I thought it was all over. I thought the contractor had moved on and was going to do what he was supposed to do to finish the project and we could all move on with our lives. But damned if that guy isn't STILL after me for an additional $2200 above the contracted amount we agreed to!
A little background: My contractor sent me a contract and initial budget back in April which had a total amount for the project noted, and agreed to by both of us signing the contract.
Fast forward to May, when he sends me something he calls a "draw sheet" which has a totally different bottom line number on it. To the tune of an additional $2,242. So I bring that to his attention asking about what the discrepancy is, and his reply to me was as follows: "wow. i can;t believe what i've just found out. we have a rather sophisticated software program that keeps track of all the building stuff. when we do budgets, it allows us to convert their software in to either excell or microsoft word. i use word because everybody has that on their computer. after reading this email i did a "what the heck?" and looked back through my building software. for some reason, in the conversion from our program to word, one entire column got dropped. (it's column 8). i have never seen that happen before, and the only thing i can guess is that we have some type of programming bug in our software that needs to get fixed. i simply dont' get how that could have happened. in my opinion, you have a definate contension, so we need to work that out. i simply don't understand how it could have happened in the first place. i'll show you this later!"
I didn't reply to that in email form. He sent an updated budget that showed the new amount at the bottom, but I just ignored that, because, um...we signed a contract. And the fact that his software fucked shit up? How is that my fault again? Yeah...that's what I thought.
So the rest of the time, there were a couple of phone conversations about the numbers being different still, and he kept trying to explain it, and I kept saying, "Yeah, yeah...whatever. Contract!" And then we'd move on.
So come to the end of this ordeal...about three weeks ago...emails are flying...I'm trying to clarify what his final draw sheets are saying, dollar-wise, and I say this to him: "Can you help clarify what the draw sheets are stating? I’m not clear on whether there’s an additional amount owed, or if I’ve paid everything that I owe to you already. On one of them, it looks like I have a remaining amount of $3,046.70, but on another, it looks like $0. I’m not sure what the $3,046.70 is from, either…that sheet makes no sense to me!"
He replies, "draw sheet #3 is the final billing. $3046.70 is correct. The project has run almost $10,000 dolllars over our estimated budget. i'm not going to make that your problem, but i would heavily appreciate the following paid to help pay the subs on the final bills."
I reply, "I just hate that this is being brought up again, but I’ve already paid you [$ amount]. The original contract that I signed was for [contracted $ amount]. As I told you a few weeks ago via email, as well as at the beginning of the project before we even started any construction (see attached email files), I had [previously discussed $ amount] to spend in total on this project. We have, to date, spent [$ amount above and beyond previously discussed $ amount]. I’m tapped.
And I’m not sure what you mean when you mention the project running almost $10,000 over budget, seeing as I’ve paid for all the additional projects that came up. Yes, we went $15,468 over budget, but those were overages that were discussed, agreed upon, and invoiced separately, weren’t they? So I don’t see how that’s an issue at all. (Except for me, maybe, seeing as I was really counting on having a good $10,000 of that for refinishing my even-more-damaged-than-they-were-before floors, finishing the garage, and buying new appliances that I can no longer afford because I had no idea that the roof would be an issue, or that the siding would be as big of a problem as it wound up being…)
I can pay you what I owe you on the contract, but I most certainly do not have another $3,000 to give you. I’m sorry. (I wish I was kidding…I’m down to $2,000 in savings right now.) Especially after the crediting of the tub, and everything, I don’t understand how that amount is even possible. I know there was a software glitch on your end somehow, but again, I agreed to move forward with that contracted total in mind. I am not at fault for the software issue on your end, and I can’t be held accountable for it. As far as I see, I owe $904.71. And that’s at completion, which is when the carpet is installed in our closet, correct?"
He replied, "we are well over the budget in terms of bills vs your draws. I explained the issue clearly after i discovered our software program left out your the line entry on all of the doors and windows. It is not ethically fair to tell me to "eat it" because of this issue. I'm also sorry that this happened, but we will not come close to breaking even on this project. i simply want to be paid what was in the the corrected draw sheets. Because there was an ammount left off of the draw sheets is not a reason not to pay for the work and sweat that went in to this house."
Ok, this response REALLY got me fired up. I was PISSED, to say the least. Call me unethical? And then talk to me about the "work and sweat" that went into the house as though that isn't your fucking JOB in the first place? Really???
So here's how I responded: "[Contractor], I signed a contract for a set amount. I was up front and honest about what money I had on hand to pay for the projects we wanted to complete, which I told you both when we initially met, as well as on several occasions afterward in writing. As far as calling my ethics into question on this issue, I think that’s a little out of line. Do you not consider a contract to be a binding document at all? Because in my life, I certainly do!
Setting the question of ethics aside, I’ve attached the initial [budget file] you sent me in April as well, which has the line in it for the doors and windows (which is only $1200, btw) and which totals the same amount noted on the contract. I honestly do not see a discrepancy from the [budget] document against all draw documents sent to me throughout the past several months, so I’m not sure why you keep mentioning that as being an issue."
Then I went ahead and outlined the discrepancies I DID find, which were on a total of 6 different line items consisting of things like gravel and stone (went from a cost of $2124 on the first budget to a cost of $3422 on the 2nd budget), asphault shingles (went from a cost of $3776 to a cost of $4248), painting (went from cost of $1770 to $2124), as well as a couple of other items. I put it into a clear cut table within the email, even showing one item that went DOWN in cost from one budget to the next, hoping to prove how truly "unethical" I am deep down inside.
