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SE - Worked for a friend who is refusing to pay me.


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Hello All,

 

I have a little predicament at the moment. I did a house move for a friend a few weeksago with a couple of guys I use on a sub-contract basis. Long and short of it is they are refusing topay me because of the problems they had thereafter. The points are:

 

· My quoted price for the move was £1280 over 3days (Saturday to Monday) with 3 men working (including myself). The old house is a large detached 4 bedroomhouse with a large out building. Bothbuildings are crammed with stuff. She isa chronic hoarder and never throws anything away. There are my friends andtheir 5 children living there. They aremoving to an enormous 8 bedroom house 6.5 miles away.

 

· The new house is down a narrow driveway with lowover hanging trees, therefore a 7.5t lorry was out of the question, so a Lutonvan was used instead, but it was still a tight space.

 

· 2 days before the move, my friend tried tocancel the two guys I use in favour of her teenage nephew (who is mega lazy andonly managed the first day).

 

· I send an email to her stating that 1, I havebooked them in for the move and 2, there is no way I am doing the job withoutthem. I also state T&C’s i.e. boxesto be clearly marked and well packed, pricing breakdown with overtime costs forthe two guys (I said overtime I do over the 8 hours will be free). I back up this email with a phone call.

 

· She agrees to two days for the guys and three ifwe need them.

 

· The old house is being kept by them and beingrented out the following weekend.

 

· We arrive at the house and find that hardly athing has been packed. All the furniturestill has things on or in them. She hasnext to no boxes what-so-ever (50 maybe) and most are no bigger than a shoebox.

 

· We did 18 van loads to the new house. With the exception of two or three loads,each load was half what it could have been because of inadequate packing andboxes and waiting for things to be packed.

 

· At the new house, Nothing is organised andnobody knows where to put anything. So alot of time was wasted waiting for my friend to make up her mind where what wasgoing. And also to unpack some stuff, sowe can take empty boxes back.

 

· After three 12+ hour days there are still 2 or 3van loads to come over, but the van needs to be off hired and a lot stillneeded to be packed into boxes!

 

· At the end of the third day after the last loadwas made (at approx. 10pm), the lady who was packing put a bucket and carrierbags by the van with all the stuff from the fish tank and told us that was allthe fish stuff. We take it to the house,but the fish were not at the new house or in one of the bags we brought over,which we assumed they were. My friendblows her top and shouts and swears at us. As we have finished for the day and for the job, we both leave. I was going to stay and help out, but beingsworn at by someone acting like a spoilt child, I wasn’t interested in helpinganymore. Her husband apologised to mefor her behaviour, but no apology from her. I then get blamed by her for the children not getting to school that dayand also that she wanted to have a meal with her children, but we arrived withanother van load making that impossible (not that she did a thing all weekendbut run around like a headless chicken).

 

· When I get home, I have a shower and in thattime I see that she has called 3 times over 4 minutes leaving messages aboutthe keys for the house. Each messagegetting more and more heated. I get a text from her husband to say he remembersme giving him the keys and thanking me for the help. Therefore, I do not call back as the reasonfor the phone calls was resolved, plus it was close to midnight.

 

· I put an invoice in the post the next day for£1430 including the overtime for the two guys and sticking to my offer of notcharging over the 8 hours for myself.

 

· The following week I get a text from her husbandasking if I can do another van full before the weekend and how much would itcost. I respond saying I can’t fit it inas I am extremely busy. I say I will aska friend if they can do it for them. Ihear nothing back.

 

· I then get a voicemail from them saying that weneed to speak and they have been trying to call for the last week (one missedphone call). They are not happy as theyhad lots left over and that I behaved in an awful way over the move and didn’tact like a friend!

 

· They are refusing to pay me a penny and stillwant me to meet with them so they can shout at me about how I behaved and why Ididn’t help them after the move!

 

· I have paid the two guys and also paid for thevan hire and the fuel, totalling just over £1000. This is all out of my own pocket. As a result, I have been left extremely shortof cash for the rest of this month and have had to borrow money from a friendto help pay my rent.

 

Going through the small claims court is a last resort, butit is looking that is my only option. They are being completely unreasonable in my opinion. The house move could have been completed wellwithin the 3 days if they were organised and had the house packed up ready togo and knew where they wanted everything at the other end. Also having suitable boxes and enough boxesfor the job. As said the van could havemuch more stuff loaded in to it if we had proper boxes to pack and stack. But it was almost as if we were moving eachitem one by one. As it turned out, shereally didn’t want to spend any money on boxes. £200 on packing materials is a drop in the ocean as their new house isvalued at £1.3 million and their old house which they are keeping is valued atjust under a million, plus they have another 3 bedroom house they rent outwhich is worth £400,000. So all in allapprox. £2.5 – 3 million in property assets, but too tight to buy boxes.

 

In your opinions, if I do have to go to court, does it soundas though I would have a good case?

 

The three main points are:

1) Nothing packed prior to our arrival.

2) Not enough boxes and/or unsuitable boxes.

3) No organisation at the new house as to whereeverything is going (very little was labelled).

 

OK fourth point:

4) Been shouted and sworn at over nothing.

 

On another note, I asked a local removal company what theirpolicy is if they turn up to a house and nothing is packed. They state they do not do the job as theirT&C’s have been breached, they keep the deposit and walk away.

 

Many thanks.

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Apologies for the fact you had not yet received a reply.

 

This is a predicament indeed and doubtless there are those who would say that this is the peril of mixing friendship with business.

