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Ratatat

Builder overcharged £45,000 and job not completed

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Hello,

 

I employed a builder to do a loft conversion, and renovate my house which I had just bought. He quoted £72,000 to do the work including all electrics, plumbing, plastering etc. The quote was itemised and he visited the property twice and priced up materials etc before emailing it to me. He said that the work would be completed by the end of last summer. He requested an initial payment for materials into his wife's bank account quite a while before any work was done. When he started he told me that he didn't have a lot of money and that I would need to give him money for materials which he would not make any profit on, and he generally showed me receipts. He also asked for 'wages' for himself on a daily rate of £180. I'm a single woman and I realise now after googling that I should have had a proper contract in place and made stage payments; I know now that he took advantage of me for being trusting.

 

I was renting alternative accommodation in another town as the property wasn't liveable. I would pop down once or twice a week or so to see how it was going and progress was slow. Sometimes there would be no-one there at all and most often when I arrived they would be in the kitchen drinking tea. He had decorators, plasterers, electricians and plumbers come in, who he knew and had arranged. He had me pay their invoices. He had initially one labourer working with him, but that escalated to three labourers - he was invoicing me for all of them at a daily rate. The work dragged on past the end of the summer for no reason. The builder told me that he had been diagnosed with leukaemia and I felt sorry for him, but now realise this was probably a lie.

 

I was finally able to move in in November, The main house being finished. The builder seemed reticent to move on the the conversion of an attached brick outbuilding and seemed to be finding odd jobs to do around the house. He asked if I could do a favour and pay his building subcontractors directly as this would mean they would need to pay their own National Insurance instead of him. I made a couple of payments to them in November- the daily rate for the builder and 3 labourers was £500.

 

I also gave the builder £7500 in cash for the roof, which he gave me a receipt for, but he has kept the money and not given it to the roofer as intended.

 

When I started the renovation I had the money needed from the sale of my previous house plus another £20,000. That had all gone and I took out the maximum loan I could from my bank of £25,000. The work continued throughout December when I was away on holiday. I came home after Christmas and it still wasn't completed.

 

I did a spreadsheet and found that I had paid through bank transfer to the builder and various of his contractors £105,000. I also had unpaid invoices from him, his building subcontractors and further other contractors of £12,000. There had not been any extra work requested on top of the original quote, I had chosen the cheapest option wherever I could and the work on the original quote is still not finished. I told the builder that there was a problem with the overcharging and not to return to site until it had been resolved. I asked for a list of his extras and he quoted putting up a shelf in the pantry and other trivial things which in no way add up to the total.

 

The biggest overcharging has been in payments to the builder and his 3 subcontractors - £60,000, the vast majority of which is for labour. This does not include the £7500 for the roof. My house is not huge, it is ex local authority 3 bedroom, outside of London.

 

I refused to make any more payments and had the subcontractors texting, calling round at my house and demanding payments.

 

One morning I found concrete poured on my car, and when I got home that night the front and back door locks have been superglued so I had to call an emergency locksmith. I reported this to the police and bought security cameras.

 

I paid to have letters sent the builder by a building disputes company explaining that he had overcharged me and needed to pay me back the money. Also letters to the contractors stating that any payments they had received from me were made in error because the builder had told me to and that they should get payment from the builder and reimburse me with the money already paid.

 

In return I got seven identical letters back from the builder's solicitor, one for each contractor saying that he was looking into it. That was two weeks ago.

 

I would appreciate any advice please - I am a woman on my own who is finding it hard to get advice which doesn't cost a lot of money. I don't have much funds left and need to get the work finished. The cost of a solicitor is very off putting and I worry that if I take that route I could end up owing more money. I am also a little concerned that the six subcontractors might try to sue me for their outstanding invoiced which are each in the £1000-£2000 range.

 

There are also some issues with the work which has been done - the brickwork for example is shocking and needs re-doing.

 

I have tried calling CAB who referred me to Trading Standards, I called Trading Standards but they said that they would only help businesses in my county and not individuals.

 

The builder is a sole trader and he co-owns his house with his wife.

