What to do if I hired someone to install defrost system on our roof but there work was below standard?

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What to do if I hired someone to install defrost system on our roof but there work was below standard?

No contract was signed and the worker never got a permit. The job he performed was below the standard which was discussed verbally. The worker is now asking a large sum of money for his duty. I have refused to talk payment until the worker at least goes and gets a permit. He is now claiming he will take me to small claims court. Will I be forced to pay the amount he is asking for?

Asked on August 8, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The fact that no contract was signed is not relevant, since an oral (also called verbal) contract or agreement is enforceable, and also, the courts would not let you keep or have the benefit of another's work without paying him (receiving a benefit without paying is called "unjust enrichment").

So, in theory, he could sue you and receive compensation. The actual situation is more complicated:

1) It is likely that a court would require him to get the permit (including paying whatever is necessary, and/or redoing work if necessary) before he could be paid, since that would be held to be a material, or important, part of the work and of any agreement for him to do the work. (Even if a permit was not specifically part of your discussions, if a permit is needed in your location for the work to be legal, a court would likely add or "imply" the requirement to get a permit to the agreement.)

2) If the work is below commonly or generally accepted commercial standards, the amount he could collect would likely be reduced, in any lawsuit, by amounts which you have paid or can prove you would have to pay to correct the work or have to brought to acceptable standards.

3) If the work meets general commercial standards, but doesn't meet the standards you and he "verbally" (the better term is "orally") discussed, then IF you can prove those standards and his agreement to them--always difficult to do without a written contract (and that's the chief benefit of a written contract--making sure that you can prove what the agreement was)--then again, what he could collect would likely be reduced by the cost to correct or improve the work so it meets the agreed-upon standards.

So, in short: he likely can sue to recover something from you, but based on what you write, you would have offsets that would likely reduce what he'd get. This means that you may wish to consider trying to work out some voluntary settlement or compromise with him (if you do, get it in writing, signed by both of you, before you turn over money) to avoid the time, cost, and uncertainty (you can never be sure in advance of how a lawsuit will turn out) of litigation.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The fact that no contract was signed is not relevant, since an oral (also called verbal) contract or agreement is enforceable, and also, the courts would not let you keep or have the benefit of another's work without paying him (receiving a benefit without paying is called "unjust enrichment").

So, in theory, he could sue you and receive compensation. The actual situation is more complicated:

1) It is likely that a court would require him to get the permit (including paying whatever is necessary, and/or redoing work if necessary) before he could be paid, since that would be held to be a material, or important, part of the work and of any agreement for him to do the work. (Even if a permit was not specifically part of your discussions, if a permit is needed in your location for the work to be legal, a court would likely add or "imply" the requirement to get a permit to the agreement.)

2) If the work is below commonly or generally accepted commercial standards, the amount he could collect would likely be reduced, in any lawsuit, by amounts which you have paid or can prove you would have to pay to correct the work or have to brought to acceptable standards.

3) If the work meets general commercial standards, but doesn't meet the standards you and he "verbally" (the better term is "orally") discussed, then IF you can prove those standards and his agreement to them--always difficult to do without a written contract (and that's the chief benefit of a written contract--making sure that you can prove what the agreement was)--then again, what he could collect would likely be reduced by the cost to correct or improve the work so it meets the agreed-upon standards.

So, in short: he likely can sue to recover something from you, but based on what you write, you would have offsets that would likely reduce what he'd get. This means that you may wish to consider trying to work out some voluntary settlement or compromise with him (if you do, get it in writing, signed by both of you, before you turn over money) to avoid the time, cost, and uncertainty (you can never be sure in advance of how a lawsuit will turn out) of litigation.


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