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The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

Know what your contract says

Posted on Sep 08, 2010

Posted: May 06, 2010 7:16 PM EDT
Updated: May 06, 2010 7:16 PM EDT

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - What happens when your contractor wants to change the price after the contract is signed? Are they required to do the work for the price in the original contract? 12 On Your Side looked into a homeowner's complaint.

It depends on what's spelled out in the contract. In this case though, a consumer law attorney says, no.

George May hired 'AAPCO of Richmond, LC' to demolish his porch and build a brick veneer one with sand filler, vinyl rails, and post columns. Total cost, $6,000. The written contract called for a $2,000 down payment which George paid. Before the crew broke ground, AAPCO found a problem with the price.

"He said the measurement is right but the problem is with the brick. They didn't charge enough for the bricks," said George.

The job would cost $10,000 instead of $6,000; not what George agreed to when he and the salesman signed the contract.

"That's the price I should be paying not an extra $4,000," George said.

AAPCO's GM said, "We want the work. We don't like surprises, but a company can go under on the 'unexpected'." It also says it's a 3rd party contract, which is "not" binding to either party until a company official does a pre-job inspection and signs - accepting the agreement. That line is blank on George's contract.

"I think the attempt to say it's a 3rd party contract & they're not obligated is a clear example of a misrepresentation," said Consumer Law Attorney John Gayle.

Gayle says AAPCO should honor the contract.

"I don't see where the contract does give them the power to change the deal," Gayle said.

Unexpected things do crop up, through no fault of the contractor, who then may be able to draw up an addendum depending on what's in the contract. The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation says a contract should state - price changes must be done in writing, and signed by all parties and include a ‘buyer's right to cancel'.

AAPCO's contract has those elements, but if May's contract isn't official -- then when does his right cancel take affect?

"My opinion is it is a way for them to stonewall and talk people who are not lawyers into changing the terms of a contract," said Gayle.

AAPCO chose not to talk on camera. The homeowner and AAPCO have reached a compromise, which keeps the job at the original price. Meantime, it's smart to ask the contractor -- if the 'unexpected' happens, what will this contract do for you?

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