How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask J.Hazelbaker Your Own Question

J.Hazelbaker
J.Hazelbaker, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 4385
Experience:  Experienced and trained in the area of business law.
Type Your Business Law Question Here...
J.Hazelbaker is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

We are having a dispute with a general contractor over his

Customer Question

We are having a dispute with a general contractor over his inflated invoices on a home improvement job. We believe he has overcharged by at least $30,000 on a job that should have cost around $60,000. He says we have an open contract with him him, although we never signed anything. His so called contract was a ball park estimate to us and he admitted he was charging us by labor and materials plus 20 % for his fee. He refuses to give us invoices showing labor and materials. The job is about 80% done and is at a standstill as we refuse to pay him more without receiving proper invoices. Frankly we know he has overcharged us by tens of thousands at this point. We have paid enough for this job to be complete by now. What can we do besides paying the contractor whatever he comes up with from the thin air? How can we protect ourselves from liens? Thanks!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  J.Hazelbaker replied 2 years ago.

J.Hazelbaker :

Hello. Thank you for using JustAnswer.

J.Hazelbaker :

The first thing that I would do now that you have reached an impass and the contractor is acting unreasonably is to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation:

J.Hazelbaker :

https://www.myfloridalicense.com/entercomplaint.asp

J.Hazelbaker :

This entity handles disputes including fee disputes with contractors.

J.Hazelbaker :

Involving a third party licensing agency which has the power to compel the contractor to take action and which will not cost you is the best option at this point.

J.Hazelbaker :

Please let me know what follow-up questions you have. If my above responses have been helpful, please click Accept so that I get credit for the time/effort. You may always restart the thread and ask follow-up questions at any time by clicking the “Reply” button at the bottom of the question/answer thread. You can access this thread later in your profile under the “My Questions” tab.

Customer:

This is not really helpful to me as an answer. I need advice as to what to do next. I know I can file a complaint with the state of florida, however that will be a time consuming procedure. Do you have a third party licensing agency in mind other than the state of florida? In addition how do I protect myself against liens that the contractor may file?

Customer:

Contractor syas we have a contract even though I have never signed what he considers to be a contract. To me it is and always has been a ball park estimate. He intitially called it an estimat. In a suceeding invoive he changed the wording to read ESTIMATE/SCOPE OF WORK/CONTRACT---IS THAT REALLY A CONTRACT? I NEVER SIGNED IT!

Customer:

Sorry for the typo's above:

Expert:  J.Hazelbaker replied 2 years ago.
You only have two legal options under Florida law:

1) the complaint with FDBPR, or

2) file a lawsuit against the contractor in district court for breach of contract (oral or verbal) and unjust enrichment.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but these are the only legal options to compel a contractor who will not negotiate with you reasonably.

It is unlikely that liens would be filed, once a complaint or lawsuit is filed. In additon, the contractor must file liens within a specified time frame after the work has been done. Contractors often threaten liens, but don't often file them or file them properly.

Finally, if a lien is filed, but the contractor does not sue to enforce it, it will expire. If the contractor does sue to enforce it, he has to prove he is entitled to the money. Of course , you have obvious arguments against such claims.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX more detailed explanation. Just one more question. What is the best way to find a lawyer who specializes in this kind of legal dispute?
Expert:  J.Hazelbaker replied 2 years ago.
This area of law is called "construction law" and either a construction law or "contract law" litigator would be ideal for this type of case.

There are two principal ways to locate such an attorney in your area:

www.martindale.com

or

the Florida Bar referral program:

http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/tfbconsum.nsf/48e76203493b82ad852567090070c9b9/ec2322e512b83d1e85256b2f006cc812?opendocument
J.Hazelbaker, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 4385
Experience: Experienced and trained in the area of business law.
J.Hazelbaker and 7 other Business Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I just noticed you did not give me an answer to the following question:

 

Contractor says we have a contract even though I have never signed what he considers to be a contract. To me it is and always has been a ball park estimate. He intitially called it an estimate. In a suceeding invoice he changed the wording to read ESTIMATE/SCOPE OF WORK/CONTRACT---IS THAT REALLY A CONTRACT? I NEVER SIGNED IT and neither did he!

Expert:  J.Hazelbaker replied 2 years ago.
No. It would not be a written contract unless the parties signed it.

However, Florida law will enforce oral contracts in certain situations. In addition, there are other legal theories that can be used to recover such as "promissory estoppel" and "unjust enrichment".

In your case, the dispute will resolve around what either of you state was the understanding. The contractor will be at a disadvantage, particularly in the license complaint environment, because Florida best practices are for contractors to provide written, detailed contracts, which your contractor failed to do.

In addition, the invoice he provided would not be admissible as evidence as to what was agreed because he unilaterally changed it (e.g. scope of work/contract).

So, the most that exists is an oral contract with some invoices that could be used to determine what work was agreed to. All the extra stuff the contractor now asserts he is owed for (e.g. 20% fee on top of labor) may not be recoverable by him unless that was verbally explained to you at the begining of the relationship.

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Law Pro

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1426
    20 years experience in business law - sole proprietor, partnership, and corporations
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/LA/lawpro/2012-6-25_171315_PT206740s.64x64.jpg Law Pro's Avatar

    Law Pro

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1426
    20 years experience in business law - sole proprietor, partnership, and corporations
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/DC/DCraneEsq/2012-8-14_14436_DCrane.64x64.jpg MShore Law's Avatar

    MShore Law

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1233
    Drafted Negotiated and/or Reviewed Thousands of Commercial Agreements
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FL/FLAandNYLawyer/2012-1-27_14349_3Fotolia25855429M.64x64.jpg FiveStarLaw's Avatar

    FiveStarLaw

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1162
    25 years of experience helping people like you.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/dkaplun/2009-05-17_173121_headshot_1_2.jpg Dimitry K., Esq.'s Avatar

    Dimitry K., Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1142
    Run my own successful business/contract law practice.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/ohioatty/2009-1-22_185545_me.jpg J.Hazelbaker's Avatar

    J.Hazelbaker

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    393
    Experienced and trained in the area of business law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/scottymacesq/2009-6-10_221523_small.jpg RGMacEsq's Avatar

    RGMacEsq

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    393
    Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/BA/barristerinky/2012-6-10_22423_office.64x64.jpg Barrister's Avatar

    Barrister

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    301
    13 years practicing attorney, MBA
 
 
 

Related Business Law Questions