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Should they still pay??

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Ives Landscaping, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. Ives Landscaping

    Ives Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    I did a retaining wall repair that I ended up losing on. While we were repairing it the wall fell and I almost lost my $20,000 tractor over the wall. After cleaning up the mess, we found that the wall had settled forward and we would have to rebuild the entire wall. I explained that as a possibility before starting. The customer still wanted us to try to straighten it. We did what we could without disturbing that first row of blocks. But everything had settled and it couldn't be straightened. Now they don't think they should have to pay me.... What should I do, I have a three man crew worth of 30 hours on that wall? They still have to pay me right??:usflag:
  2. JDiepstra

    JDiepstra LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,510

    You should fix it. Then they should pay you.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. Ives Landscaping

    Ives Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    When we found out what the real problem with the wall was, they said they don't have that kind of money. We offered to continue and fix it.:usflag:
  4. ny scaper

    ny scaper LawnSite Member
    Messages: 171

    How does the contract read? Does it say in there that a collapse was possible in your attempts at repair and that it may be a total rebuild for additional cost? If it does your covered imo, but if it was a verbal that it may collapse, then you better fix it and move on.
  5. sehitchman

    sehitchman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 965

    I've done a couple of jobs like that. Knowing up front that the wall was unstable and may need a complete rebuild. I spelled that out up front with no guarantee on the repair if the wall and base were known to be questionable. I quoted the last one, at a price that would cover a complete rebuild. The repair went just fine, and I gave them a price break, but I still told them, that it is likely to give them problems again if not rebuilt with a new base. Guess, I'm willing to walk away from the work no matter how much I need it, if I see the potential for a big loss. I think they should pay what you quoted, plus some additional. Good luck, keeps me awake when I bid to little or loose money and time on a job. Just a suggestion, sit down with them in a calm mood. Explain the entire situation, saying things like "you do recall we discussed the wall may collapse and require a complete rebuild." "I attempted to do a repair as requested, but that was not successful". Then ask them what they think would be fair as there was a lot of additional cost in the complete rebuild. Most people want to make things right, just might not have the $ at the time. I hate this for you, could have been much worse if you damaged the tractor.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
  6. GreenCloverlawnCare  LLC

    GreenCloverlawnCare LLC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 69

    Damn right they should still pay.
  7. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,133

    It is a tough situation when we cannot quote a price for work because we do not know what will be needed until we get in and find out. When this is a possibility, it is best to get it in writing. But at least you did explain the potential additional work, and they did say go ahead knowing about that possibility.

    What you need to do now, is document everything, I mean everything, down to the exact time that you talked about the potential that more work would be needed and exactly what was said by who. After you have listed all the exact details take photos (I hope you took before photos). I hope that you wrote up a good proposal, work order, and have good records of work schedules. Get all that info, including the exact time the wall tumbled. Every measurement, second, tools used. Everything.

    It sounds like you went ahead and rebuilt the wall, even though you had doubts about getting paid. That says a lot. There are many contractors who would have left the tumbled wall until they got some assurances.

    I am curious, and I think that we can better advise you if we knew more about the numbers involved. If you do not mind share the info for the cost of the repair versus the cost of the rebuild. Also keep track and share what they say to you. People broadcast clues, and it is helpful in figuring out how to deal with them. In this kind of situation, some people will say, I understand that these things happen and pay you. Sometimes they want to complain a bunch and then they will pay you, and sometimes they will fight till hell freezes over.

    Homeowners, know their obligations and they know what things cost.

    My next advice is going to be hard to follow, but it will be extremely helpful. Get over it, do not let this keep you up at night do not let it make you have a sting of gloomy days, do not get hotheaded about this. Talk about it with your people as much as is helpful, but do not talk it to death, or until it gives you ulcers.

    Follow up with the customer in about three days. Tell them that you want to meet to discuss the matter. When you meet them, be calm and have all the information that I mentioned. When you discuss the matter, spell it out for them. Tell them what happened and how. Tell them that it was not your fault, the wall was just not stable enough to stand during the repair. Tell them you did everything you could to prevent it (I sure hope you did, and if not, you will next time). Mention that you did advise them of this possibility and say exactly what you said before, and include the day and time you said it.

    If it seems appropriate, talk about the other guys that were involved in what turned out to be an extensive repair, and say it would not be fair if they do not get paid for their work.

    If they do not seem willing to pay for the work that was necessary on their property, then tell them that you did not feel that it was right for you not to do the work, even though it was more than they had agreed to pay. Then write down on your clip board the exact words they use when they tell you that they are not going to pay. Ask them to repeat it and make sure they see that you are writing it down. If they say they cannot pay, ask them if they can pay in installments. Write it all down.

    Keep us posted cause many of us have been through this before, and I assure you that there are right ways to handle this and wrong ways to handle this.

    I assume that you do not have a lawyer who would help you out with this. Well maybe you will before it is over.

    Keep in mind that it is not as simple as "they have to pay" and do not just say "you have to pay", and whatever you do, do not threaten legal action, when it gets to that point, you either take them to court or not, a threat will make things worse.

    This situation is no fun for anyone, but lets get real, their property has been improved, and I hope you did a great job (cause, that is something you should say if you can). They have benefited and they entered this deal for that benefit. Will it cost a lot more than was expected, Yes, but that happens all the time, and you provided what was needed for them.
  8. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,133

    In these situations there is a big difference between cannot pay and will not pay.
    If they say they will not pay, ask why will you not pay. Write it all down.
    If they say that they cannot pay, say I understand, I cannot pay for this either, then suggest the payments by installment.

    When you are collecting info, you will probably miss some details so be sure you have all this; How old was the original wall. Size type of materials, names of all parties involved. All preperation and follow up. All paperwork, reciepts, drawings, measurements.

    The truth is in the details, and the truth is not that hard to discern when the details are presented. Whether you end up settling this with them, using collections, or bring in an attorney, the details and the methods will produce the outcome.
  9. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,133

    That is good that they said that cause it suggests that they are liable, and not having the $ is not a valid excuse.
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I really don't like it that you had to throw in the fact that the tractor cost $20,000, I'm not arguing that you
    almost lost it but throwing that big money factor into the explanation isn't helping your cause because it makes
    it look to me like you're trying to gain extra (and perhaps unfair) leverage.

    Just something to remember for the future.


    That sounds to me like you offered to fix it at no extra cost to them, they may have thought
    you meant free but did they agree for you to continue and fix it?
    If they did then once it is fixed, they are liable for the original estimate that was agreed upon.
    That I think would be fair, you may wish to discuss this with them before proceeding further.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011

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