Dispute with plumber…
Apologies in advance for the long-winded waffle…
So, our house was until recently heated by a coal stove with a back boiler, connected to 5 radiators on a pumped circuit. Last August we had the house connected up to the gas mains and got a few plumbers to quote to install a gas boiler, upgrade some of the pipework, replace three of the existing radiators and add three more.
We went with a guy who quoted £4k, but seemed more interested in doing a good job than the others, and seemed to really know what he was talking about when discussing the various options. He had some other jobs on as well, so couldn't devote 100% of his time to us, and wouldn't commit to a firm completion date. He started on the 8th September, and we asked him to finish by the 8th October, and he said that he expected to finish "probably well before then", but couldn't offer any compensation if he didn't finish by then. Our priority was to get it finished by the time it got cold, so that we would be warm and could crack on with boxing in etc., so accepted the somewhat vague timeframe.
Since then he has worked in fits and starts, often doing nothing here for two weeks on end. We only had a few radiators working for much of the time until soon after Christmas, the spare bedroom was out of action for most of the time (to give access to pipework, loft etc.), and it's only a couple of weeks ago that the system has been pretty much fully functional. There are a few minor jobs left (like fitting the room stat in its final position, final balancing etc.), and it's now over 5 months since he started. We have been pestering him constantly the whole time to get him to crack on and finish, but haven't wanted to ditch him because (a) his work, when he does it, is of good quality – absolutely no complaints there, and (b) until he finishes the system and signs off on it, we'd be in a bit of a pickle trying to get a different installer to finish off his work and sign off on it (and there could potentially be warranty issues with the boiler).
Now, we agreed at the start to pay £4k for the work to be done, under the understanding that it would take a few weeks. According to the CAB website, even if no specific completion date is specified, consumers have a right to expect a job to be finished in a reasonable timeframe.
I don't believe that we should let ourselves be taken advantage of like this. If the quote had said "£4k, but it will take 5 months" then we would absolutely have turned it down and gone elsewhere. Realistically, even if the quote was "£2.5k, 5 months" then we would have said no. He has been going to other (presumably more lucrative) jobs whilst not at ours – so he has been making money by messing us about. It's not that he's been sick or anything. When pressed he mentions the snow (he comes a fair way out to our place), which would be valid for a couple of weeks, but not a 4 month delay – there was certainly no snow around in September when he should have been finishing up.
So, I've suggested that we negotiate a fair fee. In my view, £2.5k would be fair, but I doubt he'll agree to that – that would be a big decrease. Realistically I think £3k would be a reasonable compromise.
What do you guys think? Am I being an unfair customer from hell, or do I have a reasonable case? I intend to talk to the CAB to find out what they advise. I'm only interested in a fair outcome – absolutely not trying to screw him over, but don't want to be screwed over myself!Posted 8 years agowwaswasSubscriber
Have you given him any money?
If you haven't then just tell him he's off the job and you'll give him the balance between what he quoted and what it costs you to get someone else to finish the job.
If you've paid him anything significant then I'd suggest writing to him saying that you want it finished by date 'x' and that if he doesn't achieve that you will be getting someone else to finish the job and taking hiom to court for the costs.
but of course I'm an amateur (unlike TJ who will be along shortly) so listen to what CAB suggest.
bottom line – it's time to get tough – he's taking advantage of you to fill in quiete times between other jobs.Posted 8 years ago
We've spoken to him often, and continually asked him to get it finished. As I mentioned, we didn't want to sack him because it would have caused no end of hassle. If something went wrong with the boiler then any plumber that finished up the job would not have been responsible since he didn't supply the boiler, and our plumber could quite rightly say that he can't be responsible since he can't know whether the commissioning plumber did it properly.
A week ago I emailed and said that if it wasn't finished by the end of this week then we should get someone else to finish up, and deduct that from his fee. That's obviously not what we want – we just want him to do what he is to be paid for.
We have so far only paid him £800 deposit on receipt of the boiler.
Time frame was always an issue, and we constantly made him aware of that, but we held back from getting threatening because we wanted him to finish it so we could all move on, rather than get into a battle.
