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A contractor performed certain budiling services on my property…

Customer Question
A contractor performed certain budiling...
A contractor performed certain budiling services on my property but did so prior to giving me a quote for the envisaged work or even giving me a contract. He went ahead and did the work and eventually after three weeks gave me a quote for the work which I could not afford. I immediately terminated his services upon receipt of the invoice. He is now suing me for which I cannot afford as I am a pensioner and my only source of ince is a State pension- what are my legal rights and obligations in this regard?
Submitted: 7 years ago.Category: South Africa Law
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Answered in 32 minutes by:
7/1/2010
Lawyer: Mike Otis, Legal Advisor replied 7 years ago
Mike Otis
Mike Otis, Legal Advisor
Category: South Africa Law
Satisfied Customers: 2,161
Experience: B.Comm; LL.B; LL.M.
Verified
Dear Sir / Madam,

Thank you for your question. In situations such as the present, where no specific agreement was reached regarding the price to be paid for the services rendered, the building contractor will be entitled to reasonable compensation for work actually done.

For that reason your attorney suggested that another contractor assess the work done in order to determine what would be reasonable compensation under the circumstances. Bear in mind, though, that the onus to prove what would be reasonable compensation rests on the original contractor who is suing you.

When your chosen contractor no longer wants to testify, you can either serve him with a subpoena to force him to testify. Alternatively, you can get another contractor who is willing to testify on your behalf.

Under the circumstances, and bearing in mind that litigation can be costly, it is advisable to try and reach a negotiated settlement with the original contractor.

I trust you find the above in order.

Yours faithfully,
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Customer reply replied 7 years ago

The contrcator does not want to come to a settlement on the issue and he has also added interest at a rate of 15.5 % over a three year period which has furthur escalated the bill. He has indicated that he will only accept the invoice amount plus the interest and not a penny less. Given that I am a pensioner and cannot afford his bill what options do i have other than going to court and having to prove reasonableness of the price? Assuming that the contractor wins the case will the court:

a. provide for a payment mechanism that is reasonable;

b. force me to sell my property/home to pay the contractor?

c. require me to take bond on my property to pay contractor albeit that no bank will lend me money as I do not have the means to pay back the loan?

Lawyer: Mike Otis, Legal Advisor replied 7 years ago
Dear Sir / Madam,

I am afraid that if no settlement can be reached, the only option is to proceed to trial or to pay the full amount. Please have an assessment done on the work to establish whether the contractor's claim is reasonable. If so, I would advise to pay the full amount. To go to trial and have a judgment entered against you would be worse, as that will probably result in a cost order being given against you for costs that would by that time have escalated from what it is now.

If the assessment (be sure to make use of a building contractor that is willing to testify) shows that the original contractor is unreasonable with his claim, make a formal offer in the amount that you are advised is reasonable. Even if that offer is not accepted, the fact that such an offer was made may be taken into account at the end of the trial when the court has to determine who has to bear the costs of the litigation. If it is shown that the building contractor's claim was unreasonable, then the court might rule in your favour regarding costs.

If the court eventually enters a judgment against you, it will just be for payment of the amount, plus interest and costs, if applicable. Usually, a court does not involve itself with payment arrangements. There are however provisions in the rules of court that enable a judgment debtor to apply for an order in terms of which a judgment debt can be paid in installments.

I trust you find the above in order.

Yours faithfully,
Mike Otis
Mike Otis, Legal Advisor
Category: South Africa Law
Satisfied Customers: 2,161
Experience: B.Comm; LL.B; LL.M.
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