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When you say the builder co-owns a house, do you mean that the house is in his name? What is the value of the house and have you any idea of how much equity he has in it.

 

This is going to be very complicated. Although you have given us the story, I think that we need a better analysis of where you are.

 

How much of the work has been completed?

How much of the work is yet to be done?

Which subcontractors have visited you and how much has each one asked for?

Is the main builder – the contractor that you dealt with – still demanding any money from you?

 

You have gone to a building disputes company – how much are they charging? Have you pay them any money yet?

 

I'm amazed that CA sent you to trading standards. I know that CA are not very good but to send you to trading standards when it is clear that trading standards are not interested in dealing with these individual matters, is pretty shocking.


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The builder's house is in joint names - him and his wife. Value is around £300k. No idea of the mortgage but he is an older guy so I would think little if any.

 

The work that needs to be done is mostly on the outbuilding extension. It has been plastered, needs radiators fitting and lights finishing, skirting, painting. Bathroom needs fitting and tiling. There is a half bricked up doorway which needs doing again as the brickwork is very bad. The shower in the loft needs tiling and fitting.

 

I paid the building disputes company £500 to review and do the letters. They suggested I find a solicitor but they are all £250+ per hour.

 

Trades who have been chasing me for money are 1) roofer - that money has been paid to the builder £7500. 2) Electrician £1800 3) plasterer £1400 4) building labourer 1 £2000 5) building labourer 2 £800. The builder himself has invoiced £3300.

 

It has been quiet the last two weeks since their solicitor sent letters saying that he is looking into it. The fact is that I was quoted £72,000 and have been invoiced £122,000 for an incomplete job. I have paid £105,000 of that amount.

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Well clearly you had better not pay any more money to anybody else.

 

I'm sorry to say that although you don't deserve any of this has happened to you, you have certainly invited it – and you seem to throw money around quite easily. I don't know what you imagined that the building disputes company would do. Please would you name them here.

 

We can certainly give you advice here – but one of the things you need to realise is that if you bring any legal actions then we will help you do it yourself but we don't provide representation and we don't refer people on to lawyers. This website is all about self empowerment. If you are prepared to pursue your own actions then you stand a chance of getting some of your money back.

 

The next thing to understand is that when we recommend that people take legal actions, we recommend that they sue for sums less than £10,000 because under the small claims rules, even if you lose then you don't bear the other side's costs unless you have mitigated unreasonably. If you Sue for more than £10,000 then the chances are you will be allocated to the "fast track" and that means that if you lose, you will have to bear the winners costs. This often encourages a well resourced opponent to splash out on a lawyer to essentially frighten you into withdrawing or to making a compromise which you need not otherwise make.

 

I think the first thing to do is to list out all of the agreed work which still needs doing.

List out all of the work which has been done but is of poor standard.

 

You need to get an independent quote for doing the work which still needs doing and another independent quote for making good the poor standard work.

 

When you've done that come back here. We will then help you decide whether or not it is worth bringing a legal action.

 

I would not bother to bring any legal actions against the subcontractors. There would be problems in doing that. First of all you don't really know who they are if they have any assets. Sensors to sue people who have got no assets and who are very likely to try and avoid any enforcement procedures once you had a judgement against them.

Secondly, by attempting to sue one of the subcontractors you would then essentially be admitting that you had a contract with that subcontractor – and if it then turned out that they put in a counterclaim for money which they said you owed them, you would be at risk of losing and then having to pay that money.

 

You have identified the builder. You have identified the fact that the builder has an asset and I think you're best off keeping all of your quarrels with that builder. It is also fairly clear to me that that builder is operating in a way which is helping him to avoid tax or national insurance responsibilities – and at the end of the day that is something which will help you – although you should keep that up your sleeve for the moment.

 

Get the quotations which I have suggested and come back here. Stop chucking money around.


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Thank you, I have someone coming around tomorrow to give me a quote so I will post and let you know.

 

I also have one other contractor who is chasing me very aggressively at the moment and threatening to take me to court.

