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Even though you don't have a signed written contract, you still have recourse. The lack of a written contract can be overcome by the concepts of promissory estoppel, detrimental reliance, and unjust enrichment
. This situation arises when Person A relied upon the verbal agreement, Person A performed based on such reliance, and because Person B defaulted, such reliance is now to Person A's detriment. Where there is i) partial performance by Person A based upon the mutual promises, ii) Person A relied upon such promises to perform, iii) Person B's failure to perform would be to Person A's detriment, and iv) result in Person B being unjustly enriched, Person A can overcome the legal requirement that the agreement be in writing. Your situation satisfies all the foregoing elements.
I the designer/architect won't refund all your money, I would raise the stakes on him. Even though your contract does not have a specific time frame, a "reasonable period" is implied and a reasonable period of time has been far exceeded. He's thus in breach of contract! Send him a certified, return receipt requested letter detailing the history, terminating the contract due to his default, and demand that he refund all your money. Inform him that if he does not comply with your demand within a short specified period of time, you will have no choice but to file a suit against him for your damages
. BUT be sure to specifically mention that you will be filing this claim not only as a breach of contract case, but also as fraud and deceptive trade practice causes of action, which will entitle you not only to your damages, but also an additional amount equal to multiple times your actual damages as punitive damages. That should provide plenty of incentive to comply with your demands; but, if it does not, file your suit. Even if you have to file the suit, that's likely all you will need do. In my experience, he will settle this without a hearing rather than risk punitive damages and the fraud and/or deceptive trade practice judgments being on his record.
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