One of my clients was accused of damaging an installed piece of fire equipment on a building site. He couldn’t get his last payment. But he had taken lots of photos. He could prove that when he had completed his work, the item in question was not damaged. There was a photo of it in perfect condition. Some photos from a later period showed the item bent and buckled, and it was obvious that a later trade had caused the damage. The matter went to adjudication but the photographic evidence was so compelling that the client paid up without too much argument.
Let’s look at the main uses of good photos.
1. Combating allegations of defective work
As per the example above, this is the most common use of photos. The key thing here is to have good close-ups of the detail of your work. These are excellent at combating accusations that the work was no good. The client will assume that you don’t have this kind of evidence, and will also assume that if the area has been built-out, that you could not produce any to defend your position.
Photos are great at killing that tactic.
2. Blocking unsubstantiated back-charges
Commonly at the end of the work, when the contractor is trying to get that final payment, the client will produce a raft of back-charges detailing a long list of damage and havoc for which the contractor is supposedly responsible. Many of these will date back to the beginning of the project, and of course had never been brought to anyone’s attention until now.
But if you have a series of photos that show the progress of the work, then you can demonstrate that no such damage occurred and you can challenge the client to produce evidence of his own to support his accusations.
If you have taken some good close-up and detailed shots of the work, then (assuming there was no damage on completion) it will be impossible to argue that there was damage or that it was your fault.
One of my clients was accused of destroying a section of kerb with his truck and the head contractor was attempting to back-charge the contractor for its repair: but the head-contractor could not prove that the damage had even occurred and so this tactic failed.
3. Proof of work done
This is the easiest thing to do because if you have taken photos everyday, you should be able to show all the work was completed as per the contract. It is very common for clients to withhold payment by alleging that the contractor has not completed the work. The client will usually be very specific about what was not done. But if you have your photos in place, this strategy will fail.
Remember that photos are only a part of wider strategy you can use to protect the value of your work. Those of you who have read my previous articles will know the importance of a good Site Diary, Variation Instructions, and documentation generally. A good series of photos will add huge firepower to your claim for payment.
When it comes to a fight for payment your client will write a thousand words as to why you don’t deserve to be paid. But one picture will be worth more than those thousand words, and may even be worth a hundred thousand dollars!