When contracts go wrong
This issue, Under Construction looks at three cases of tradies and clients who ended up before the Disputes Tribunal and how each scenario played out
A painter who took a client to the Disputes Tribunal was awarded $5,500 – but still ended up $6,704 short of the quoted price for the job.
The individual, who quoted $16,204 to paint a two-bedroom home, took action after the client refused to pay more than $4,000, claiming the price was grossly excessive despite agreeing to the quote initially. The Disputes Tribunal found that the job was overpriced after additional quotes were gathered for comparison purposes. The painter sourced two additional quotes at $11,771 and $13,961. The client sourced four additional quotes which came in at $5,060, $3,722, $3,850 and $6,210.
Despite noting that the tribunal didn’t exist to ‘rescue people from possibly bad bargains’, it intervened after being presented with the range of quotes.
“Having considered all the relative evidence placed before me, I consider that the figures advanced by the respondent (the client) are more genuinely indicative of the market range of prices for a paint job such as this,” said the Dispute Tribunal.
The tribunal found that the original quote was ‘excessive, unfair and unreasonable’ and that the contract price was ‘unconscionable’, and as a result, was able to change the terms of the contract.
The respondent, the homeowner, was ordered to pay an extra $5,500 – taking the total price to $9,500, but still far below the $16,204 initial quote.
Painting a misrepresented picture
Another dispute was brought against a painter in early 2021 by a former client. After describing himself as a Master Painter, but without being a Registered Master Painter New Zealand member, he was accused of misrepresenting himself and of breach of contract.
The individual failed to complete the contracted job, despite purchasing materials and commencing work, and so the client, who had already paid the painter $6,900, took him to tribunal to secure a full refund. The Dispute Tribunal found that, in addition to not completing the work, he had misrepresented himself by calling himself a master painter, and breached contract by failing to complete the work, and ordered him to refund $2,092.93.
In this case, the Disputes Tribunal said: “I find that approximately half of five-eighths of the house had been completed. This takes into account the full chemical wash, water blasting of the lower level, and the painting of three coats on half of the lower level. Therefore, the applicants have received the benefit of $3,807.07, plus the $1,000.00 of materials, giving a total benefit of $4,807.07.”
Listen to the client
In another case, a builder who failed to lay the correct coloured bricks – despite the homeowner paying more for a ‘Roman Grey Blend’ brick and questioning if the correct product was being laid – was ordered to pay the client $3,000.
The decision found that, although the bricks laid weren’t those ordered by the client, the only negative impact on the client was ‘aesthetics’ and that the error ‘is unlikely to affect the actual value of the house.’
However, the Tribunal felt the client deserved ‘compensation for the disappointment’ and ordered the builder to refund $2,000 for the bricks purchased, as the cost for the ‘Roman Grey Blend’ ‘was more than just a standard brick.’
It also ordered the builder to pay another $1,000 ‘to compensate for what appears to have been a continued and unreasonable insistence… that the right bricks were laid’.