Q. In our previous house we had some work done by a licensed electrician that started in the fall of 2006. Work proceeded and we paid him as we progressed but at a snail’s pace.
In February of 2007 we lost contact with him entirely and proceeded to search for another electrician to complete the work, which at that stage was simply a whole lot of tiling to fill in the where he had not finished the job. The quotes we received were for almost as much as we had paid him to the point of his departure, so my father and I took it upon ourselves to complete the job (lots of hours and frustration).
In the meantime, we received a letter from the Electrical Safety Authority that our electrician had been working while suspended. We have now received an invoice from him late in 2008 for $700 to complete the work that he never completed.
What is your advice?
A. First of all, I have to give you kudos for completing the work and I trust that the work you completed, did not involve electrical work except for cosmetic applications. It raises a concern that I see on a weekly basis in my real estate practice. Trades people lying about their qualifications or the status as that type of specialist. The first source I would turn to when hiring a trade person is their governing authority that looks after their industry. They will gladly provide a list of qualified (and up to date) practitioners.
The dishonesty and failure to communicate are also common problems with hiring trades people. For some reason, there seems to be a disconnect between the home owner and the hired hand; especially after they have signed on the dotted line and the job has commenced.
Considering the length of time since the bulk of the work was done and the e-mailed invoice for $700, I would send back a correspondence indicating that he did not complete his contractual obligations and therefore you owe him nothing (you had to take time off work and extra energy to complete what he should have done). Ensure your communication is firm but polite. Nasty letters only prompt unwarranted small claims court actions (even if the claim is unwarranted).
P.S. I have to stress here that there are a lot of very competent and entirely dependable trade people out there. The trick is finding them.
– Jeffrey D. Cowan is the principal of Cowan & Taylor, Barristers & Solicitors, email@example.com. The information contained in this article should not be relied upon as legal advice.