Legal Question in Construction Law in Nebraska

I had a verbal contract with a general contractor, who knew my budget. When the budget was just about gone the contractor stopped working without finishing the job. One of the jobs he did not complete was switching out the hot water heaters, and now the CO from the gas hot water heater is venting into our attic. What recourse do I have?

Asked on 10/13/11, 11:39 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jim Edgar Jim Edgar

I will not go into all of the reasons why you NEVER enter into a verbal contract with a contractor since you have just found out one of the reasons.

If the contractor is not obligated to complete specified work, but is working on a time and materials basis, then he has no obligation to continue working unless he has a reasonable expectation of payment for the work.

If the venting problem you speak of is caused by your old water heater that the contractor merely did not replace, then I doubt he has any obligation to fix the problem.

If, however, he caused the venting problem, for example, by starting to replace the water heater then failing to complete the work, then he probably has a duty to finish. And you probably have an obligation to pay he to do so. He is unlikely to be under any obligation to fix it for free.

But if he was supposed to replace the heater, and you paid him to do so, but he did not, then he is contractually obligated to do the work for which he has been paid.

Similarly, if he did replace the water heater, but did the work poorly so that the heater is not properly vented, he is again contractually obligated to do the work properly and to fix any problems his faulty work has caused.

I do not get a sense from your question that you paid him specifically to replace the water heater. I gather he did work, presented you with a bill for materials and labor, and you paid the bill. When you were no longer able to pay the bill, he stopped working.

At this point you best course of action is probably to contact the Better Business Bureau and ask for mediation. Frankly, however, based on the limited facts you have presented, I do not see that your contractor is required to do future work without reasonable expectation of payment for the work..

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Answered on 10/13/11, 2:13 pm

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