advice please - dodgy repairs and invoices

i was preparing my house for rental YAAA!! :D

i contacted a handyman to remove the old bathroom tiles and to prep it for tiling.

in the process of him doing this, he broke my vanity unit, broke my light fitting, broke the leg of my chair and almost destroyed my suede furniture because of the dust. all he had to do was to close the door between the hallway and the lounge room to stop the dust entering.

he originally quoted me $525 dollars but then informed me that it took him an extra 4 hours so he charged me an extra $160 and an additional $30 for wood.
i have no proof that he did this but nevertheless, was prepared to pay.

however, i did request, by letter, that he amend the invoice for part of the damages that he caused. the light fitting itself, which was attached to the wall, was $100, plus the electrician's fees - the light was connected behind the plaster and therefore had to be professionally installed.
the vanity unit was damaged and it could not be put back into place. i had to call a plumber to fix the vanity and the piping - when the handyman pulled it out of the wall, he broke the outdoor pipe that led to the sewerage waste.
my suede chair that he broke - well, suffice to say, it was too costly to be repaired..

he ignored my request and this time sent me another invoice.. this time he added the gst which was not on the previous one.. that made the invoice $797 ish.. i emailed him but he ignored me.. he subsequently went to mendelsons, debt recovery.. he advised them that i owed him $1100, not the $725 that he invoiced me! mendelsons is also charging me $225 for legal fees!

i rang him to speak to about this. he sniggered and basically told me that if i don't pay, i will ruin my reputation through bad debt! i advised him that i had the original invoices. he hung up.

what rights do i have?

i have all his invoices, the ones with and without gst, and now have the letter from mendlesons demanding close to $400 more, plus legal fees..

on paper, he looks very dodgy.. the letter from mendlesons states that i owe him for computer services - obviously this guy is dipping his hands in a few areas..
I would go to the Department of Fair Trading. Write a letter, detailing exactly what transpired and how it transpired. Get it proof-read for clarity (maybe post it here for comment). I am sure that you will get a satisfactory response as they don't particularly like Small Business that takes advantage of their customers.

I am sure the ATO would like to know what this person is up to as well.:cool:

how long was it between the job being done and the letter from the debt recovery agency?

It sounds like you were in contact during that period.

I think Skater's idea is a good one. Get it down on paper with all p/work copied and copies of all the work you had done after to rectify. Be careful with your wording and leave out any emotional stuff - keep it concise and business-like and get it off to Fair Trading pronto.

Then I'd contact the debt recovery mob and explain to them your side of the problem and that you have forwarded all paperwork to FT for them to assess. That should keep them off your back for a short period. It is better not to ignore them - as they won't go away and the fees will continue.

Good luck with it all, please let us know how you get on.
hi minxdamanx,

it was around 2 months between job completion and debt agency.

thanks for your advice.

will keep you posted.
Do you have copies of your correspondence querying the debt? You must get it on record that you are disputing the debt due to damages, rather than just ignoring the invoice.

I confess I find it hard to believe that he's done so much damage. Maybe he did, but on the surface, it sounds like you're being a bit precious about your stuff. So just be careful when you word it in your letters - disputing the invoice, and to Fair Trading or whoever - that you don't come across as melodramatic.

eg "Broke my vanity" - I doubt the vanity has been pulped into a million pieces, so perhaps it would be better to say "cracked the stone surface", or "bent the door hinge", or "scratched the laminate". ie be specific about what's broken, and make sure you can back it up with photos.

"Broke the leg of my chair" - does this mean that he aesthetically damaged the leg, that it was snapped right off, or what? Why can't the leg be replaced?

Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, when you're pursuing people for damages to your property, you're not entitled to have them corrected/fixed to exactly how they were, you're entitled to reasonable compensation. An example: my son dropped something heavy on one of our balcony tiles and chipped it. The only real way to get the balcony back how it was would be to take up a good portion of the tiles in the area - probably all of them (hundreds of square metres) :eek: - and replace them. A Court would not find it reasonable that we be charged $20K so that the tiled balcony can be put back exactly how it was, due to chipping one tile. They'd probably find that we have to either replace one tile (which would look dicky), or more likely, compensate the owners for the "loss of enjoyment/aesthetic quality" due to one chipped tile, which will probably come to less than $50.

Generally, unless he's been grossly negligent or malicious, your damages would usually be less than the cost of the job, because Courts don't think it's reasonable for people to work for no pay. :eek: Therefore, having paid nothing puts you somewhat at a disadvantage. Your position would be stronger if you sent him a letter saying "Your invoice was X, but I deducted Y for damages (detailed exactly), therefore I'm sending you a cheque for Z".

