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Matt D

01:28PM | 10/20/03
Member Since: 10/19/03
4 lifetime posts
Bvplumbing
I recently had some plumbing work done at my house. Prior to having it done, I obviously got a written estimate from the plumbers. I was surprised that they had estimated it would take 40 hrs. but, since it was an estimate, they were being conservative. I ended up helping with a number of things during the work, which save considerable time. My tally on all the labor was 22 hrs. The bill arrived last week for the exact amount of the estimate (i.e. 40 hrs. labor). The difference in worked vs. billed labor is $900!

My question is: Isn't an estimate exactly that -- an estimate? I signed nothing saying I would agree to pay the amount they had provided in the written estimate. Or is this just business as usual?

plumber Tom

02:16PM | 10/20/03
Member Since: 05/10/03
810 lifetime posts
Yes, could be more could be less. The plumber was not working on time and material, he was working off that estimate. He's not going to pay you for helping, even though you cut hours off his time. You probably read @ the well driller in the fix-it-forem. Everyone conducts his or her business differently. Had your plumber done the job for time and material he would not have gotten paid for those extra hours that you helped. Let's say, 65.00 per hour x 40=$2,600.00+ material. Does this sound too high for the job that was done?

Glenn Good

02:52PM | 10/20/03
Member Since: 09/10/03
320 lifetime posts
I disagree.

If the estimate was broken down to the number of hours and the labor rate per hour (ex. 40 hours @ $65/hr.) the total is not accurate and the rate per hour worked can be enforced. The plumber can be held accountable for the amount he did not work. The rate is set at $65/hr. and the estimate is the amount of time would take not the overall cost. When an estimate is written as an “Estimate” and it spells out the rate of pay per hour, then the payment due is based on the actual amount of time worked. If your bill is listed as 40 hours labor and they did not work 40 hours you have a legitimate case against them.

If on the other hand the estimate is written as a lump sum with no labor breakdown then the estimate total is what you will likely have to pay unless the scope of work has been changed due to hidden or unforeseen conditions, etc.

Glenn www.consultationdirect.com

Matt D

03:37PM | 10/20/03
Member Since: 10/19/03
4 lifetime posts
The estimate broke down materials, listing specific fittings, etc. needed. The labor on the estimate did not state $50 /hr. specifically, but the quantity listed was 40, and the total labor estimate was $2,000. Any reasonable person would infer 40 hrs. @ $50 /hr. from it.

Actually, the bill is an exact copy of the estimate. In fact, it includes fittings and copper that were never used in the job. I find it hard to understand how I can be billed legitimately for things that were not part of the job -- materials OR labor.

I have not paid the bill yet, and I have not talked to them yet. I'm looking for a leg to stand on if/when I question their bill.

Glenn Good

05:18PM | 10/20/03
Member Since: 09/10/03
320 lifetime posts
The bottom line is you should not have to pay for any service or materials that were not used to complete the job even though they were listed on the estimate. Billing for materials and/or hourly labor costs that were not used to complete the job is fraud. The mistake he made was listing the number of hours on the estimate and giving the total amount for those hours. You are correct in assuming it is the same as breaking the labor cost down. If he had stated labor $2000 without listing the estimated number of hours you would have to pay the entire labor bill. If he had listed materials = $xx without listing the specific materials, you would also be responsible for the entire material charge. When he broke the costs down he was effectively giving you a time and material estimate not a lump sum estimate.

I would confront the plumber with the bill and ask him to adjust it. I am sure the Better Business Bureau will be interested if he is unwilling to do so. Filing a civil suit is another possible option if he is unwilling to adjust the bill.

Glenn www.consultationdirect.com

[This message has been edited by Glenn Good (edited October 20, 2003).]

Matt D

05:34AM | 10/21/03
Member Since: 10/19/03
4 lifetime posts
Thank you very much for your input. I spoke with a good friend who does custom cabinetry last night as well. His opinion was essentially the same. I will talk with the plumbers, and am willing to compromise a little on the labor charge, but I think 18 hrs. overcharge is a little excessive. If I remember, I'll try to post a follow up once this is taken care of. Again, Thanks.

joed

01:52PM | 10/22/03
Member Since: 09/17/02
527 lifetime posts
They call it an estimate but if it the bill came for more 99% of people would complain.

Matt D

05:52AM | 10/23/03
Member Since: 10/19/03
4 lifetime posts
I resolved the matter with the plumbers this morning. Their initial position was as I expected; that the estimate was essentially written as a "bid" rather than a time & materials estimate. I had verbally agreed to hire them and thus, the bill should be for the full amount of the estimate, regardless of the hours listed and/or worked. After some discussion, they offered to write up a new bill based on time and materials rate ($65/hr vs. $50). Contrary to their expectation that it would be close to the original bill, the difference was $570.

I know the business manager was a little frustrated, and said that in the future, he planned on being a little more "up to snuff" with his bookkeeping. However, he indicated he had no hard feelings and that if he were in my shoes given the circumstances, he'd likely have had the same position on the matter. We shook hands and I wrote him a check.

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