 

He was arranged by the builder to do fit the TV aerial and two wifi extenders. The builder introduced him and said this is the guy to do your aerial. I was not given a quote and he gave me an invoice for £860 after doing the work, which even shocked the builder who said "but he didn't do anything!". The electrician fitted and supplied all of the TV sockets and did the wiring for the wifi extenders. I asked for a breakdown of the aerial installer's quote and this guy has overcharged - £300 for extenders that cost £140, £40 for a splitter that cost £3.50, £132 for labour even though he was in the house for less than an hour. Then he added VAT on it which was calculated at 40%. He has obviously just made up the figures. When I pointed out his overcharging he knocked £60 off and took the VAT to 20% which is still a huge overcharge.

 

Having already been overcharged so much I don't want to pay £860 to this character. Where do I stand with this please?

 

The aerial installation was not included on the builder's quote, although the builder arranged him. Where do I stand with this please? He is obviously a rip off merchant and he has been sending really weird emails and texts almost every day and is threatening to take me to court.

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The original agreed work with the builder – was that set down in writing?

 

At what point after that did you ask for the aerial et cetera to be fitted?

 

What evidence might you be able to produce to show that that was part of the original contract?

 

You have a copy of the cost breakdown which includes VAT 40%?

 

Who are the building disputes company? You haven't answered this question


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Yes, the original work with the builder was set in writing. I did let the builder know before he did the quote that I wanted TV sockets in each room and wifi throughout the house. He didn't specify it in the breakdown of his quote but it was an inclusive quote and he did include electrics. The builder told me that I needed a new aerial and introduced me to the contractor saying that he was the man to do the aerial. The original invoice was for £634+£126.80 VAT totalling £860. This doesn't add up, it totals £760. He stated the same again in the breakdown which he texted to me. He keeps telling me that he has already paid the VAT, although I haven't paid the bill - he seems to think this will somehow incite me to pay. I have told him that he was employed by the builder, but like all the other contractors he says he was employed by me. I have also told him that his charges are excessive and unreasonable which he has not countered.

 

The building disputes company were very helpful in giving me advice and doing letters. If I had found this forum sooner, I would not have needed to use them. I was talking with solicitors who were saying it could cost £50-£60k in legal fees to pursue the case and another who said each letter would take an hour to do at £250+VAT per hour, so it seemed like a good option when I had no-one else to discuss my problem with. Of course, like everyone else they want to take money from me. It is nice to finally find a source of advice which doesn't cost me.

 

I'm a little scared to write the name of the company in case one of the contractors or their lawyer might stumble across this thread through google. I hope you understand my fears.

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I don't think you should worry about naming companies. As long as you are straight dealing with everyone – then you have nothing to lose. You should put up the names of all the companies that you deal with – why not? We don't do secret squirrel stuff here.

 

I think you may have difficulty getting your money back simply on the basis that you have overpaid them. We will have to look at that more carefully later on. However, if you simply try to claim £45,000 then as I have already said you will end up on the fast track and if you lose, you will end up paying the other side's costs and it seems to me that you have paid them enough money already. From what I understand so far your chances of winning simply on the basis of an action for overpayments would be 50-50. I would never advise anyone to bring action on those odds – especially on the fast track.

 

I think the thing to do is to start recuperating money for poor work. So I think that you need to start identifying work which has been poorly carried out, getting quotes for remedial work – and then suing for that money. Your chances of winning on those issues is pretty high – better than 80% an important thing is that it is likely to be for sums which can be kept on the small claims track.

 

If you identify different areas of work which are inadequate and the cumulative cost of repairs or making good comes to more than £10,000 then we would look to bring an action for each one separately.

 

You will have to let us know what has been said. Make sure that each area of inadequate work is identified on its own and the quote for remedial work for each area is presented separately in a detailed breakdown. You may well need to get more than one quote for each piece of remedial work because you will need to show the court that comparative quotes say broadly the same thing and that you will be suing for the cheapest of them.

