Contractor failed inspection wants to charge more

15 Replies

I hired an electrician to install a complete hardwired and interconnected smoke detector system in my multifamily property.  The fire inspector came out today and did not give a sign off because some of the smoke detectors were installed in the wrong location.  There is a local code in Providence which the electrician had not done many projects with before and was not completely familiar.  

After the fire inspector left the electrician said he would get me a price for the additional work to change the items which didn't pass.  Am I wrong for thinking I should not have to pay for his mistakes when he originally quoted a complete job and didn't pass due to his own errors?

As long as he is licensed pulled a permit he should know and be responsible to know the codes I would not pay extra

Did you instruct him in the first place on where to put the sectors?

Don't pay! If he is not familiar with the regulations of the cities he does business in,that is his fault!!

It depends: Did you have a contract for him to put them in specific locations, or did your contract have him wire smoke detectors to meet code/pass inspection? 

My contract was for him to follow the local code requirements for locations of smoke detectors.  I did not instruct him on placement since I was not confident in my interpretation of the code.  He came out initially to take a look at the job and give a quote for the project.  

If he is licenced and bonded, he should know better and be responsible for his work! 

Here is what I would do

Have him complete the work, pay  for it and never work with him again. Also leave a detailed review for him on Houzz, angies list, bestpick report and where ever else he has a profile. 

Learn from it - in the future you will know what to add to your contract. Its a biz expence and a write off for you, so u can thank your electrician for a valuable lesson. 

@Christian Allen

What are the fine lines of the SOW and contract that both of you signed say? If it specifically says what you mentioned "installation to local electric codes", then he should honor that contract.  Have you paid him everything?

I agreed with everyone that he should honor what you and him agreed on. Especially he is a licensed electrician. 

Christian, I have been in exactly your position. I can see both sides to the argument, on the one hand you already paid X for the job and it should have been done up to code in the first place so the contractor should eat the cost of additional work to meet the code.

On the other hand, what contractors have told me is that "code" varies not only from town to town, but from inspector to inspector (whether they think your house is a "problem house" or you're a "problem owner" they need to school, what color your house is painted, whether you like the same sports teams, the phase of the moon, whether they had an argument with their spouse last night, etc.).

So from their point of view the degree of ball-busting the inspector will put them through is variable and mostly outside their control, so they should be paid for the time spent on the job which includes any extra hoops the inspector feels like putting up that day.

Personally I see a lot of merit to the first position and keep the contractor's position on the issue in mind the next time I need to call someone for that kind of work.

If I were you I'd raise the question with the contractor politely, but I would not expect to get anything by it. Depending on how politely/well the contractor explains her/his position would probably be additional information to determine whether to call them again.

If they explain their position politely and are otherwise decent (show up on time, clean up at the end of the day, respectful of tenants, etc.) and the overall cost of the job is still good, they maybe you might consider using them even if they charged for the additional work to please the city inspector.

(And by now you've probably figured out that generally speaking, you'd like to go with a contractor who the inspectors already know - do a lot of work in that town - because contractors who don't do a lot of work in that area are likely to get more requirements for extra work from inspectors who want to teach them "how things are done in this town".)

He is a licensed contractor who has done these type projects in other towns.  The inspector had some of his own interpretations of the code which makes things difficult but there were a few clear misses.  I will wait to see what he comes back with and make it clear this was a mistake on his end.  I am willing to negotiate if it is something outside his control initially.   

What the contractor is fishing for is a change order.  Change is defined by:

A change order is work that is added to or deleted from the original scope of work of a contract, which alters the original contract amount and/or completion date.

He wants a change order for money because of more locations.  If you gave him a blanket statement to install per local code and you didn't give him a specific quantity or location then the contractor is at fault. You gave him a performance requirement and making him designer of record.  He miss designed and budgets, his fault.  An owner does not pay for non-compliant or non-conforming work. 

I get such a kick out of reading opinions... If your contract states;

"My contract was for him to follow the local code requirements for locations of smoke detectors. I did not instruct him on placement since I was not confident in my interpretation of the code. He came out initially to take a look at the job and give a quote for the project."

then you are in the clear. Tell him he will be paid when he has complied to code. If he takes issue with that, hire someone else. This is contracting 101. All that matters is what is done compared to what is on signed paper.

@Christian Allen I've had my fair share of oops factor, I didn't charge the client. Uou should not care if he has done this type of work or not, you should care about your contract, what it says, and what it limits. I have been tried with subs, filed a CO that the drawings are not "standard" or it is unusual. I simply tell them, you saw it, you signed it, you perform it, i'll pay for it. A popular phrase I tell subs when they perform poorly is, if this was part of your house, will you accept it? they usually mumble but they'll perform or not get paid at all.

A situation like this I would discuss with the contractor. What does he say when confronted by his incorrect locations? It sounds as though he was hired to install meeting all applicable codes... it falls on him to know them, confirm them if he is not confident, and install to meet them.

Does he have a days worth of work tI fix the issues, or a weeks worth of work? 

We have had to deal with a similar situation in Providence. There are a couple of specific issues currently related to this matter in the city. My partner is a master electrician and we were called to correct a situation with similar circumstances.

PFD currently has a number of light duty firefighters in that division who do not normally perform these smoke certs. Normally, a specific division with specific certs related to code will perform these inspections. There is a strict code, but it does allow for a particular margin and judgement on the inspectors part. I do know that one inspector in particular has been a stickler to the extreme, and this individual may be a factor in your difficulties.

Having said that, if your electrician is a legit master electrician, you paid him to bring a specific issue in line with code. He should have charged you appropriately to facilitate that. If a modification needs to be made following the inspection, he should correct that.

One consideration just to play devils advocate... was it made clear what job he was hired to do specifically? I know that there are several ways this issue can be dealt with, and depending on how the job was described, he may have had a different goal in mind to tackle the job than what was actually required.

i'd tell him to:

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