Can a client withhold over due balances for work performed as a bargining chip?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Can a client withhold over due balances for work performed as a bargining chip?

As a contractor our client owes for overdue balances on work we have already performed. he is refusing to pay and also saying that if we do not finish his project by his timeline date he will charge us. Can he do that?

Asked on October 8, 2019 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, he can't do this if, as we assume from your question, he is late paying as per the agreement or contract. There is an agreement between you and him (presumably written, since contractors should have written contracts or agreements) under which he would pay you certain amounts for the work you did, according to some schedule or benchmarks. If you performed--you did the work you were supposed to--he is contractually obligated by that agreement to perform, too--to pay you the money he is supposed to, when he is supposed to. If he violates the terms of that agreement, you can sue him for "breach of contract" for the money.

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