Seattle, WA asked in Contracts and Construction Law for Illinois

Q: Do we need to pay contractor if he didn't give a quote before purchasing expensive light fixtures?

We hire a contractor to remodel our house before listing for sell. After he finished the work on the contract, our broker suggested us to replace some light fixtures. We agreed to do that. However, the contractor never give us a quote on this. A few days later, our house was under contract and we forget about this and the light fixtures were never installed. Two month later ( a few weeks after we closed the house), the contractor told us that he purchased the light fixtures. The purchase was done one day before we accept the offer from the seller. The light fixture was quite expensive. He told me that he could not return them and asked me to pay him the cost plus 20% markup. Do I need to pay him? He never gave us a quote. And the light was never installed. And he only informed us about this more than two month later.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Charles Candiano
Charles Candiano
  • Chicago, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: Worker's Compensation is a highly specialized area of law that concerns itself with work-related injuries. This is not that. Here, your broker requested that certain light fixtures be replaced. You contacted the contractor (who had already remodeled your house and whose work you were obviously pleased with) to replace the fixtures that your broker had requested to be replaced. In other words, you entered into an oral contract (or perhaps a written contract if emails were exchanged) for the replacement of certain light fixtures.

As I understand, the real estate transaction moved so quickly that nobody remembered to cancel the light fixtures. That is not the contractor's fault. Your own facts state that you never bothered to contact the contractor until two months after you sold the house. You are clearly liable for any costs that you caused the contractor to incur. It cannot come as a surprise to you that nothing is free. When you work, you expect to be paid.

That said, if the contractor seeks to recover from you, the contractor will need to demonstrate that he took all appropriate measures to mitigate his damages. Unless the fixtures were custom-made, they would almost certainly be returnable. The fixtures may be subject to a restocking fee and the contractor is certainly entitled to some compensation for the effort he expended in ordering the fixtures, the money he advanced to purchase the fixtures, and the effort that he will further need to expend to return the fixtures. You would be responsible for that sum, whatever it is. Whatever that sum may be, it is the most that the contractor can recover and it is the least that you will be responsible to pay. Approach it from that perspective and you should be able to reach an equitable resolution. Good luck.

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