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firing a plumbing contractor, can I negotiate the bill for the work that's done?

firing a plumbing contractor, can I negotiate the bill for the work that's done?


  #1  
Old 01-04-10, 01:38 PM
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firing a plumbing contractor, can I negotiate the bill for the work that's done?

Thanks all, for looking at my question. First, I'm in Seattle, WA, and my question relates to a plumbing bill I received, after firing the company for continually increasing their price for the work to be performed.

Background: I'm having plumbing work done at my house by a local company the cost is skyrocketing out of control. What started as a $500 service call has become $19,000 of main sewer line work, and this isn't even all the work needed. Over New Year's day (Friday) and Saturday they spent time working, giving me updated costs along the way. Each time the price would go up they'd go over what additional work was needed, and I'd sign a contract for that price (they didn't explain this was a contract at the time, I thought I was signing an estimate). The last 'contract' I signed was for $19,000 and change. On Sunday I called a couple other places and found out I was being gouged, for lack of a better word. I fired plumbers but I owe them something for the 2 days they spent on site.

I just got a call from the supervisor and the bill for the 2 days is what I believe to be obscene. Close to $10,000 for 2 days of digging, and equipment rental. According to the other plumber I talked to (who would be finishing their work) he values the work they did at about $2500. Among other things, there is $180/hr * 40+ hours of plumber time, and backhoe rental etc... I think these rates are ridiculous, but I don't know what other options I have but to pay it, or have them complete the job since they're already half way into the cost anyway. What recourse do I have in refuting these amounts? Do I have to accept these amounts or do I have any legal ground in saying the work is only worth, say $4000. Thanks everyone.

Andrew
 
  #2  
Old 01-04-10, 02:31 PM
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You don't sign estimates. You sign contracts and change orders. You signed the change orders which were amendments to the original contract, indicating you agreed to pay the prices.
Unless someone else here has a better solution, you may be stuck, unless you can negotiate reasonably with the owner of the company, explaining the time spent and equipment used and their costs.
Why were they doing the additional work? I hate Christmas/New Year's weeks since no one wants you in their home stirring up dust. These guys were on a roller coaster to the bank, or so it appears. They worked the entire holiday season at your expense.
Negotiate.
 
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Old 01-04-10, 02:57 PM
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I'm not sure what to tell you but I wanted to pointed a couple things out:

Friday (New Years day) could be considered double time and a half (2 1/2 time) and Saturday would be time and a half (1 1/2 time) That is likely where the $180/hr comes from.

It sounds like they were quite up front about how much the work they were doing was going to cost. Was this an emergency call? Couldn't have waited until today?
 
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Old 01-04-10, 04:28 PM
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Definitely an emergency call. An initial call that spiraled out of my control, as the cost went higher and higher. I fully admit that knowing what I know now, I'd handle the situation differently and would have waited until Monday and called a bunch of different places. At the time, and based on what they had told me, I had no way of knowing what the final tally would be, and by the time they got to that 19k figure, they'd already been here 2 days and I felt trapped.

I sincerely hope the 180/hr isn't based on holiday pay. I deliberately asked the supervisor, and the operator on the phone during the initial call, and the workers when they showed up if their rates were different on weekends, or holidays. I was told expressly, 'No' we do not charge differently for work done on New Years' day or weekends. $180/hour does feel about 2.5 times higher than what I would expect to pay. Does anyone else thing that's an exorbitant rate? I sure do.
 
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Old 01-04-10, 04:47 PM
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Prices do vary all over but $180 does sound a bit on the very high side. You could talk to him and get a break down on the costs. You could also have a friend call and ask his hourly rates from a different phone number and see if he is sticking it to you.

FWTW - We charge $125 per hour for the first 2 hrs and $75 per hour after that on a regular service call plus material.

I believe he is charging you time and a half for sure now that I did the calculations. i bet his standard rate is $120/hr
 
  #6  
Old 01-04-10, 04:55 PM
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A couple of extra points. The $180 can be the normal price, plumbers are expensive. Equipment rentals are often priced on the estimated time you will have the machine. Rent it for a week and it is less of a per day cost than the day to day charges. He may have gotten blistered when he returned the machines, or are they still there at your expense.

Do you have your copies of what you signed, they need to be reviewed carefully. There can be an argument about them not honoring the first quoted price and then the second price and then the third one, thus how could the last one you signed be trusted as a contract, since they have clearly demonstrated the previous ones were wrong. You had every expectation that they would be back with another and another so had to yell stop at some point.

Good luck.
Bud
 
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Old 01-04-10, 05:36 PM
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Hey guys, thanks for the replies. I appreciate everyone's input.

This is a break-down of the charges so far (as told to me over the phone this morning):

Please keep in mind to date, I have nothing to show for any of this besides 2 big holes in the ground. No materials what-so-ever.

shoring: $500 (rental of supports for the trench they dug)
backhoe: $1200 - 1 day of use.
jetter : $550 (used to attempt to clear the line initially)
camera: $350
helpers: $1320 (apprentice workers @ 60/hr)
plumbers: $7200 (40 hours @ 180/hour)

I would love to hear from some pro's about these charges. In my admittedly novice opinion, being charged for the 'tools of the trade' is BS. I wouldn't expect the contract who remodels my bathroom to charge me for his chop saw and hammer, just like I wouldn't expect a plumber to charge me for his camera in addition to his time. All these things seem to me to be typical tools used by a plumber during the course of his day. This, in addition to the extremely high hourly rate makes me feel sickened, and really taken advantage of. Thanks all,
Andrew
 
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Old 01-05-10, 12:12 AM
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All those numbers sound pretty high to me. The frost line in Seattle isn't down that far - a small backhoe would probably suffice. Shoring is a good idea, but how deep is the trench? How far from your house to the street?

One thing I would recommend is to call your home owners insurance. At one time, they would cover all the costs of building drain replacement, but that was a while ago. Still, it's worth a call to your agent.

If there's a consumer help line up there (tv stations sometimes have them), you might give them as call too.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 04:44 AM
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And this is why Do It Yourself sites exist.
I can feel your pain.
For that kind of money you could have given me a call and I could have dug those 2 holes for a lot less with my pick axe and round mouth. Kidding.
One one hand it makes sense to leave work to pros
On the other it makes sense to hire the teens next door to start digging.
I cant offer any advice but to seek a lawer and see what can be done.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 09:22 AM
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Again, thanks everyone for the help and support. Update: I got a call from the owner of xxxxxx Plumbing this morning and we had a good conversation about my job, and what they could do to make it right for me. I really appreciated that, it helped me feel less ripped off, if that makes sense. We came to an agreement to finish the job for $12,250, down from their original price of $19,500. I still feel like I'm paying more for this job than I could have, had I known what I know now. 20/20 hind sight and all that. But now at least I'm only overpaying by 2k instead of 10, and I can live with that. I still need to address the break under the street, which is going to be even more money, but I'm going to call as many places as I can and do this second part of the job the right way.

Thanks everyone for the help, I don't think I would have been able to negotiate the deal I got without all of your input, so thanks, you've saved me a bunch of money.

Andrew
 

Last edited by the_tow_guy; 01-05-10 at 10:30 AM. Reason: Just removed the company name.
 

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