 

In terms of the aerial fitter, we will need to have a look and see whether it is possible to argue that this work is part of the original agreed contract. If it is not then you may have to pay it but we will say that the work is subject to section 15 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 – that where a price for services has not been agreed in a reasonable price will be implied. In this case, you will have to get independent quotes for the work which has been carried out in order to show that the price that your man is claiming is unreasonable.

 

I suppose that you will think that I'm adding to your woes, that I had better spell it out for others who are considering the same kind of building work.

 

You got involved in a building work contract of fairly high value. You then absented yourself from the work site for large periods of time so that you exercised no supervision over what was happening and you had no one else do it for you. If you had exercised supervision I don't know whether you feel that you would have been competent to make any judgement as to the quality of what was happening or whether you feel that you would have had the strength to challenge the builder for the repeated absences which it seems he was charging you out at £180 a day.

 

You didn't keep any account so you were chucking money at it without keeping tabs on what you are paying.

 

You started agreeing to payment arrangements which were clearly intended for tax reasons or for national insurance reasons which may or may not have been completely proper.

 

No doubt you have learned lessons from this although I can imagine that you may not ever be commissioning any building work of this scale again. However, other people who read the thread ought to understand a little bit of some of the very basic ways that they should look after their own interests. It's not hard.

 

How much of this money do you have receipts for?

 

Have you kept any logs of dates when the builder was not on site?


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Of course, if you want to make progress with this then you will need to engage with this thread


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I'm feeling rather despondent today is my reason for not writing. The local builders came around yesterday to look and they will come back to me with a quote to finish which I haven't yet received.

 

I realise now that I did many things wrong. I trusted the builder to site manage the project. He didn't like it when I came to my house unannounced and asked me to let him know when I was coming. I could have attended more but was made to feel that I should leave him to manage it, arrange all the quotes and all the trades.

 

I cannot change the past, I can only work on the current situation. I had no advice then, and I have little to no advice now. I appreciate your advice on what to do.

 

Yesterday I had two letters back from the builder's solicitor. One on behalf of the builder saying that the quote was just a rough estimate and not a fixed price contract. The builder had minimal involvement with the contractors and that they received instructions from me - again not the truth, I never spoke to or met some of the contractors. He denies there was a completion date and says this was just a date that I had requested....that I am responsible for direct payment to the contractors...that the £7500 cash given to the builder for the roofer was for the steels and the loft (even though the hand written receipt from the builder states it is for roof work). That the builder does not owe me any money and that I owe the builder outstanding monies and also to numerous contractors.

 

The second letter is on behalf of the plasterer who is after £1440. I never even met or instructed this guy, he is very close with the builder. I have paid two payments to him before. The plastering is included on the original quotation from the builder. The letter says that the plan deviated significantly from the original proposal, which is not true. It says that I provided direct instructions to the plasterer, which I did not. The only contact I ever had was when the builder pointed him out and I said Hi. No conversations or instructions. Basically they are just lying. The plasterer wants payment to stop taking further action.

 

I have been invoiced over £120,000 for work to my house. The actual building is probably not worth that much. I have already paid the plasterer almost £4100 for plastering the loft and skimming the rest of my 3 bedroom house. Now he wants £1440 for plastering a small bedroom and ensuite.

 

I believe the plasterer will pursue this through small claims and I am rather worried that the other contractors will follow suit using the same arguments that the solicitor has made.

 

I believe that the plasterer has overcharged, and also the builders who looked at it yesterday thought that it would all need sandpapering, and the panelling beneath the plaster is also visible across one wall.

 

They were also shocked by the brickwork which had been done it was so bad, and said that they would re-do the half bricked-up doorway. There is a leak in the floor of the outbuilding conversion as no damp course has been done, or indeed ever been pointed out to me as needing to be done. They do not think the building work is of a high standard.

 

I do wonder I should suggest to the solicitor that the builder and I split the cost of an independent chartered survey to value the works which have been done. This is the only way I can think of to stop all of the contractors from suing me for the extra money they have invoiced for.

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I have made nearly all of the payments via bank transfer, so I have proof of my payments.