 

Did you have any written agreement prior to undertaking to do the job?

 

On the face of it I think you would have a clear cut case to take to a County Court to recover the direct costs involved in the job - the vehicle hire and manpower for the time originally estimated. I do not think that any Court would find that your friend would not have been aware that those costs would be payable - even in the absence of a written agreement. I do think though that the for the finer points and any extras incurred it would be difficult to prove anything in the absence of a formal agreement.

 

The three main points are:

1) Nothing packed prior to our arrival.

2) Not enough boxes and/or unsuitable boxes.

3) No organisation at the new house as to where everything is going (very little was labelled).

 

OK fourth point:

4) Been shouted and sworn at over nothing.

[/Quote]

 

The friend could, in the absence of an agreement, argue that you had promised that points 1, 2 and 3 were not agreed, and as for Point 4, whilst not at all pleasant, this would not add anything to the value of any claim.

 

The same point really applies to the local company that you have consulted - they have clear T&Cs which would presumably be agreed in writing before taking on the job, and these would include the clause allowing them to walk away if the terms were not met. If you had had a similar written agreement outlining what were and were not your responsibilities, and stating that additional costs incurred as a result of those conditions not being met, then you would have a more straightforward task in enforcing this through a Court.

 

That said, I think so long as fair warning is given that whilst you do not want to make it a legal matter you will be forced to recover your out of pocket expenses through a Court claim, then you may end up having to make a claim. In those circumstances you will naturally claim for everything that you have had to pay for. Issue a Letter Before Action detailing exactly what is owed and follow up with a MCOL claim if payment is not forthcoming. Be prepared that if as belligerent as she sounds she may well defend all or part of what is owed, so make a detailed list now of what was said, by whom and when. If there were witnesses then so much the better.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Hi, thanks for the reply.

In question to a contract. I sent her an email breaking down the costs of the quote and overtime costs beyond the 8 hours per day. I also stated that all boxes needed to be packed, labelled, marked as fragile etc. She stated to me several times she was going to pack with a lady that does her cleaning, babysitting etc. She even asked me where she can buy boxes, but obviously £200 for more than enough boxes was a too much. I backed the email up with a phone call and said that I have sent an email with everything in writting. She seemed a bit hacked off that I had put it in writting (now I know why).

She now says she didn't get time to read the email before moving day, but did call me the night before to see what time we would arrive. So I assumed she had read and therefore agreed to the t&c's.

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It's how the rich get richer. I work as an IT contractor for financial company's. It's the rich executives that are the worst at paying invoices, and some actually believe we should work for them for free.

 

I would personally say take the small claims route. Hope you get it sorted!

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This may come down to proof, you say you SENT an email, but have you got a clear reply stating that the other side agreed to your terms and the cost, etc ?

 

Maybe the threat of court will make them pay up, issue a notice before action and maybe try to reach a settlement for a biut less than the original amount.

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Andydd. I got nothing back from them and they verbally agreed on at least two separate occasions. A few years ago I took someone through the small claims for not paying. Agreed verbally and I sent an email with all costs etc. The chap said he never got the email, but the judge said that didn't matter as he agreed I do the work via telephone. He should have chased up for a note about t&c's. I think this maybe the same case here. Although, it's not the cost so much that has baked her biscuit, it's the fact I couldn't help after the 3 days. As said in my opening statement, if everything was packed and ready to go etc, the job would have been completed. Like booking in a kitchen fitter and when they turn up, you haven't even purchased the kitchen yet!

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If her dispute was that the work wasn't completed, you will have a good chance in small claims. She can't withhold full payment if she feels the work wasn't carried out fully (even though you agreed to be paid on time, rather than completion of the job).

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Completion of the job within the 3 days was made impossible by no prior packing to our arrival and the sheer unorganised chaos at both ends. Thing is, I get a text from her husband the following monday asking if I can do another load and how much will it cost. I reply that I can't due to being booked, but could pass on details to someone that could help. So I don't think it is a case of job completion. It's more a case of looking for someone to blame for their own shortcomings.

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Make sure that you look out and keep copies of the email(s) that you sent, together with any headers if these can be viewed. You may need them as evidence.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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If f it goes to court it will be based upon the balance of probabilities rather than an overwhelming burden of proof. As long as you have the payment receipts for your labourers and the van hire you are more than halfway there as it becomes easy to argue that a contract was formed and you acted in a certain way in the expectation that the other side would fuklfil their part and pay you.

Now, where it gets awkward is where things are not as you expected them on the day and the interference in you being able to fulfil the contract in its entirety by moving all of her stuff. You can point out that you agreed 3 days labour plus van and they will probably argue non-performance of the entire move nullifies the agreement. It will be then for the judge to pick through the 2 differing accounts of who said and did what and apply case law to what is considered as important. I would try and stick with your agreed T&C's regarding expectation of packing etc. to show limits of your obligations and the expected performance of contract by the lady.The email will exist in your sent folder somewher or you have a copy on file, even if you dont have a duplicate of the one sent and received. It is unlikely she will claim that no agreemnt was ever made as that would be ridiculous and do her no favours with the judge.

It is a stupid situation but if she is a true compulsive hoarder then her mental state wouldnt have prepared her for the move and now she has had time to settle in a bit she might be less entrenched and actually pay up without you resorting to law. Try speaking to her husband as he plainly knows her frame of mind at any particular time better then anyone else and explain what will happen if they dont. debts of more than £700 are enforceable by using a HCEO and that will not be pleasant for them.

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