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Sticky situation

Sticky situation

Sticky situation

I have a project that I was asked a few month ago to complete for a client (an architect). The client didn’t ask for a proposal. The project was a 28’ square wood framed garage that had a clear height of 17’. The project had its problems to solve and once we were done, I invoiced for the work completed to date (my hourly rate x the hours it took to complete the project). Everything was great (except my invoice is over 4 months old and remains unpaid see below).

Then the owner, a local jurisdiction, decided that the wood framed building was too expensive and decided on purchasing a metal building of the same size. So now the client has come back to have the foundation design. Thing is, he doesn’t want to pay me for the time it takes to complete this revision to the design (the revision will take about as much time as the original scope of work).

To make matters slightly more complicated, the owner paid my client 50% of the original invoice stating they will pay the other ½ when the building arrives. So now I’m sitting here with 50% of my invoice paid (in a check I haven’t cashed) being asked to redesign the foundation with the potential of not being compensated for my time associated with the revision.

I am thinking about sending the check back to the client and telling him that I am not interested in continuing on with the project and to find another engineer. However, I will be out the time I spent working on the project to begin with. I’m also considering depositing the check and telling the client the same thing, only this time I will be out ½ of my time.

What would others do in this instance?

Unfortunately we literally fighting city hall. I have no interest in doing work for an owner who doesn't compensate their sub contractors for the time it takes to do the work, and when they do compensate they only want to pay a portion of the original contract.

RE: Sticky situation

I suppose it depends on if you have a written contract about what you'd get paid for and whether it's a big enough amount to sue for, on either side. If the contract doesn't exist or isn't clear you may need a lawyer who will be kind if they don't point out that having a lawyer review the contract before the work would save the aggravation you have now.

Your position is similar to that which any number of small businesses face where ungrateful customers show how much they care by unilaterally changing their side of the deal. You may be able to get the remainder in small claims court; typically no lawyer is allowed to argue the case there, but you can get advice before hand.

Best of luck.

RE: Sticky situation


Everything was great (except my invoice is over 4 months old and remains unpaid see below).


So now I’m sitting here with 50% of my invoice paid (in a check I haven’t cashed)

So please clarify - have you been paid or not to 50%? I'm confused.

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RE: Sticky situation

I was paid 50% but the check arrived the day after the client said he wanted me to do the work and not bill him. The check is sitting on my desk.

RE: Sticky situation

If the client paying the bill is government, best to just send them the final bill as it is appropriate at the end with the appropriate billing description that will get you your money and wrap things up. Government always pays their bills.

RE: Sticky situation


Advanced disclosure - my opinion is that of a PE with 9 whole years of experience - treat it as such.

If it was me, I would deposit the check first regardless - you've done the work and produced the original design & drawings as agreed - at least you can collect SOMETHING for your trouble - maybe you get the rest later or maybe you don't...time will tell. An aside, one thing I do have in my standard contract with this exact situation in mind is a statement along the lines of "all checks are deposited when received regardless of status of invoice" with the hope that it covers me from these sort of shenanigans (it hasn't been tested yet though and obviously, I am not a lawyer...).

Regarding the rest...I assume you have a contract in place? If not, a letter agreement at minimum that spells out your expected services and the hourly rate for services above/beyond those noted? I suspect in this situation you will end up asking yourself how badly you want to work for these joker in the future. Based on purely the exchange described, it doesn't seem like they have good contract/client management skills (my uninformed opinion) so if it was me, I'd probably agree to do the revision (at my risk) but only give them the final stamped drawings (hard-copies only, no .pdf's) on the condition that I was handed a check for the balance of my invoice at the time of delivery. If they don't pay then hopefully you're only out a few thousand that you may be able to lien against the finished structure.

Good luck Steel - Rooting for you...

RE: Sticky situation

rule 1 - get all agreements in writing
rule 2 - don't do any work without completing rule 1 first (also see rule 3)
rule 3 - change orders require another written agreement to alter the first one

you do realize that your E&O insurance generally may not cover work that is not done without a written agreement?

RE: Sticky situation

I would cash the check, do the redesign and hold off on giving them drawings until they pay the remainder. Then I would never work with them again...

Also, "Good papers make good friends"

RE: Sticky situation

What njlutzwe said. I would only add to do the redesign if you literally had nothing better to do. That includes watching your backlog of YouTube videos (work related or not) and organizing your filing system.

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: Sticky situation

Wow, the great Casseopeia, I feel honored.

Still trying to work this out with the client. Calls and emails have tone unreturned. I don’t necessarily want to lose the client, but if it happens it happens.

After 4 years of piling projects all over my desk/floor I spent a day last week filing everything away. I could also get lost in YouTube for days.

RE: Sticky situation

A lesson to remember. Do 1, 2, 3 and 4. Refer to the back of the the Proposal which has your standard "Limit of Liability Clause" (that from here on is always there).

RE: Sticky situation

Great post by CVG. I would,

1) cash check I have
2) submit change order for the revision
3) sit on my hands until the change order is authorized
4) conduct collections on remaining 50% already owed regardless of change order/revision

RE: Sticky situation

I would cash the check, issue them a change order, and do no work until both the change order is approved and the remaining 50% is paid. I'd tell them to take the money to pay me out of the cost savings from switching from wood to metal. If they said the savings aren't there, then I'd recommend they stick with the original design.

That is, of course, presuming it's a one-off client. If it's a regular client with whom I have a long standing relationship, and intend to get future work from, I would let them know I would ordinarily do what I outline above, and then offer to cut them some sort of deal this one time only, on the premise that I get more work in the future.

I have some clients, with whom the scope of work gets heavily manipulated by their client totally out of their hands, and for those clients I just charge enough up front to cover the possibility that things might change. Eat it once and know better next time can sometimes go a long way towards building a client relationship. Write it off to marketing.

So it really depends on how much you value the client over the money.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Sticky situation

I would probably cash the check and do the balance of the work. However, I would provide the information in PDF format and password protect the file so that they can't print until you provide the password or send them a file that is not password protected. I would not provide that password information until final balance is paid in full.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC
"Follow" us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/MFP-Design-LLC/9221...

RE: Sticky situation

I thought I had updated this thread but I guess I didn't.

So in the end I ended up cashing the check and dug in my heals and got the architect to accept a change order for the work performed in writing. The architect accepted the change order and I performed the additional work. Now all I need is payment for the completed work. Who knows if that will happen, but at least I now have everything documented.

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