We hired a piano teacher to come to our home and give our children piano lessons in our home.
We live in New York City and would like advice from a lawyer with experience in New York, preferable New York City.
She came to give a a trial lesson. At this time her fee was $90/hour
We liked her and asked for a fee reduction.
She offered a fee reduction to $80/hour.
We agreed to weekly lessons at $80/hour.
She came two more times at this rate.
At that she asked for a prepayment of the next month (October), and we complied.
Several days later, she raised her fee back to $90/hour.
We told her that we could not afford that, and we hired an equally competent piano teacher for less money, and asked her for a refund of the remaining October lessons, a total of $240.
She is refusing to give us this refund. She states that the prepaid amount is not refundable, and that our only option is to use the remaining two lessons or forfeit the money.
This is all done through email transaction so it is all documented.
We have no use for two additional lessons with her. Music lessons, especially for children, require an ongoing relationship and history between the teacher and the child, so a lame-duck music teacher is really not able to teach effectively.
We believe that we should be refunded for two reasons.
1. We were not told, when we paid for October, that there was a no-refund policy. This is not documented in her website, or verbally, or through email.
2. We prepaid, based on the relationship that she had presented at the time of prepayment. She changed it, after we paid, in a way that made the long-term relationship unaffordable for us, and so the short-term lessons were not valuable for us.
We would like to take this to small claims court, and request a refund of $240.
What is the law in this situation?
How is a small claims court judge likely to rule, in this case?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Based on your facts, you should be entitled to the refund. The court will not let someone be unjustly enriched. That is, she would need a very compelling reason to keep money she did not earn and especially absent a written no refund policy. I further agree that the small claims option is your best one. Be sure to include all out of pocket expenses like court costs, travel, etc. You may not get everything of course. Also, don't annoy the court with some nonsense claim like this amounts to emotional distress, etc.
Is it really worth your while to sit in court for six hours at a time for the money? And what will you do if you get a judgment. Chalk this one to experience; have the teacher come for two sessions and call it a day.
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