Get it in writing. Those are four words you need to repeat to yourself over and over whenever you have someone doing work on your house. Just ask the California woman who learned that her house-painters had torn down her patio cover, not because they were clumsy or reckless, but because that’s what they thought she’d asked for.
The homeowner tells CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming that she’d hired a house-painting company to, well… paint her house and her patio cover. But after the contract for $3,556 was drawn up, she inquired about having a sheet of dirty fiberglass removed from the patio cover.
“I said this fiberglass up here, I would like it removed. Can you do that? and he said, ‘No my company won’t let me do that,’” she tells Ming.
However, a second employee at the company said it could be done for another $200, which she agreed to but which she didn’t get in writing.
Which is how, a few hours later, she was horrified to find that the patio cover, which had spanned the whole side of her house, was no longer standing.
“I came out and saw the pile,” she recalls. “I was devastated.”
She says at first that the painting company was willing to work with her on getting a new cover up, but balked after their own contractor quoted them a price of $9,000.
At this point, the painters say that the workers were under the impression that she wanted the cover torn down. Since she didn’t have anything in writing to indicate exactly what was agreed-upon, it became a game of she-said/they-said.
“Any time you make a change from that original contract, which would be called a change order, you need to also document that and both parties need to sign it,” a rep for the Contractors State License Board tells Ming. The rep does add that these painters may not have been allowed to perform the demo work on the patio cover, even if that is what the homeowner wanted: “Demolition is not part of their classification. That would be called working out of classification.”
In a statement to CBS Sacramento, the painting company claims that it did work to get the issue resolved in only a few weeks, and chalks up the whole thing to a “misunderstanding” on the job site and that it was within its classification to tear down the cover.
Writes the company:
“We contracted to paint the home and patio cover, in the spring. When we showed up to do the work, she asked for a price to ‘take it down.’ Given that our license allows us to do work that is incidental to the paint job, we proceeded to quote her a price for this additional work. We believed she agreed and we did what we thought she wanted. Unfortunately, we did not document the contract modification in writing (even though it is our standard practice to do so).”
While they maintain they were only following what they believed were clear instructions, “we give our clients the benefit of the doubt,” and say they have contracted to get a brand new cover up to replace the one that was torn down.
So please don’t let this happen to you. Any change to an agreed-upon scope of work should always be put in writing. It’s in the interest of both parties and can save a lot of finger-pointing later if something goes wrong.