Paying him pro rata for what he's done would mean now paying him practically all of it. But he has not provided the service that he quoted for. Even though there was no fixed finish date with stated compensation clauses, there was a clear timeframe for the job. Installing a heating system over 5 months is not the same service as installing it in a few weeks. To my mind, he has not provided the service that we asked for (and were quoted for), so we should pay a fair price for what we got. Does that not make sense?Posted 8 years agowwaswasSubscriber
tbh,I doubt he'd be the one with the warranty anyway – it'll be either the retailer he used or direct with the manufacturer. Suggest you phone the manufacturer and see what they say – they may well be happy to honour warranty as long as the installation is signed off by a gas safe person regardless of who supplied it.
don't rely on email – send it record delivery.Posted 8 years ago
What you got and how long it's taken are different things. He has (almost) done what was agreed, but it's taken longer than you thought. But you didn't agree a definite time scale and so IMHO there is little you can, or should be allowed to do at this stage of proceedings. You should have terminated the contract, or at least discussed penalty clauses much earlier.Posted 8 years ago
My understanding is that since he supplied the boiler, my warranty is basically with him – he would deal with it (and liaise with his supplier). I think that for safety regulations to be satisfied, the (registered gas-safe) installer has to sign off on the install. So technically for another plumber to sign off on it, he'd have to uninstall and reinstall it. Not sure it would quite work like that in reality, but it would be a right pain in the arse, that's for sure – hence our reluctance to do anything that would result in our guy just digging his heels in and saying "sod you then". To be honest, if he said "I'll finish up on Thursday, sign certificates etc., and knock a few hundred off for the inconvenience", then I'd probably go for it. He doesn't seem to think that he's doing anything wrong though – he even said "I agree it has taken quite a while but a lot of this delay has been as a result of the bad weather.", which frankly makes me a bit cross! 5 months is neither "quite a while", nor has "a lot of it" been due to bad weather.Posted 8 years ago
What you got and how long it's taken are different things. He has (almost) done what was agreed, but it's taken longer than you thought. But you didn't agree a definite time scale and so IMHO there is little you can, or should be allowed to do at this stage of proceedings.
They are not entirely different things. It's not "longer than I thought" in the sense that I had unrealistic expectations. It's longer than any reasonable person would expect, and longer than he explicitly led me to believe.
If you take a look here:
"You are also entitled to expect that a service will be:
carried out with reasonable care and skill
finished by the date you have agreed with the person providing the service, or within a reasonable time if you haven't agreed a specific date"
For the reasons that I have explained, it did not make sense to terminate the contract earlier in the hope that we could get someone else to finish it off.Posted 8 years agolyonsMember
Well, he has been taking the piss really. Thats unnacceptable.
But you have been too easy on him. I had a customer complain, because a job took a week longer (5 days) than i said mainly to the snow, and christmas. Its the only complaint i've had so far working for myself. But the
bitchcustomer didnt pay me the balance till 3 weeks after i finished the job either I thought that was unfair, but 5 months is far too much, if he didnt have time to do the work, he shouldn't have accepted it.
Can't reall think what to reccomend with payment, but he will probably get angry if you dont pay him the full ammount.Posted 8 years ago
For the reasons that I have explained, it did not make sense to terminate the contract earlier in the hope that we could get someone else to finish it off.
But you should have told him what you thought was reasonable and what you would do if he didn't finish by x date. He could argue that he thought that you understood that the timescale was ok, because you didn't agree definite dates. The bottom line is that you should have acted sooner. So what are you going to do if he says he is going to take another 2 months to finish?Posted 8 years agowrightysonMember
You can't seriously expect any tradesman to basically knock 25% off his fee if the end product is there and working fine, granted, the bloke has taken major liberties but I honestly don't think you have any legal hope because am I right in thinking it's the dreaded verbal contract. The warranty for the boiler isn't really an issue now because in theory you've had it 5 months and that's when it will be valid from, not the date of the final commision!Posted 8 years agodeadlydarcyMember
gray, I do not wish to sound patronising (which usually means I'm going to sound patronising 😕 ) but you're kind of learning an important lesson here. The plumber is treating you as what's known in the trade as a "hospital" job. He's obviously the kind of guy that does quality work but when he's got someone who's just a bit "too" reasonable, he starts taking the piss. As soon as he's let get away with it, he just keeps taking the piss and now you're five months and a cold January down the line without a fully functioning central heating system.
From my experience in trade, frankly he's taking the big fat michael out of you.
geoffj – Member
What you got and how long it's taken are different things. He has (almost) done what was agreed, but it's taken longer than you thought.
