If I hired someone to put up a fence and didnt sign a contract, do i have to finish payment if I am not happy with the work? Also if the fence builder were to damage the fence after not getting full payment can I take legal action for damages?

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If I hired someone to put up a fence and didnt sign a contract, do i have to finish payment if I am not happy with the work? Also if the fence builder were to damage the fence after not getting full payment can I take legal action for damages?

I hired someone to put up a privacy fence for $1350. Paid him $500 deposit. As he started working, I gave him $600 before it was finished. Now that it is completed, I am not satisfied with the work as he has had fix some issues by not doing things correctly the first time. Now I have part of the fence broken and he has told me that he will not fix it without charging me after he had said to me and my wife present that he will stand by his work for 2 years. With this statement I will not finish paying the $250 I owe him. I am worried now that he would damage the fence while I am not home. All this has happened without me signing any contract for his services.

Asked on May 9, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) If the work is not of a commercially acceptable level or quality, and/or if the contractor failed to honor the terms of the agreement or contract, you should be justified in not paying the remaining balance. Of course, your opinion is not legally binding or dispositive: if he disagrees and feels you should pay the entire amount, he could sue you (e.g. in small claims court) for the money, in which case a judge will end up deciding if you were justified in withholding the money. If you think he may sue and if you don't feel it's worth it to go to court over $250, you may wish to pay.
2) If he damages the fence, you could a) press charges for vandalism or destruction of property; and/or b) sue him for the repair cost--he has no right to damage it if you don't pay, but rather should sue you if he feels you owe him money. Note however that the law will NOT presume that any damage was done by him in retaliation for nonpayment; you'd have to be able to prove he did the damage (either with witness testimony from someone who saw it, footage from a security camera, or some admission by him as to what he did or a threat as to what he would do) to take legal action.
 


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