What is out recourse if we paid in full for website development but the web developer will not release our site to web host?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What is out recourse if we paid in full for website development but the web developer will not release our site to web host?

We are a very small non-profit medical organization which started working with a web developer 5 months ago. Our website was supposed to take 6-8 weeks to be completed. We paid 1/2 of the total cost of the site for a deposit to cover the design phase. Then, about month later, he stated in an email that he was working on the design and needed us to finalize our new logo in order to complete the design process. About 2 months, we chose our logo and waited to hear back from him. However, by last month, we still had not heard back. After reaching out to him, he sent us a screen shot of a site he had created for us. After 4 days of working with him to create the site we wanted, we finalized the design and gave the okay to continue with programming. We sent an additional payment for the programming phase that was supposed to take only 3 days per a phone conversation with him. Over 2 weeks later, we

still had not had a completed website. We sent him multiple emails, texts and phone calls but did not hear from him for days until he called back to say he had been out of town yet had been responding to us. Throughout the remainder of last month he and one other person he hired completed the website. Then, last week, our site was completed and we approved of the site. We requested an invoice to pay for the remainder of the site development in order to have it sent to the web hosting server we purchased. By the next day, we had not received the invoice so requested it again. Several hours later, it was sent to us and we immediately paid it. We emailed him the receipt so he would release the website to our servers, which he has yet to do. With the lack of communication and poor business practices, we are concerned that he is purposely holding our website from us because he knows we need it for our organization. We have a time-sensitive registration process needing to be completed by our members for a medical conference we are holding in about 5 months. What is our legal recourse, being a non-profit organization with very limited funds? We are solely funded by our member dues.

Asked on May 9, 2016 under Business Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, forget about the fact that you are "a non-proift organization with very limited funds": that does not change or improve your legal rights or options at all. You have the same rights as a large for-profit corporation or rich individual would have.
That said, you do have rights: you could sue the developer for breach of contract (for not doing what he agreed to--e.g. provide you [release to your servers] a website); for unjust enrichment (in many situations, the law does not let someone be "unjustly" enriched by taking your money without providing something of value in return); and possibly even for "tortioius interference with economic advantage"--for wrongfully interfering with your operations. You could sue for an order requiring him to release the site and/or for compensation for any losses the delay(s) cost(s) you.
You should bring a legal action for "specific performance"--that he do what he is supposed to--on an "emergent" (or urgent/emergency) basis, to get into court faster. If you are any sort of an LLC or corporation (even a not-for-profit) you will need an attorney to represent you and file the matter; also, filing for specific performance and on an emerget basis is more complicated than most non-lawyers are comfortable doing. You should therefore speak with an attorney right away about instituting a case.

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