Sorry, geoffj, let's be realistic here…"longer than you thought" might be one thing if it's a few weeks or ended up with a plumber in the house on Christmas Eve bleeding radiators with relatives about to arrive for drinks, but we're now almost mid way through February on a job that the plumber said would be finished "well before" the end of October. I make that running over now by three and a half months, and looking like four. This isn't just "sorry, it's taken a bit longer than I thought". This is "sorry, I've got other clients where I'm making really good, fast, easy money and for now, I couldn't really give a shit about you. I get you finished for Springtime, it'll feel like I've not done the work at all and then I'll invoice you for £4k and that'll pay for the Summer holiday". Christ knows, I'm normally the one defending tradesmen here, but this guy's gone beyond the pale IMO. And gives the rest of us a bad name.
That said gray, you've been too nice and have to bear a little bit of responsibility for letting him get away with it. He could rightfully say "well, it's not been a problem up to now mate…what's the big deal?"
I would e-mail him, and give him a completion date (but not, like, tomorrow). Tell him if he's not finished by that date, you will withhold any further payment and employ another plumber (don't worry, someone will do it and the warranty will be fine) to finish the work. Bollocks to him getting any "balance". Tell him in polite terms that you'll see him in court unless he gets his act together.
Now the next part…when he's finished, send him a cheque (or even better, do a bank transfer) for whatever the outstanding amount is minus £750 and explain in writing that this is what you feel the job is worth given that it's taken so long and caused you such inconvenience. Fight it out from there…he won't take you to court for £750.
As a last word, I suspect something far more sinister from our plumber friend which I see going on all the time on "hospital" jobs but I'll leave it at that.Posted 8 years agostonemonkeyMember
I am afraid He's takin the piss, say to him you hope to pay him in 1 month and then pay him in 5. In a way you have let it get too far and you should of taken action much sooner but enough of that talk. Personally i would pay him for the work done and then get someone else in.Posted 8 years agodeadlydarcyMember
Deadly – I agree with you, the point is that the op has not been firm enough and is complaining way too late in the process.
I know geoffj, and I agree with you. I think from the OP's other posts, he and his partner have been trying, but too nicely, to get the guy to finish up in time, and now they're just so pissed off that they've lost the rag. It'll come as a shock to the plumber but he doesn't have a great deal of sympathy from me anyway.
Normally I try to see posts from the middle classes on STW from the tradesman's POV just to add a bit of objectivity and sometimes I can see that the "client" is being unreasonable about something causing the TM to be unreasonable about something else.
But I hate people being treated shittily because they've been too nice and not whinged enough.
Do you suspect anything from our plumber friend BTW?Posted 8 years agoJacksonPollockMember
Just get him to complete the work then pay him what you think it's worth. Tell him to take you to the small claims court if he feels this is unacceptable.
Not sure of the rights and wrongs of this, but it's what I'd do if I'd been messed around like that.
You could have probably taken a plumbing/gas safe course and done it yourself in that time!Posted 8 years ago
Thanks all for the advice / comments.
I've contacted the CAB, and they have said that they think that I am entirely within my rights to withhold some of the fee, but weren't able to advise on how much. I contacted the CIPHE (Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering) and asked if they could give any guidance, but they weren't able to. He's not responding to any attempts to negotiate, so it looks as though I'm just going to have to decide what I think is fair, pay him that much and suggest that if he's not willing to accept it then he'll have to take me to court.Posted 8 years agoPigfaceMember
My land lady had a dispute with a plumber and he stole the gas meter from out the front of the house. Amazingly he didnt get done even though my land lady is a copper. He was made a case of special interest of who stopped him virtually daily for a month. She is still working out her revenge 😯Posted 8 years agodave_rudabarMember
Have you asked him what other work he's been doing in that time, to me it sounds like he took your job not expecting to make much at all, esp. given having to travel to you, and now has easier/better work nearer to home so he's just not that fussed.
Have you managed to speak to him again yet?Posted 8 years agoprojectMember
He may have another job, possibly working full time for somebody as an employee,and comes to you on days of or books holidays,thats why his price was low, and he picks stuff up from his paid employmnet.
or he may be a closet biker and spends all his spar time reading bike forums,while sitting in an office,perhaps if he reads this thread he may well pop round.Posted 8 years agoJunkyardMember
I would get another plumber in pay them to complete – send him the rest minus some and not respond to anything he does or says. Doubt he will take you to court as he will not look that good trying to explain why it took him 5 months to NOT complete your job and defnding that as reasonable. PLus there may be publicity about this.Posted 8 years ago
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