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principles - is withholding part of payment legal?

(4 Posts)
tsunami Sat 10-Nov-12 10:34:40

OK - This is boring: sorry, but probably quick. It's just about consumer rights re not paying a bill in full:

I paid the deposit on the grounds it was a 2-day job and would be completed a) before the plasterer came in and b) before the holiday season started (I run a small holiday business & the place has to be welcoming & not full of builders).

The job was put off for several weeks, when the plasterer had left, was plastered by the contractor incompetently (had to be redone by my own guy), they left rubbish on site, didn't turn up repeatedly etc etc etc old story. They invoiced before the job was finished. In the end, the job took 6 months to finish completely; then they sent a brusque 'reminder' that my payment was overdue. I objected that I hadn't got the service they'd promised - the whole job's been a stressful nightmare - they argued with my builder, phoned me on holiday, phoned me at 6:45 am, sent lots of long bullying emails justifiying why they were right and i was wrong etc. They said 'time was not of the essence' (rubbish) and then refused to provide a detailed breakdown when I asked for one (I think I should be entitled to one, even after the event?) or any compensation. Right now I've paid them 80% of their bill but am holding back final part of payment - which at the moment is about £1k - because I feel while the stove now works fine - and GOD I want to move on from this annoying incident - I don't feel I should have to pay the full amount.

I don't believe in not paying what I rightfully owe, and paying properly for a job well done, but I really object to being treated any old way by builders then expected to stump up the full cost at the end of it all, on time. Do we have a legal leg to stand on in these situations? Does anyone know?

mycatlikestwiglets Mon 12-Nov-12 09:47:11

Were your conditions for paying the deposit written into the contract? (i.e. work to take two days, to be done before plasterers and on x date)? If not, you probably can't legitimately withhold on that basis as if timing was so important to you it should have been expressly covered.

If the work isn't up to standard OR the contractor has caused you some loss (e.g. needing to get the plastering re-done at your cost), you might be entitled to retain a sum equivalent to the cost of putting things right. However, if they have completed the job to the required specification you can't just withhold money because they annoyed you - you need to be able to show they've caused you some loss by their actions. What sort of detailed breakdown are you looking for? Surely you either have a contract listing the work they were to perform or had agreed a price for certain work up front?

Ultimately, it's down to the contractor how things move forward - either they will take you to the small claims court, in which case you'll have to counterclaim for the sum you say you're entitled to withhold, or between you perhaps you can come to a compromise.

tsunami Tue 13-Nov-12 18:53:49

No, not in writing. It was clear from conversations and common sense that it had to be done before the plasterer came and specific that it had to be done before holiday season. But nowhere written down. I had to pay my guys extra to cover putting the mess right.

Maybe best way forward is just to pay everything except that amount and let them chase me.

thanks, twiglets. Not the most exciting of posts - I appreciate your input.

whizmum Tue 13-Nov-12 20:46:56

When we had substantial building work done we paid in installments. We kept back 10% at each stage, to be paid when the whole work was satifactorily completed, ie snagging list completed.

We were told to do this by the architect and that it was standard. It was in the contract.

We paid the full sum when they had finished the snagging list to what we considered was the best they could do - it was not a good job by any means. I think we settled up about 6 months after initial completion, when they had done all they could but we are not totally happy with the finished job

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