While in the bid process for hiring a builder to build our house, the builder we liked provided a bid and a contract. Our house plans did not come with an electrical plan. The builder submitted a bid anyway. Before signing we requested to see his electrical bid. We were concerned over the potential conflicts in the number of can lights, ceiling fans, and eave soffit outlets. He told us the bid was between him and the electrician, just like the lumber and plumbing bid, I will not get to see those either, but not to worry we would love our house. In lieu of seeing his electrical plan/bid, I provided him a list of my expectations for the electrical inventory and other items. The list included many things like the number of ceiling fans, doors, and light switches. I a left blank the can lights and AC vents. I asked him to fill in the blanks. He told me I would love my house and that if it was off by a few can lights it's no big deal, he would make it so I would love it. Then he jokingly said something like, as long as you don't add like 40 can lights. He went through my list and said all the other numbers I already had in place looked good. Well, we signed the contract and are building the house. Now he wants me to sign off on a electrical Change Order. Even though it was on my list, he is charging me extra for 13 extra can lights, 2 extra ceiling fans, and eave soffit outlets. When I hesitated and he snapped at me that they would just go with the original bid. I still have no idea what that entails. I now know he under bid the can lights by 45%. We argued over the phone. He never sent the negotiated/revised change order in writing, so it was never signed. The electrician has wired my house but not installed the fixtures yet. Now the builder is asking for the electrical change order funds and the number is not what we agreed to on the phone. I don't want building to stop but this is just wrong. I have caught this man in several lies. We are so close to done, I just want to be done, but this is so frustrating. Do I have a legal leg to stand on? If he never provided me with the electrical plan, am I responsible for a change order that was never signed. I did not change anything from the list I originally gave him.
First, we need to start with an analysis of everything that was written down.
You provided him with a blank space for can lights.
He is now trying to charge you for 13 extra can lights.
We need to know what the original understanding was and determine where the 13 extra lights are going to go so you can determine if you want them.
Your original inventory included ceiling fans and (I hope) location.
He now wants 2 extra ceiling fans.
Are these ceiling fans really extra? Do you know where he wants to put them? Are they in the original locations? Do you want them?
You did not mention whether you considered eave soffit outlets in your original electrical inventory.
He wants to charge you extra for them.
Did you want them? If you don't want them, tell him in writing you don't want them.
If you do not want the items on the change order and you never signed the change order, there is some possibility that you are not responsible for items that you did not authorize. With that being said, you should communicate IN WRITING that you will not take responsibility for items that were placed in the home that were not contemplated or agreed to by yourself. Otherwise, if you accept the work, you are going to be liable for the payment. Tell him to take the unwanted work out and repair the damage or he will be liable for the damage done to your property from unwanted additions.
He's going to have a real hard time in court proving that you authorized something when your signature is on no document, there are no texts, no emails, and no otherwise written authorization for items that he put in that you told him IN WRITING to take out because you never asked for them.
E. Aaron Cartwright III
You need to create a paper trail, so I suggest that you consider the following.
You should write the contractor a letter by certified mail to request that the contractor complete his work, and comply with the details that you had provided. In that letter, you should advise generally what work needs to be completed. You should also indicate that if the contractor does not complete his work, you will have to retain another contractor, and will hold the first contractor responsible for the costs. Finally, indicate in your letter that if the contractor does not advise that he will return to complete his work within one week, you will presume that he has no intention of doing so, and you will hold him responsible for the costs of correcting/completing his work.
When the contractor does not return, you can retain another contractor to correct/complete the first contractor's work. Make sure that the second contractor itemizes his invoices and lists the costs to correct/complete the first contractor's work. You cannot charge the first contractor with the cost of work that was not within the first contractor's scope of work. For example, if the first contractor was supposed to install carpet, you cannot charge him for the second contractor's installation of ceramic tile.
Once you have tallied the costs associated with correcting/completing the first contractor's work, you can consider suing him to recover those costs. The jurisdictional maximum for small claims court in Texas is now $20,000. So, if your claim exceeds that amount, you will have to sue in County or District Court. In small claims court, you can represent yourself. In County or District Court, you will have to retain an attorney. However, under Texas law, you would be entitled to recover attorney's fees if you prevailed.
Make sure that you take a lot of photos of the first contractor's work. Digital photos with the date of the photo imprinted on the photo are best. You should document the condition in which the first contractor left the work and what it took to correct/complete the work.