Good luck. It doesn't help that he's unethical (computer services!) as well as a poor workman; you could be in for a difficult time.
He's bluffing you with the debt collection agency. They are toothless tigers, they do little but send nasty letters.

Ring them up and explain why you are not paying. As ozperp says, its not that you are ignoring the invoice for no reason. Tell them the handyman should stop wasting their time as you are not paying.

I have been through this before with debt collection agencies and they know sill tradies and handyman waste their time and resources and he might have to pay them in the end for wasting their time.

Offer to pay his invoice amount minus the cost of repairs for the damage he did. (offer 50% of his first invoice or zero) Explain that if he doesn't accept that you are willing to go to court etc. (you can bluff too you know...its all about bluff in these situations)

Its too early for DFT or ATO yet.
And there's always the small claims court, but either way it'll help to get invoices/quotes for fixing/replacing the light and repairing the chair.

You might also want to shop around cheaper places for a similar-but-not-gold-plated light fitting (Bunnings sells a lot around the $20 mark) and even the chair.

What DID he do to your chair? I had a relative around 2 Christmases ago who was rocking back on a new (secondhand) oak chair of mine that I had just bought and varnished. He snapped off one leg and one of the back supports. The chair cost me $5 despite being a really nice looking antique chair so I just wrote that off to a casualty of Christmas cheer.
update -

i rang up the debt collecting agency, mendlesons, and explained to them that i am pursuing an application via vcat.

his solicitor asked me what i was willing to pay. i told him $600, which was the amount that i originally said that i was willing to pay.

he got back to me around 10 minutes later and informed me that the handyman has accepted this! i still have not agreed to this but i probably will.

thanks for all your advice. i have learned so much through this experience - especially in terms of photographing all evidence. thanks ozperp

the chair - my suede chair! he broke the leg by pushing the vanity unit into leg. the leg snapped in half. i went back to the furniture maker and quoted me an excessive price.

btw, the handyman told the solicitor that he was invoicing me $1100 plus legal costs because he was charging a commission for late payment. the solicitor informed him that he could not do that because it was not in the contract.. the commission was $400 more than the original invoice of $725!

again thanks! :)
check to see if he is GST regestered and if he is not he has holes all through his case, but now you have learned not to use cow boys, and get somone reputable next time, Nasty folk out there be carefull,
Wow, artemis, from the way you were talking, I would never have believed you were willing to accept $125 discount for the damage, I got the impression you weren't willing to pay him anything!

I wonder if he also had this impression, and that's why he got so narky?

Why didn't you just pay him $600 and explain that you'd deducted $125 for damages, in the first place? It probably would have avoided this whole experience. (Perhaps that's one of the lessons learned. ;))
ozperp, i did offer him the $600 the day after i received the invoice!! he refused to accept it. he stood at my door and told me that he was going to ruin me and that my reputation was going to be trash! he actually was trying to bully and intimidate me and this was only the day after he sent me the invoice! he began to snigger and try to enter my house but i stood firm. i replied via letter outlining why i was deducting $125 and he responded by charging me GST via his computer company.

ironically after breaking my light fitting, he did say that he was going to replace and install it. btw, he broke my light by using a sledgehammer to remove the wall tiles.

now he is going to have to pay the legal fees for the solicitor/debt collection agency.

craigb, i have learnt not to use cowboys again! i chose him because by far he was the cheapest. but after starting the job, he kept increasing the rate. i just can't believe that he tried to add $400 commission due to late payment. this wasn't stated anywhere in the 'contract'.
I don't understand from the outset. You say 'he originally quoted me $525 dollars' from reading your post he delivered nothing over and above the job that he quoted on, so that is all you should have paid him - end of story.

This is before all the damage that he inflicted.

hi handyandy,

he told me that i had rotted wood that needed fixing, just behind the shower wall and also the bath frame.. that became an additional cost that i was prepared to pay..

what he didn't tell me is what he quoted per hour as that was not in the original quote.
what he didn't tell me is what he quoted per hour as that was not in the original quote.

Yep. Had someone try and do that to me recently.

I requested and he gave me a 'fixed' price quote. This was for setting gyprock and fixing cornices, so all external jobs and no surprises. In the request for qoute I mentioned the level of finish required.

He then took longer than he expected as it turned out he wasn't as experienced as required.

Anyway at the end I wasn't happy with the job particularly the cornices as some of the corners were well and truely out. I then insisted that he fix the corners well the carry on and out came the statement 'I only quoted for so many hours'.

Huh, no I ask for an all up cost to completion. Bellyached the whole way but finished the job.

Doesn't help your situation but I think it is a common perception amongst tradies.