Under estimated.....customer won't budge

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Katwalk, Dec 31, 2003.

  1. Katwalk

    Katwalk LawnSite Member
    Posts: 92

    Recent hardscape job....wall block walls and a 28'x22' paver driveway area. Total "estimate" $48,000. Site was full of other contractors, walls were on either side of driveway and best access to the house was over/through our paver area. All excavation complete....rain filled in trenches for walls. La La La.. the point is, with certain conditions out of my control and some areas that I just fell short on my own, I am out about $6400. I have one more wall to build 75"x3' and have asked the homeowner for an additional $1400 above and beyond the additional "estimate." With a blank stare, he says, "The price is the price." The paper work he signed says estimate and there have been changes in the project that have been addressed. What do you do with people like this?? $1400 is about 3% of the total job. He told me that he has never gotten a price, and then had someone come to him and say that it would be more money. Any how, any idea legally what could happen if I walk now at $6400 in the hole? I have collected only 34,000 and have a job cost to date of $40,400. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.
     
  2. longslawn

    longslawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 201

    How much will it cost you to finish job completely?
     
  3. SodKing

    SodKing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,648

    Two scenarios,

    1. Finish the wall, send him the final bill with adjustments, and then hire a good attorney.

    2. Finish the wall, send him the final bill with adjustments, and when he balks, explain to him that circumstances beyond your control (weather, other contractors damaging you work) necessitated additional charges. That is why they call it an estimate.

    One line in my estimates/contracts stipulates that all material is to remain the property of Sweetser Farms Inc until the invoices are paid in full. That way you can repossess you building materials if they don't pay....though I have never had that problem.
     
  4. ElephantNest

    ElephantNest LawnSite Bronze Member
    from La.
    Posts: 1,878

    Key word ESTIMATE. Is that what he signed? Or did he sign an actual contract with a set price?
     
  5. I believe a job of that scope should have a signed contract.
     
  6. ElephantNest

    ElephantNest LawnSite Bronze Member
    from La.
    Posts: 1,878

    I agree, but many times people sign an estimate ok'ing the work, without ever signing an actual contract.
     
  7. SodKing

    SodKing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,648

    I agree as well. But the contracts still provide for unforeseen circumstances such as adverse weather, underground obstructions, other contractor damage. The client cannot expect us to say "no its OK, your plumber just drove his truck onto a screeded section of driveway and now I'll just re-grade it for free". There is no way we should be responsible for that.

    Likewise, if the project is scheduled for a certain week and its raining, That will add 10-20% to the costs. I am not going to absorb that. I have dealt with clients that said "we shouldn't have done it that week then" but when they find out it was either then or 5 months later they acquiesce.
     
  8. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    If you just walk away they have the right to hire another contractor to finish the job and you would be responsable for the bill. Unless you have every contingency spelled out in your contract. If part of the short fall was on your part better weigh the cost of attorneys against the cost of the lost and take the least of the 2 evils

    Happy New yr.

    Mac
     
  9. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Posts: 1,578

    i guess you have learned that you need a contract for 48k worth of work. You can't charge a customer extra because it rained and will slow you down.
     
  10. Katwalk

    Katwalk LawnSite Member
    Posts: 92

    Kris, if you install 300 yards of loam, grade it , finish rake it , seed and fert applied and it rains like a mother...do you go back and re-rake the area for nothing? He told me monday that never has someone given him a price and then told him that it would be more later on. Could this be true? Drop off a truck for a repair and when they give you an estimate around $200 and I go pick it up for $240.....I don't complain about the extra $40. Another thing to consider....every other contractor on this job is the second or third one there. Second plumber, second HVAC, second painters......I have a feeling he is just a "BAD CUSTOMER"

    Olderthandirt, that is one area I am concerned. I actually have put on paper and sent to the customer a type of buy out scenario. I showed him what it would cost to do the remaining work and subtracted it from what the original estimate was. On the advice of his attorney and project manager, he said he will wait until the spring to find other contractors. In the buy out scenario he would have to pay me $2100 and have $12,240 remaning to finish the work.

    I truly want to finish the work but cant stand the thought of not only going to work for free, but going in and knowing that I will be losing money every day......Thanks alll for your input.
     

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