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Okay, I now understand that included in the works which were carried out were the fitting of an aerial and extenders into the loft area.

 

I've looked at the builders quotation and it seems to me that it is easily possible to say that these works were not included in the original quotation. Your position so far has been that they were. However, although the original quotation refers to "electrics" I think that this refers to electrical wiring and not the installation of an aerial system.

 

In order to reduce the amount of problems that you have and also I think to show that you are prepared to make a stand, I think you should deal with the aerial fitting separately.

 

It certainly seems to me that the amount of money which is being asked – about £800, is very high for the aerial work. I would suggest that you write back to the aerial fitter and say that you have now looked again at the quotation which was originally given to you and that you now accept that the aerial work was not part of the original contract as you had at first thought.

 

However, you consider that the amount of money you being asked is unreasonably high – and that you would draw their attention to section 15 of the supply of goods and services act 1982 in which it says that where a price for services has not been agreed then a reasonable price will be implied.

 

Tell the aerial fitter that because of this you will now be seeking independent quotations from aerial fitters for exactly the same work and you will then revert to him.

 

I suggest that you obtain two independent quotations for the equivalent work and then send your aerial fitter a cheque for a sum of money which falls in between the two independent quotations. This means that if you have one quotation for £200 and one quotation for £240, that you should send your aerial fitter £220.

 

You would in that case tell the aerial fitter that you consider that this is a reasonable price based on independent quotations and that if he has any issue with it then he is free to start an action in the County Court for the balance – but you will defend vigourously.

 

I think this will have the effect of starting to be proactive about this – because so far it seems to me that you are on the run. This will send a message to everybody – including a court that you are perfectly prepared to pay a reasonable cost – but that you are now prepared to stand your ground.

 

Another advantage of this approach will be to reduce the amount of money in dispute and that will make it less worthwhile for the aerial fitter to sue you and also reduce the coffee in the event that you lose.

 

We will deal with the other people who are after you separately. We will also consider what position you should take against the main builder who organised the job and the subcontractors who are now saying that they were working directly for you rather than for the principal builder as part of the main quotation.

 

When you have drafted the initial email to the aerial fitter, please let us know and we will advise you as to whether we think it is suitable to be sent.

 

I think you need to get a move on with this because I understand that the aerial fitter has already proposed to bring a legal action. Don't forget, that the aerial fitter has carried out some of the work and so he is entitled to some kind of payment – and so you should make this payment as quickly as possible and then let him argue the toss about the rest.


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Thank you, that is excellent advice. You're right that I need to protect myself from the other contractors by stating that his work was not included in the original contract.

 

I'm so pleased to receive this advice and I'm now feeling much more optimistic than I was yesterday.

 

I emailed a draft of the letter to you at 17.25...please let me know if you think it is suitable?

 

The body of the message is;

 

Dear aerial installer

 

I have examined the original quotation for the renovation of my house and have concluded that the work you carried out was not included in the original contract.

 

However your invoice is wildly excessive.

 

I propose to contact two companies to give quotes to me for the work which you have carried out.

 

Then, I will then make a payment to you for the average of the two quotes.

 

I will be in touch with you when I have received the quotes.

 

Best wishes,

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I've amended your suggested letter:

 

 

Dear aerial installer

 

I have examined the original quotation for the renovation of my house and have concluded that the work you carried out was not included in the original contract.

 

However your invoice is excessive. It is clear from the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 that where the price for services has not been agreed then a reasonable price will be implied.

 

As you know, you did not provide a quote for the work in advance and nothing was agreed.

 

I propose to contact two companies to give quotes to me for the work which you have carried out.

 

Then, I will then make a payment to you for the average of the two quotes.

 

I will be in touch with you when I have received the quotes but probably in the next 10 days.

 

I understand that you are proposing to bring a legal action. That's a matter for you but you should understand that you are required to comply with the pre-action protocol for this kind of thing.

 

In any event I suggest that you wait for the outcome of my research into reasonable prices.

 

Best wishes,

 

And by the way, it is the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. The consumer rights act merely introduced a change to the wording – only a small change.


