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Help! Builder threatening small claims court over additional invoice

(349 Posts)
FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Fri 17-Jun-16 23:38:41

I've posted about this before, but long story short is that we had major building work done. It massively overran (3 months became 8). We paid all invoices straight away. We agreed some extras and paid separate invoices for these as soon as they were issued. Paid the final invoice the day that we got the completion certificate from Building Control.

Several weeks after completion the builder sent a new invoice for £1600. It was for various extras. None of them had been discussed or quoted for. We weren't happy but offered around £400. We thought this was fair and it covered items which although not agreed, had been done and weren't in the original spec.

The rest of the things he was invoicing for were either stand alone items already specified in previous invoices and paid for, or things which were included in larger aspects of the work.

For example, he wanted over £500 extra for moving drainage in the kitchen. He'd got drawings of the new kitchen, saw the old one (so knew that the sink etc had moved) and the new kitchen was waiting on site before he quoted.

Anyway, we offered him a full and final settlement of just over £600. He rejected it, we offered it again.

He's just emailed. He's rejecting our offer and says if we don't pay the full amount within 21 days he'll take us to small claims.

What now? How likely is this to get to court? Home insurance legal cover people won't advise us until we receive the court paperwork.

Every time we've responded it's then taken him at least 4 weeks to get back to us. This is so stressful and horrible. Any advice would be welcome.

If we do end up in small claims, what's it actually like?

Should we retract our offer now and tell him we'll await instruction, or leave it on the table, or pay him what we think is fair?


FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Fri 17-Jun-16 23:39:06

Here is a link to my previous thread...

OliviaBenson Fri 17-Jun-16 23:48:11

You have been more than fair. Let him take you to court. I think they'll see through it. I take it you had a contract with them?

FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Fri 17-Jun-16 23:56:32

Thanks. Not as formal a contract as we should have we've realised sad We put together a very detailed complete spec on a spreadsheet (DH is an engineer and didn't miss anything) and the builder put it on to his headed paper and quoted item by item.

We then emailed back to say we accepted the quote and wanted to go ahead.

He added a footer with his bank details and a line about paying invoices within x days, and we adhered to that obviously.

No more detail than that I'm afraid. Oh bloody hell.

SovietKitsch Fri 17-Jun-16 23:58:50

First thing is, if this matter gets to court, it will be based on what he can actually prove, so any paperwork you have from all the building work, make sure you keep it all in a safe place - only send copies when required, not the originals. In the same regard, any correspondence which you have with him, keep copies and proof of posting.

Second, is any of the invoice fair? If so, pay that portion with accepting of it in writing.

Is there any portion of the invoice you would struggle to prove was wrong? e.g. You have no documents to prove paid elsewhere - then consider making an offer for that - again clearly in writing.

If he does bring a small claim, you will receive the documents by court from the post. You would then have 14 days to file and acknowledgement of service with the court, which then gives you up to 28 days from receipt of the claim to file a defence. Don't file any evidence with the defence, but set out in clear, simple language the basis of your defence. If there is any part you do admit, or have since paid, then set that out too.

The court will then allocate the claim to the small claims track, and give directions as to how the claim will proceed - you will receive a copy of this by post, and it will set out when to file (with court) and serve (send to claimant) your witness statement and evidence you wish to rely on.

When it comes to drafting a witness statement, you can probably find a template online, but the basic point is that it should clearly set out the facts as you recall them and refer to the documents which you wish to rely on to support your case. It should include a "statement of truth".

Make sure that you keep to the deadlines set out by the court, then turn up on the court date! If you listen to the judge, and try to answer questions helpfully, you will have no trouble. You would get an opportunity to "cross-examine" the builder - basically put your case to him. It would be sensible to plan out in advance the questions you'd want to ask him, based on the contradictions between what he is claiming for, and the evidence you have of what was actually agreed and what you have already paid for.

If you keep things simple, calm and clear, you will be fine! Good luck!

SovietKitsch Sat 18-Jun-16 00:03:11

Sorry, cross-post. Formal contracts are helpful, but all is not lost without - you clearly did have a contract it's just proving it which is more difficult. But frankly, if you have a schedule of works in a spreadsheet, which he has confirmed in his notepaper, with receipts for when it was paid, then that sounds sufficient to me.

SovietKitsch Sat 18-Jun-16 00:04:30

How did you pay? Presumably even without receipts you could point to bank transfers, or cash withdrawals of the relevant amounts at the relevant times?

FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Sat 18-Jun-16 00:11:09

Thank you so much! That's really helpful. I've just woken up DH to read it to him grin

So you think we should pay what we've offered with a letter saying it's full and final settlement? I was half thinking of retracting the offer and saying 'OK, see you in court'.

All correspondence has been by email luckily, so it's really easy to pull it all together in one place and prove what we sent when. We made all payments by bacs too, so again easy to prove.

The things we've offered to pay for are things which we didn't want particularly, but we've offered as a goodwill. Eg the removal of redundant copper pipe from under the eaves at the back of the loft. He never asked and if he had we'd have said to leave it as it wasn't in the way. Presumably he got scrap metal value for it as I never noticed it in the skip! He wants £100 for that.

