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Ask Barrister Your Own Question
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 33206
Experience:  Attorney with 15 years experience in various consumer protection areas
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I've had some issues with a builder that I employed to fix

Customer Question

I've had some issues with a builder that I employed to fix up some things in my new house. He is a licensed, bonded builder in CA where I live. His men damaged stuff whilst doing the work (like falling through a ceiling and damaging the floor beneath). They fixed the things up, but now at the end of the work I'm being asked to pay a 20% contingency. Which is over $800. I can't see where the extra work has come from aside from clearing up the stuff they broke!
It listed contingency on my original quote, but I didn't anticipate it being quite such an automatic add-on.
Before settling can I ask him for a full list of items he thinks ran up a contingency?
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 5 months ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply,but rest assured, I am working on your question..Yes, you have a right to know what the extra money he is trying to charge you is for. You have no obligation to simply take his word for it and write him a check. .So I would tell him that you want an itemized invoice that clearly breaks down what the "contingency" is for and how it was incurred..My guess is that he is trying to pad the bill to cover any repair/clean up costs due to his workers.. .If he can't adequately explain the charge, then you are within your rights to refuse to pay it...thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Hi. Thanks for the super fast response.
So he can't simply add this on as an itemized item on the list of jobs. Can I send you the original quote to check?
Expert:  Barrister replied 5 months ago.
You are very welcome. Glad to help any time...So he can't simply add this on as an itemized item on the list of jobs. Can I send you the original quote to check?.No, this is apparently some type of "cushion" for him if he underestimates the cost of something or runs into unforeseen problems with the job. But it still has to be itemized and detailed..But sure, you can upload the quote and I will take a look, but I am not a builder or contractor so can't tell you if the charges are reasonable or not.....thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
OK please look at the uploaded file: ***** ***** MV house #2.xlsx.pdf
On the 2nd page it lists 10% profit and 10% overhead, and then several lines down it lists this as 20% contingency with a figure that doesn't add up to any of the others!
Expert:  Barrister replied 5 months ago.
The $967.20 is based on the total amount of $4,836 x 20%)..So this looks like a pure profit grab to me and he is just trying to boost his profit on the job over the 10% total he agreed on....The contingency is supposed to be IF there are unforeseen expenses, not just like a restaurant adding in a 20% gratuity on top of the 10% tip...I would want a detailed explanation of what went over budget for costs and materials because this is a straight 20% bonus for him and it even includes the 10% profit that he has already tacked on....thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I will email him tonight.
Are there any good lawyer-speak phrases, quotes or otherwise I can throw in there to give more gravitas?
Expert:  Barrister replied 5 months ago.
You are very welcome..You can mention that you talked to a contract law attorney and he informed you that if this got to court, a judge would rule that unless he can adequately explain what the "unforeseen" problems were that increased the costs, a judge would not enforce that charge..You can say that unless he can explain the additional charges from a purely accounting cost perspective, then this would be considered "unjust enrichment" and would not be legally enforceable since the contingency fee was for documented overages, not additional profit for the contractor.. ..thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Hi. I am not sure if I can still ask a question on this...
I forgot to mention that when I didn't pay up on the spot today he threatened to put a lien on the property. How does that affect things?
Expert:  Barrister replied 5 months ago.
He has the right to file a lien if this is a legitimate bill that you are refusing to pay...but in my opinion is isn't legitimate. So if he threatens to file a lien again, you can tell him that if he does, you will sue him for "slander on title" for punitive damages for filing a false lien...If you feel your original question and any related follow ups have been answered, I would very much appreciate a positive rating on the answer I have provided so I receive credit for my work. If you have a new question the JustAnswer folks require that you start a new question page, but you can request me by putting "For Barrister" in the caption and they will get it to me...thanks muchBarrister

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