Legal Question in Construction Law in California

We had a new front door installed on our residence and went with a local contractor. He never provided a written estimate nor did we sign a formal contract and when the job was finished we were billed for $1,723.00. The actual door and material costs were $800.00 (which was verified) and were billed 16hrs x $57.50/hr for labor. They used the old hardware from the replaced door and left the old door for us to dispose of. The installation was completed in one day by two of his workers. They sat around for approximately 2 hours waiting for their boss to deliver the door and related materials. We are now disputing the billed but did send a check for $1,000.00 and wrote 'Paid in Full' on the memo line of the check. They have not negotiated the check and are asking for the $1,723.00 to be fully paid. In speaking with the owner/contractor he fills justified in the amount he has billed us for this project but does state he should have provided a written estimate prior to starting the project.

Where are our legal options? We wish to resolve this dispute amicably but feel strongly the $1,000.00 we sent should cover everything.

Brad & Christine

Asked on 6/07/10, 2:58 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Gary Redenbacher Redenbacher & Brown, LLP

It is not unusual for a high quality front door to take 6 to 8 hours to hang depending on several factors, so your payment of $200 to hang it is pretty light. (I'm also a former carpenter and general contractor.) Then again, 16 hours seems like too much time. Since you observed two of the workmen sitting for 2 hours, it seems legitimate to ask the contractor to knock off 4 hours. There is also time for mobilization (picking up the door, getting tools out, cleaning up). From a legal perspective, you can do nothing and wait to see whether he will sue you in small claims court. He should have provided a fixed price contract for you, but a judge will likely say you waived that requirement because you didn't ask for one before he started work. If this goes to court or through the Contractors State License Board arbitration program, he will be entitled to be paid the value of his services. If he can prove that the installation was particularly difficult, you will be responsible for paying the full bill. If you can show that it was a routine installation that should have taken only, say, 6 hours, the bill will be reduced by the arbitrator or judge.

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Answered on 6/07/10, 7:46 pm

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