He replied in a much more civilized tone, which I appreciated, saying, "i appreciate your comments. You are listing the exact problem that i have had with our software. To back up a step, the pricing in my computer was correct when i originally put together your budget. For some reason, it did not convert correctly. The "windows and doors" were completely left off the
conversion, and i had numerous other oddball ammounts that also did not convert correctly. (as you listed below). I don't know why. since then, i've done two more of these, no problem.
Unfortunately, i did not look at the breakdown again after it was converted and sent to you. Obviously, i noticed it later. I still don't have an explanation. I totally understand your position, but it leaves me with a mess. at this point, i would be simply be happy to settle with the doors and winwows being covered. Even at supposed correct budget, we won't make money on this project. that is not your issue, but it is a rub to see something like this happen.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would simply hold $350 (that's the carpet ammt plus install) our of my final payment. I have a slew of bills that are coming due, and the revenue to pay them will help."
I replied by simply saying, "The windows and doors are on the original budget received. Again, I’ve attached it for your convenience. (You sent it to me via email the first time on 4/18/08.) Line 8, Item # 860010, for $1200, is not missing. That was part of the contracted amount."
This all happened at the end of September. Last week was when our carpet for the closet was due to come in, so I sent him an email asking about the plans to install it, and also, where is our housekey he had that was in the lock box that had been on the house throughout the project?
So I resent it on Friday.
He finally replied today. And I couldn't believe what I was reading. Fucking retardedly unbelieveable...
"Your carpet got in on friday. Our carpet guy will fit in your closet this week.
On another note, i'm very happy with the way the project turned out, but i'll be very candid, i'm greatly dissapointed at the way the final billing has ended up. I do understand that there are many points here, and technically we had an agreed on ammount. However, we notified you last may that the software we used generated a serious of errors in the pricing file. I still do not know why. If there was no intent to pay the approx. 3,000 differnece, we should have been notified then. I know you said your budget was 60,000, but candidly we were not involved in the money spent over our addition. (roofing , siding, etc, was extra ). We also did not make any money from all that, because we simply passed on our costs to you. Additionally, we did not turn a profit off of this, which is due primarialy due to the pricing file errors. This all leaves me in a very frustrated
place. I can assure you that i understand your position, but i would like to have some type of fair resolution. I would agree to consider a partial payment on the total price file. would you agree to that?"
My response is as follows: "[Contractor], I don’t want to have this discussion again. I signed a contract that you had also signed for the amount we were going to pay, and I’ve repeated multiple times that the contract price (and the subsequent budget sheet sent to me) was the amount I agreed to pay, regardless of what the issues with your software were that caused the problems on your end. As far as me not informing you of my plans not to pay you on the additional $3,000 you feel should be paid, I’ll just remind you that I was the one that pointed out the issue with the discrepancy in the first place." I then copied and pasted his initial reply to me pointing out the discrepancy, which is already noted above.
I went on to say, "Your explanation of what occurred to cause the discrepancy never made any sense (the column 8 being dropped during the conversion process, which you later changed to saying that the “windows and doors” section of the budget was completely left off of the original budget you sent me, which wasn’t the case – I’ve sent you that budget many times and that line is included – and then you’ve also basically said that you just “don’t know why” things converted incorrectly from one sheet to another, going so far as to say that you’ve done two of these since then without issue, so you aren’t sure what happened with mine), and you admitted to me having a “definite contention” with the change in pricing. As far as what you meant when you said, “…we need to work that out…” I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it, since I’d signed a contract, which you had also signed. That, to me, meant that I was paying for the agreed upon number. That’s what it would mean to most people, in fact. My father has been in the general contracting business for over 35 years in California. Please feel free to call him to discuss this matter in more depth, should you want to know why I’m standing so firm on the fact of that signed contract. His number is [dad's phone number], and his name is [dad]. You can view his current projects online via the following link: [redacted]. I’ve discussed this issue with him a couple of times now, in depth, trying to figure out if I’m somehow a bad person for standing by that contracted amount agreed to…trying to get the perspective of a contractor who has been doing this kind of work for many, many years, so I can understand better why it is that you continue to come to me with this issue as though I have done something wrong, or that I’m doing something I should be apologetic for. But he’s assured me that the contract is the binding agreement. And he doesn’t understand how those 6 line items could have changed from one budget outline to another, either, unless pricing changed during the month between them, or what have you. As far as he’s concerned, he agrees with me on the software issue not being something that I should be held accountable or responsible for.
I will pay for the carpet and its installation. We also are still waiting on the window in the closet to be repaired, so I’m hoping that will happen this week as well.
We, too, are very happy with the outcome on the project, and again, I can’t tell you enough how much we appreciate the finished product. It’s beautiful. But as far as paying something in addition to what was on the contract and original budget sheet, I just am not willing to do that. Again, feel free to contact my father if you’d like to discuss this matter further. He’s an expert in your field, he’s someone I trust with the opinions and information he’s given to me, and he’s willing to discuss the matter if you should be so inclined. I will not respond to any other requests for additional money, aside from what is owed on the carpet install."
And now I'm going to get some lunch. (I still haven't sent him that email. I want to talk to my dad first, and then I'll send it later. I don't think he'll call him, but just in case, I want to make sure he's really ok with that being a possibility. Which I'm sure he will be, but common courtesy, you know? It's important to me...sometimes.)
UPDATE: I called my dad while I was heating up my soup for lunch, and after discussing this with him a bit more, I changed my reply to simply say, "At this point in time, I feel very uncomfortable discussing anything related to the payment on the project since it remains incomplete. Once the carpet is installed, our window is repaired, and the key to our home has been returned, I will respond accordingly.
I really, really want my carpet installed in my closet. Like, super-badly. So I'm going to hold out on responding to him about the plan to stand by the contracted price until after that's done. We'll see how that goes!