Fired our Contractor

We were unhappy with the standard of work and the time it was taking to complete our renovations so we fired the 'builder' and have had his carpenter complete part of the project and paid the carpenter the amount owing to him by the builder.

Now the 'builder' is asking for the rest of the payment from the devis. Even though they are English he (and his wife) having written a letter in french demanding payment. Do we have to respond in french?

I have plenty of photographic evidence of his botched work. Where does this leave us legally?

Thanks for any help.

Hello Jo Anne,

Without access to all the facts, no-one can possibly advise you and you should be very careful about your next step. You mention a "devis", and this will be the first key to the whole matter. Without compromising your situation - and bear in mind that your builder might well watch this Forum on SFN, a properly constituted devis is a legally binding contract and there are hard and fast rules about this. The fact that your builder is English has nothing whatsoever to do with it, assuming he is a properly registered artisan or business, and any 'official' letter MUST be written in French - both ways - because it is French Law that applies.

My bilingual helpline could certainly help and advise you on this and probably find a mutually agreed solution, but because of the importance of doing the right thing, and of confidentiality, this forum is definitely not the place to air all the facts and issues.

If you would like to contact me privately, you will find my contact details on my personal page, of you could my website and follow the links to the contact page. I would be please to advise and to help.

Tim Abady

Oh yes. Normes, the word means a lot in law and a fair bit less in practice. But any builder worth his salt should know that. No court will allow anything through that is not norm-conform.

Sorry about the misspelling …bloody predictive text…

I too like glen am a builder and what he says is correct if he decides to pursue you he will have to cough up a 2000 euro aaa staring fee and it. Old take him forever to get you into a court and if you have evidence to back your claims he could end up with nothing …just ignore him he will eventually find another poor victim to rip off …it just gives us decent builders a bad name…

Avoid litigation at all costs if possible for obvious reasons, as you may end up out of pocket. In all disputes of this kind especially with artisans you should always try to find a solution "amiable". It does depend on the sums involved and how strong his desire is to chase payment. He (or you) may have to employ the services of an "expert " as Keith mentioned ,to assess the work already started and it will be his findings that the court will make judgement on if it goes this far.

If the builders work is as shabby as described then you can call his bluff and stand fast, as Brian suggested. Above all, don't ignore any letters as this will go against you in any legal action. Reply in French with your counter arguments and photographic evidence and make sure all correspondence is recommandéée avec avis de réception. Look up the DTU regulations and any Normes for the work and quote any discrepances you find in your reply letters. Show him you means business too ! You could always say you are going to counter claim against him for having to get the other artisan to finish.

The "weak" area is that , before you got shot of him it might have been wise to have written to him and given him a reasonable opportunity chance to correct any faults.

Thanks Tracy - Prior to this we had a 'talk' with him about performance. Yes we did tell him to take his equipment off site verbally and the carpenter was there but not within earshot (that would have been rude), but he realized what was happening and helped the builder load his equipment. We have emails back and forth about what happened and I have pictures of the poor quality or work which hastened us to fire him.

Will send the letter and see what happens. Again thanks!

Thanks again Brian. Aye, I have read enough on this forum and other venues that legal action is long and arduous road. Bonne soiree.

Legally standing, it depends what you have in writing - eg how did you 'fire' the builder? If you simply told him to 'b---r of' then you may well find you are still liable to pay the balance.

As usual in France, the paperwork trail has to be followed and obeyed in triplicate. You may respond in English, however, if it ends up in court you will have to pay to get everything translated into French.

My friend is gone, so unless I get him to reply to an email I have no answer myself. I'll pass, but just by keeping ahead of the game you are likely to put him off. One thing everybody knows is that starting a legal action means you're going to spend money but have no guarantee of getting any back.

Thank you Brian and thank goodness for cups of tea.

I have to think that legally the money paid to the carpenter would/could not be applied to the devis even though the builder asked us to pay with carpenter. I think the builder underbid the job and then realized his error. He is also now claiming for material and labour not in the contract. Since the builder was fired and could not complete the work, would that count against us in a court of law? I very well understand the contractor lien laws of the USA but do not have the same knowledge base here.

I just sat here with a builder who called in for a couple of tea (and the hope of some work in the near future I suspect). He has been in France for many years. He thinks the builder is simply trying it on. If, which you don't make absolutely clear, he is not even paying his carpenter himself then he is unlikely to wish to risk costing himself a lot of money to pursue you. By all means, my 'friend' says, write in French. The more you do to show that you will take all steps to protect your interests then the less likely he is to try to take action. The problem is that the devis makes it a contract and it will be up to you to prove that he is not meeting his obligations.