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P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 26562
Experience:  16 yrs. of trial experience
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I hired a contractor to level my camp. He gave me an oral

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I hired a contractor to level my camp. He gave me an oral estimate for the job of two to three days, heavy equipment brought in. He sent 4 men and no equipment just house jacks, shovels and shims. The job was done in 4 hrs. There was no written agreement. He still wants to charge us $8000.00. We have spoken to him about the cost expecting him to lower the price for the job and we were told he got lucky. I feel that he overestimated this job. I feel $2000.00 an hour is way out of line I would not have hired anyone to do this job at that rate. I feel he is taking us to the cleaners. I am willing to pay him half of what was quoted. I feel that is a fair price for the work that was done. Where do we go from here? This contractor will not negotiate and said he was going to send this to a collection agency. Do I have any recourse. Thank you
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the chance to help. I am an attorney with over 12 years experience. Hopefully I can help you with your legal question.

Can you tell me, what was your agreement for? Was it an agreement for cost for the job total? Example, you agree to pay $8K for the work? OR was it an agreement for X dollars per hour/day?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The estimate was for the entire cost of the job.
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.

That will make it tough. That is, if you had an agreement to pay for the job, and the contractor did the job, as agreed, he can demand you pay as agreed.

But there may be a way to address this if the contractor misled you in this negotiations. process.

Can you tell me if that was the case? Can you show that the contractor lied to you in the negotiations that led up to your agreement?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Not knowing what really had to be done to level the camp, we took his word that it would take 2 maybe 3 days and he would have to bring in heavy equipment to do the job. Based on what he told us we felt $8000., was reasonable. When the men came to do the job (unannounced and 3 days early), one of the workers told my husband it was an easy job because of the steel I beams that were under the camp already. I feel the owner knew this as he looked all under the camp when he came to give us an estimate and is taking advantage of us. I was most upset when we tried to negotiate the same day and were told "I got lucky" on this job and also said again this week we should not be upset because he made money on us that there are some jobs he has to take a loss on.
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
Thank you

This will be the key...if you can prove the contractor lied? Then you can refuse to pay the full amount.

But you would have the burden of proof.

Under contract law, if two parties agree to the terms of a contract, and one party complies with their part of the bargain? The other party can compel them to do their part.

So, in the case you describe, if you had an agreement to pay for services, and services were rendered as agreed? You have to pay.

That is basic contract law...

However, contract law also provides that both parties are required to "negotiate in good faith"

So, if one party lies to another about a material matter ? That can be grounds to void the contract

Examples

1. Say that A agrees to build B a structure. A is not sure what it will take to complete the project, but reasonably believes that it will require a particular procedure. And so A makes the quote based on this belief. B agrees. A starts to work and realized that the procedure is not required. A completes the task. B is on the hook for the agreed cost. The fact that A "got lucky" in the estimate is not grounds for B to void the agreement.

2. Similar example, but this time A believes that he will NOT need to perform the particular procedure. But he lies to B and tells her that it will be required. Same result in the process...A completes the task, no procedure used. In such a case, if B sues and can prove A lied? Then B can have the contract void. B will still owe A some money (since the work was done) but the amount would be determined by the court based on the reasonable amount related to the actual work done


So there you have it....the closer your case is to #2 above, the more likely you would be to win if you had to go to court.

The key will be what you can prove the contractor knew at the time and what the contractor told you....if they lied to you? You can ask the court to reduce the amount you owe.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thank you for your advice. One more question please. If this is sent to the collection agency can we negotiate a lower price at that point, although I do not want my credit ruined over this.matter
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
That opens up a whole new issue.

Understand that a "debt collector" can fulfill one of two roles.

They can serve as an agent, seeking to collect the debt on behalf of the principal (and gaining some compensation if they succeed). In such a case they may or may not have final say on settlement terms.

They can purchase the debt and in that case they serve as the principal...if they own the debt, they have the final say on settlement.

Either way, if they report this to your credit, you can dispute it...and if they will not correct the report, you can sue them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Ultimately if you had to go to court, the issue would be the same as I described. If you could prove the contractor lied (the contractor would be pulled into the suit as well, at least as a witness), then you would be able to void the contract. If you did so, then the debt would not be valid and you could force the debt collector to remove the report.

So to answer your question, can you negotiate after it goes to collections? You can certainly try. And it may be you can be successful. The potential problem you have is once the debt collector is engaged, they are now part of the equation...and they want to make money. So if the goal is to negotiate a settlement, the time to do so would be prior to the debt collector getting involved. If you can.

But yes...you can negotiate with them before and after a debt collector is involved. Just understand once the debt collector is involved, you may be stuck negotiating with the debt collector. And that may be tough to do.

P. Simmons, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 26562
Experience: 16 yrs. of trial experience
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