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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    2

    Default What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    We hired a landscape person to do the front/backyard of our new house. He has no landscaping license. The contract (with signatures) clearly indicates the expected completion date (3/7/2006) and the total cost ($33000) of the project. However, until today (4/17/2006), I would say only 50% of the job is done, but we have already paid him the full amount ($33000). In addition, the landscape person even asked for more money ($3000) when we made the last payment eventhough we stated on the contract that "no extra cost can be added during the project". We paid the extra anyway since we didn't want the project to be delayed. So we have already paid him $36000.


    Now, the landscape person hasn't showed up for a week already. My wife and I are thinking of bringing this case to the court. With the written contract and the physical unfinished job, do you think this is a correct approach? Please advise.

    We are living in Southern California. If we bring it to the court, how much do you think we can fight back? How much would the attorny fee be approximately?

    Thanks in advance!

    ops:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,906

    Default

    Get at least one estimate from another landscaper for how much it would cost to complete the job as specified. That will be an approximate measure of damages. From that, you can decide if it is worth hiring a lawyer or if you wish to pursue the matter in small claims court. If you wish to hire a lawyer, to find out what it would cost call around and ask what law firms in your area would charge to represent you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    We had a similar issue. I am wondering how things have gone so far in recovering your money?

    Our loss is 1/10th of yours. We hired a landscaper to do a small job (mostly planting, a shed pad, and some Allan Block work). This was a 2-3 person 4-5 day job. We gave a $3500 deposit with the rest coming upon completion. The job started out great, but then stalled. After 2 1/2 weeks we received an interim bill and a request for another $5000. I refused and gave the landscaper another 5 days to finish the job or I would get someone else. The landscaper promised to finish the job. Two days later, I returned home from work expecting to see 90% of the job completed but found just the opposite. Every tree, shrub, flower planted were removed. We were left with nothing.

    Currently, the complaint is with the BBB and possibly heading towards arbitration. The landscaper has submitted a bill for about $10,000 stating that we refused to pay. We have asked for our deposit back and $3000 in additional landscaping costs.

    Anyone care of offer an opinion as to where we stand legally?

  4. #4

    Default Re: What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    Since you're headed for arbitration, it sounds like there's some sort of written contract. That document is probably going to be the key (if it exists). Many times, these small jobs are spec'd out with "non-binding" estimates that say that the contractor will get time and materials at whatever rate that may exceed the estimate. Other contractors will give firm-price ("not to exceed") bids.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    Quote Quoting QuantumMeruit
    View Post
    Since you're headed for arbitration, it sounds like there's some sort of written contract. That document is probably going to be the key (if it exists). Many times, these small jobs are spec'd out with "non-binding" estimates that say that the contractor will get time and materials at whatever rate that may exceed the estimate. Other contractors will give firm-price ("not to exceed") bids.
    Yes, this was a time and materials type job. The problem is the interim bill showed overcharges for both time and materials. Things we discussed as costing $180 were being billed at $375. The time logged was less than 118 hours, but was being billed at 144 hours. In fact, during the BBB process I have seen the time log the landscaper used. There are a whole lot of out of sequence entries at the bottom to make up the extra hours. The part most concerning is that the entries supporting the 118 hours are also wrong. There were wrong dates and inflated hours. We were billed 22.75 hours on a day we got about 6.5 hours worth of work.

  6. #6

    Default Re: What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    This sounds ugly. In flat-fee situation, where the job is bid out at $X, if the contractor walks off the job and you cover (ie, hire a replacement) at $Y, your damages are Y - X. On a T&M job, figuring out what X is can be a lot tougher.

    Proving in court (or at an arbitration hearing) whether work was actually done can be complicated and costly. Sounds like the key is proving what was actually done, and whether that work was at the negotiated rate.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    The arbitration cost is $150 for each party and is supposed to be legally binding. We have some before and after pictures. Other than a few areas there is not much difference than before. The key is whether or not the landscaper took pictures showing all the work that was destroyed.

    I am currently seeking legal advice before going into any arbitration. I feel that because I gave a deposit equalling the value of the materials removed from my property that I am the rightful owner and they, in fact, stole for me.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: What do do when a landscaper doesn't finish the job

    Further update:

    The complaint is still with the local BBB. The landscaper failed to make her final reponse on time. Not sure what that means, exactly. I am hoping that is does mean the details of the complaint will be made public for all to see.

    Once done with the BBB process I am free to step up the pressure in order to get our money back.

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