not knowing where to turn, I've come here. I have purchased a home this year and have done some renovation through a contractor. In the

Asked by Sunnyvalehomeowner, 94087 Mon Nov 16, 2009

process the contractor replaced some plumbing, including supply lines and drains. I understood this to be part of the original contract, because he never mentioned that this was not covered in the original contract nor that it would cost extra. Now after everything is over, he is charging us for this work. Can he do this? (my expectation is that he would stop the work, tell me that there is extra damage that was uncovered and that it would cost me whatever amount in addition to the original contracted amount. In this case, he just did the work and only now is trying to get paid.

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Alan May, Agent, Evanston, IL
Sun Dec 5, 2010
I'm glad that you won (it sounds like a reasonable conclusion to me), but I know how these things go, and it probably ate away at your stomach lining all this time, so I hope he had to pay LOTS for your time and pain.

(just as a side note to Ruth & Perry's comment... where they said: "He can effectively put a mechanics lien in time and have your home sold at Auction." That's not quite accurate. Yes, they could have put a mechanics lien on the property.... but they couldn't force your home to be sold at auction based on that lien. It would have mean that the lien would have had to be "paid off" before the home could be transferred or sold.)

Congrats on the win.
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Debra (Debbi…, Agent, Livingston, NJ
Sun Dec 5, 2010
Sunny, I am new to this thread, but I just want to say congratulations on winning your lawsuit!

You did a great job - did your due dilligence, and should be proud of the outcome!
Way to go!

All the best!
Debbie Rose
Prudential NJ Properties
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Sunnyvalehom…, Home Buyer, 94087
Sun Dec 5, 2010
thanks to everyone for the responses...I just thought I would give an update on this situation. The contractor sued me in small claims for this and other similar charges that totaled $7K, so I counter-sued with my own claims against him. I did my own research (small claims court does not allow for individuals to be represented by attorneys) and found that it is unlawful in California to make changes to an existing contract without the prior written consent of the homeowner. I argued this in court, prepared over 100 pages of explanation and documents, and won the case. The contractor appealed the judgment and I won again in appeal...for an even larger amount. He now is making monthly installments on money he owes me. I'm glad the justice system works. Thanks to all who responded...I've learned a lot through the process, but am happy that I can move on.
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Ruth and Per…, Agent, Los Gatos, CA
Sat Dec 4, 2010
Hi Sunnyvalehoembuyer

Regret to hear about your problem.

A builder with a well defined contract should not be doing items at will and charging.
A lot depends on the work being done with is with permits.

If that is the case and City or Town requires it, then there is not much of a choice but he has to
Run the costs and expenses by you. Clearly, you are replacing old drains and fitting them with new pipes, there
Are dimension changes that would not allow you to connect new to old. Hence, he will be justified.

Since, he has already done the work and it seems this is all un permitted work, it will be tough for you
To dispute this, as otherwise the scope of work would be defined by permit schedule.

He can effectively put a mechanics lien in time and have your home sold at Auction.

Good luck.
Perry and Ruth
Distressed Property Expert.
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Tina Lam, Agent, San Jose, CA
Wed Dec 1, 2010
A good contractor should have the scope of work. Does it cover the plumbing work you described? And does it say that if out of scope work is needed, the contractor should seek homeowner's approval? Also ask him for the receipts of the replacement materials. That should provide proof if he actually has done the work.
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Sam Shueh, , San Jose, CA
Mon Nov 29, 2010
It happens often. Even if one does not stop the contractor he may have forgotten it is not in the contract. He might have done it because he assumed you did not mind. I will look at the intention. How many hours did he spent on it? Then asked what the hourly rate is.
Most Sunnyvale homes drains and plumbing are so old it is time for a replacement or facing leaks...

If It is done you don't mind the replacement, I would compensate the contractor.
I would say something like: "You blew the budget but can only pay so much." It is much better to seek a win-win compromise situation as liens etc are not something anyone is looking forward to.....

Good luck!
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David Blockh…, Agent, Los Altos, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Re-read the contract that you signed with the contractor. What does it say? What does the "boiler plate" part of the contract say about change orders? Were the supply lines etc. included in the contract or was it "open ended"? How is work that is not specified in the contract to be done? Are there additional charges for changes in the contract (change orders)?

Is this person a licensed contractor, licensed to do the work that you have hired him for. You can check with the contractor's state licensing board at

Lastly, your real estate agent that helped you buy the house should be a resource. What has he/she said about the situation?
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Michael Vale…, Agent, Pleasanton, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Hello, what does the contract actually say? If it does say it includes the plumbing work I think you should be covered. However, if it's not in the contract it may be open to interpretation. It might be best to simply discuss it with the contractor and see if something can be worked out. It's important to work it out though because he could file a mechanic's lien on the house if he feels he is in the right and does not get paid.
This would mean you would have to pay him for his services before you could sell or refinance. I hope everything works out.
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