Mrs Jones seemed nice enough. She made you cups of coffee. She inquired as to your family’s well-being. She shared a joke with you most days. That was then. Now you haven’t been paid in two months, she’s ignoring your calls, and her lawyer-brother-in-law is threatening to sue you for $450 000.00.
Welcome to domestic building.
In recent times we have had a number of these stories come through the door and they all have things in common that contributed to the payment dispute. These are the saddest stories because they all start out so well. The parties like each other, the relations are good, the work seems to go well, everybody is happy. Let’s take a closer look at how this all goes wrong.
This is perhaps the root cause of most of your problems. You have allowed the relationship to get too close. You must remember that Mrs Jones in your client. She is not your friend. You have been engaged to carry out a defined scope of work for a defined price or rate. You are not doing someone a favour, or helping a friend. By letting the relationship cross the line into friendship you inevitably invite poor practices into your work that will cause a payment dispute.
Keep the relationship friendly, but business-like at all times. Many contractors are told that they can’t get paid because the couple who hired him are now getting divorced. Many contractors have had the client cry in front of them, and feel sorry for them, and then back away from payment. This happens because the contractor has allowed the relationship to become personal. You must insist on payment no matter what. After all, your own divorce would not be an excuse for not completing the contract work, would it?
Now because Mrs Jones is such a nice person you have most likely done additional work for little or no cost. Or maybe you have bought her some materials at trade prices to be nice [and so made no money on it!], or maybe you have done additional work but not bothered to get it signed off as a variation, because it seemed too formal for someone so nice.