misinterpretation of contract
I just started a window cleaning business. I was introduced to a developer on a newly built condo construction project and we discussed a proposal for window cleaning. I drafted an estimate and presented it to the developer for approval.
On presenting the draft, I pointed out exactly what was to be done: provide free service for screen cleaning, paint/debris removal and clean the windows for ''X'' amount. He agreed to the estimate and gave the go ahead to do the work.
After completing half the work, the developer claimed that I was not doing all the work that he expected: ''...clean all around the windows and clean out the tracks for the sliding glass doors.'' (A task which required the use of a vacuum cleaner)
Despite giving details of what exactly I proposed to do the developer seemed to interpret ''window cleaning'' as cleaining everything around the window frame. Perhaps my mistake was not putting in writing all that I proposed to do.
As a result of this mistake on my part, the developer chose not to pay me for half the work that was completed.
''Window cleaning'' is not an ambiguous statement. Besides, I thought I was perfectly clear on my intent.
What, if anything, are my options at this point?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Re: misinterpretation of contract
Your options are 1)To sit down with the contractor and reevaluate the contract and add
an addendum to the contract-stating exactly what
you will do and what the contractor would like to
be done. 2)Tell the contractor that there is an impasse and you would like to resolve this before
it reaches a stage that would not be beneficial
to either parties. If neither options work then
I would suggest that you consult with an attorney
as to small claims court if the dollar figure warrants it. Please be aware that the answer to
your question, is hypothetical and other resoultions could possibly be more in order.
Please remember that there is a statute of
filing limitations and other remedies may be
best for your situation.
Wilburn J. Bingaman
Re: misinterpretation of contract
In my experience, some unscrupulous developers try to keep their costs down at their supplier's expense. I understand the common meaning of window cleaning is to clean the glass. The contractor is asking you now to also clean the casements and window sills.
If there continues to be a disagreement about your price for performance, I recommend that you either change your price for work going forward, or stop work, and advise the contractor that you are not going to work at half price.
Your options are to sue him, preferrably in small claims court, for the difference between what you were paid and what you believe your contract price to be. YOu may also record your mechanic's lien against the property, but that has to be done within 4 months of your last day of work on site, and you then have to bring suit to enforce the lien within 2 years. YOu should consult an attorney about the form of contract you are using, and your rights in these circumstances to a mechanic's lien, and how to enforce it.
Our comments are based on treating your question as a hypothetical. Accordingly, our comments could be substantially and materially different were we advised of all of the relevant facts and circumstances. Our comments are by necessity general in nature, and should not be relied upon in taking or forgoing action in your circumstances without retaining an attorney. In order to fully explore your legal matter, you should meet with us or another attorney and bring to any such meeting all relevant documents and correspondence, and any other relevant facts.
We are not hired to be your attorney, and no attorney-client relationship exists between us, unless and until you enter into a written retainer agreement with us, tender the agreed amount for a retainer and it is accepted by us. We reserve the right to decline representation should circumstances change.
As you are aware, in Illinois there are various deadlines for filing a complaint, filing an answer to a complaint, or taking other action in order to preserve your legal rights, and avoid a complete loss of those rights. You should retain counsel immediately in order to be fully advised of your rights, and to be fully informed of the applicable time period within which those rights must be asserted. If you were to delay in doing so, it might result in your potential cause of action being forever barred.