerous. but if there is a delay it must be communicated and the reason behind it. I would not pay $1750 but I would consider $750 as fair settlement. You will be fine.
The contractor is bluffing. Advise him in writing you've decided to cancel any further 'verbal' agreements because he is in breach of the agreement due to non-performance on the schedule. There's no contract so pay him whatever you want, but put in writing what you've determined the completed value of the work to be. (I'd also back charging him with my own time for putting up with the inconvenience of have to administer this nonsense.) Advise him you can only proceed with payment against a properly detailed invoice detailing all of the work completed and that the invoice amount satisfies full payment. Also indicate that you need a copy of a current WCB clearance letter and his taxation numbers such as GST. Then wait for him and don't pay a nickel until you have the above items in hand. The judge will throw this kind of claim out.
Unfortunately once a project turns ugly people like to say a lot of unrealistic demands,
The contractor knows he is in the wrong by taking so long to complete what is a simple 4 day job as quoted
He is obviously short on cash and hoping to get what he can from you so he can float till he picks up other work
If he was to spend the $500 to file a complaint with small claims he would be foolish as the facts are pretty clear that he was fired for not completing on time
Was there a permit taken out for this deck ?
Did he have the piers inspected prior to pouring concrete?
It is very unlikely he would follow through with any sort of attempt in a court setting
Next time you hire someone check their most recent references to ensure they finish on time and stay on budget.
I would issue a cheque for $600 to be more than fair and send him on his way.
make sure you get a written receipt for what the payment is for.
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