Recent Cases of Interest
John and his wife Anna had finally decided to start a remodeling project for their home. A new kitchen addition was their dream and after researching and refining their "needs" and "wants" chose a contractor, Frank, to help realize their goal. Frank had the requisite background and experience and offered several references to back up his proposal for the job.
The project started and John, Anna and Frank had agreed upon "completed job" price. John and Anna paid 1/3 of the price to Frank with the balance due upon completion. The work started but was delayed for weeks. Frank had provided a written estimate of the job cost but that was the only paper work exchanged between the home owners and the contractor. After more delays, John and Anna became frustrated and repeatedly asked Frank how much longer would the project take. Frank always answered that it was nearly finished and promised that the kitchen would soon be completed.
After two months, Frank approached John and Anna and explained that unexpected cost overruns would increase the final job price by an additional 50%. Further, much of the cabinets were "back ordered" and certain appliances that had been ordered were back ordered. Both John and Anna insisted that the work be completed as promised for the price to which they had all agreed. Frank refused and left the job site with the work stalled.
After two weeks, without any resolution, the homeowners advised Frank that if he failed to return to complete the job they would hire someone else to do the work. Frank replied that unless he was paid in full that he would not return and sue them for damages.
The homeowners did hire another contractor who completed the work and was paid for his labor and supplies. Thereafter, Frank sued John and Frank for the balance of money he said was due.
Well, in this case the homeowners successfully defended their position against Frank and the Court denied him any relief. In Illinois, a contractor must supply certain written information to the homeowner in order to enforce his rights to collect money. The law provides that written estimates must be provided together with a homeowner's "bill of rights" that informs the consumer of his rights and remedies. In the absence of that, and unless there are other circumstances, the contractor cannot collect from the homeowner.
This is one of our recent cases where the firm successfully represented the homeowners. Of course all cases are fact specific and each matter must be analyzed independently. However this is important information to know whether you are the homeowner or the contractor in order to protect against unscrupulous parties.
The Illinois Supreme Court, in Miller v. McGinnis, opinion released September 23, 2010, has now made a very significant decision. Although the statute remains in effect, the Supreme Court has clarified that the absence of a written contract does not void an otherwise enforceable oral contract. Furthermore, the Court has specifically stated that the in the absence of any enforceable agreement, written or oral, the contractor can prevail in certain instances based upon the equitable theory of quantum meruit. That is to say that if the contractor can prove the value of the services, goods and materials provided to the homeowner, the contractor can recover from the homeowner.
If this situation is one that interests you please call us for further discussion.