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That's wonderful, thank you so much.

 

I will send your revised version to him and go to order a chequebook :)

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I think now we will need to turn our attention to the plasterer.

 

It would be helpful if you could set out in summary what the situation is with the plasterer.


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The plasterer has had a solicitor's letter sent to me stating that I employed him directly and gave him instructions, even though I never talked or messaged him. He has stated that if I don't pay him the £1440 that he has invoiced that he will take legal action to recover it.

 

The plastering is definitely included in the builder's original quote. I have already paid £35,000+ in excess of the original quote.

 

Also, the amount that I have been invoiced/paid for plastering is very high for the work which has been done.

 

The plasterer is close friends with the builder and evidently went to the same solicitor at the same time too.

 

There are problems with the plastering - it is possible to see the boarding beneath on one of the walls and parts have totally missed being plastered.

 

At the builder's direction I have previously made two payments to the plasterer totalling £4080.

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Thank you. what about the aerial man . Have you had any kind of reaction?


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The aerial installer replied to the last email I sent to him, a couple of posts ago.

 

He says that he believes he invoiced me a reasonable amount, even though he is charging 100% markup on some items and his invoice is two to three times what other companies would charge for the same work.

 

He says that he is not happy to accept a payment equivalent to what other companies would charge and that he "will today start a small claims against me"

 

- - - Updated - - -

 

Apologies....I mean 1000% markup

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Ok well I suggest that you send him a message immediately and point out to them that under section 15 of the supply of goods and services act 1982, where no price has been agreed then a reasonable price will be employed.

tell him that you are taking immediate steps to ascertain what the normal price is and if he won't wait and wants to begin a legal action then that is his choice but that you will point out to the court that firstly he has not followed the pre-action protocol correctly and secondly that you have tried to be reasonable that he has rushed into court and started an action.

 

tell him that once you've discovered what a reasonable price is that you will pay that to him regardless of whether or not he has started a legal action and then he can continue for the balance and that you expect that he will lose.

 

Tell him that it's his choice.

 

Tell him that this message will be shown to the court at the inevitable hearing.

 

put in hand the business of getting two independent quotations as quickly as possible.


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The plasterer has had a solicitor's letter sent to me stating that I employed him directly and gave him instructions, even though I never talked or messaged him. He has stated that if I don't pay him the £1440 that he has invoiced that he will take legal action to recover it.

 

The plastering is definitely included in the builder's original quote. I have already paid £35,000+ in excess of the original quote.

 

Also, the amount that I have been invoiced/paid for plastering is very high for the work which has been done.

 

The plasterer is close friends with the builder and evidently went to the same solicitor at the same time too.

 

There are problems with the plastering - it is possible to see the boarding beneath on one of the walls and parts have totally missed being plastered.

 

At the builder's direction I have previously made two payments to the plasterer totalling £4080.

 

Please will you make sure that you have all of the invoices provided to you by the plasterer.

 

If there are any missing then you should write to the plasterer immediately and say that you are considering what he has said that it appears that not all of the invoices are in your possession and can you please let you have copies of all of them.

telling him that once you have all of the copy invoices in your possession that you will then consider his request.


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Dear Aerial installer,

 

Under section 15 of the supply of goods and services act 1982, where no price has been agreed then a reasonable price will be implied.

 

I am taking immediate steps to ascertain what a reasonable price is. If you won't wait and want to begin a legal action then that is your choice.

 

Firstly I would like to point out that you have not followed the pre-action protocol correctly, and secondly I have tried to be reasonable and you are rushing to court and starting an action.

 

Once I have discovered what a reasonable price is I will pay this to you regardless of whether or not you have started a legal action. You can continue for the balance and I expect that you will lose.

 

it's your choice.

 

This message will be shown to the court at the inevitable hearing.

 

Best wishes,

[/Quote] - - Updated - - -

 

Thanks for your help. Does my reply look alright?

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It's fine


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Regarding the plasterer, should I write to his solicitor since the last communication came from him? Or should I write directly to the plasterer.

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The plasterer, why not.


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