It's that kind of thing which we've grudgingly offered to pay for.

SovietKitsch Sat 18-Jun-16 00:25:59

If you don't think you owe it - i.e. you didn't agree to it, but he did it anyway, then I wouldn't pay it, actually. If you've got a comprehensive schedule of works, proof all that was paid, and he's claiming for extras with no contemporaneous evidence it was agreed, then he's unlikely to persuade the court you owe it - and it is his job to prove it, so if it comes down to one word against the other with no documentary evidence of the extras, then it's him who faces the harder task of proving it to the court.

So no, I wouldn't pay anything you don't believe you owe, and if everything you've offered was on a goodwill basis, then maybe retract the original offer, offer half of it and say you've got 21 days to accept in full and final, or you'll retract that too!

And the small claims track does not allow the claiming of solicitors costs, so there is very little to lose in fighting it anyway - the worst case scenario is that you have to pay the whole bill and a few hundred pounds extra in court fees (given how much you say the bill is).

Mummyme1987 Sat 18-Jun-16 00:32:17

No way he will get it. Your insurance will send a lawyer. Doubt he will have one as he can't claim for it. He can't prove you asked for stuff so the court won't make you pay. It's in a informal room not a court. It's about paperwork and what he can prove. If he's charged twice it won't go well for him.

Mummyme1987 Sat 18-Jun-16 00:34:28

The court will see it as a pattern of behaviour of dishonesty and it will cast doubt on anything he says. Retract your offer now and tell him to see you in court. Advise him any further contact from him will be reported to police as harassment.

Mummyme1987 Sat 18-Jun-16 00:35:45

i wouldn't pay him another penny.

Egosumquisum Sat 18-Jun-16 08:17:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SlimCheesy2 Sat 18-Jun-16 08:21:08

I would not pay him anything either. We have had phone mediation with a builder who tried double charging us for things in separate quotes that we had already paid for. We wiped the floor with him because we had kept our records in order and could prove it.

Stay calm. Go through the process. It sounds like he is trying it on.

Egosumquisum Sat 18-Jun-16 08:25:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Notonthelawn Sat 18-Jun-16 08:32:23

Dont pay the 600 at all. He has refused it. And you dont owe it anyway.

Let him take it further. You wont be the first, but hopefully you will be the last people he does this to.

ENormaSnob Sat 18-Jun-16 08:32:52

If it is as you said in the op then I would tell him to take me to court.

Think copper gets quite a good weigh in too. If he moved it without your say so then he has stolen it.

RaspberryOverload Sat 18-Jun-16 08:41:41

I'd agree with the poster about the copper. I knew it had a value, but a quick look shows it's currently worth between £2.60 to £3.60 per kilo.

He took it without permission, has obviously got the scrap value for and also now wants paying? That's beyond cheeky, and I'd call it theft.

Let him go to court. Pay what you agree with and let him whistle for the rest.

StiickEmUp Sat 18-Jun-16 08:48:50

Thing about this for me is if you pay this invoice this late in the day, when exactly will they stop sending them?

I have visions of you paying this en another one appears on 3 months.

I would seek legal advice

HoggleHoggle Sat 18-Jun-16 08:53:59

I would absolutely call his bluff at this stage. It's not on.

Apart from anything else, for all you know this is a 'thing' he does. I'm sure a lot of people just pay invoices without checking that it's not charging for things already paid for. Quite easy to lose track of individual costs on a building project.

Goingtobeawesome Sat 18-Jun-16 09:03:10

He's trying to make you pay for things you've already paid for..

FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Sat 18-Jun-16 09:08:03

Thank you everyone. I think we probably will retract the offer on the grounds that we've attempted to negotiate and have increased what we originally offered, and he hasn't engaged or offered a compromise of his own.

We might again list out the items on his invoice and address each one one by one, except this time we won't offer to pay for any.

The more I think about it the more angry I am. The work wasn't even that good in many places but unfortunately we said it was to get rid of him in the end, as he'd overrun by so long and DC2 was due imminently.

Some things we knew about and thought it wasn't worth taking up with him as DH could fix them himself. DH spent several weekends fixing things like incorrectly fitted shower doors, clearing drains they'd blocked with rubble, fixing drainage from the sink etc.

Some things have come to light that we weren't aware of - the builder's plumber somehow blocked off the bath overflow. We discovered this a couple of evenings ago when DH forgot DC's bath was running and flooded the bathroom.

There are loads of things like this. Unfortunately there's nothing that can be done about the bath drainage without major upheaval, as the bath is tiled in. It really grates that he's asking for extra money for plumbing though!

What a mess.

FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Sat 18-Jun-16 09:09:59

Yes - a couple of hundred pounds for installing radiators. They're already included on one of his previous invoices which we paid back in the summer. We've pointed this out but he hasn't responded to that particular point angry

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Sat 18-Jun-16 09:11:20

He wants you to pay him for stealing your copper shock

You sound like you have excellent records of what work was done, and what was agreed. Do not give him a penny, and let him take you to small claims.

FasterThanASnakeAndAMongoose Sat 18-Jun-16 09:13:33

When you put it like that... Yes, he wants us to pay him £100 for nicking our copper pipe! grin

I think we've been too nice for too long.

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