Can a customer refuse to allow my fitter to complete a job?
Problem: Hi. I hope you can advise me on where my company legally stands with a customer. The sum involved is small, but it is the principle of the matter as the customer has been an absolutely nightmare to deal with.
My company recently fitted a new bathroom. All finished, except for a purpose made mirror, which arrived damaged and had to be sent back and remade. I agreed with the customer that £1,500.00 could be held back until a new mirror was made, delivered and fitted. The mirror is now ready, but the customer is refusing to accept delivery unless I arrange for another bathroom fitter to fix the mirror. The problem is, I only employ one-bathroom fitter.
Can the customer demand that I use another fitter? Do I have a right to terminate the contract if the customer refuses to accept delivery and / or access to the property to complete the work?
Response: I am of course unaware of what written terms you may have agreed (expressly or by conduct), with your customer and whether those terms are binding (insofar that the terms are compliant with consumer law), but nevertheless there will at least be an implied term that your customer allows you access in order to carry out the contract works, failure of which could mean that your customer has wrongly repudiated the contract and you can therefore elect to accept the repudiatory breach or affirm the contract.
That said, the facts will be crucial as to whether your customer has wrongly repudiated the contract, as your customer may have good reason to refuse to allow the original bathroom fitter access to the property. For example, if the fitter was rude, disrespectful or used unacceptable language.
However, given that the customer still wants the mirror delivered and installed, and given that you want to be paid, I suggest that you explore a way round this, especially as the sum of money involved is nominal. Perhaps you could employ a sub-contractor to install the mirror or could you install the mirror yourself? Failing that, you could approach your customer and see if there is any way that your fitter could be allowed to return, perhaps under supervision?
© Michael Gerard 2020
The advice provided is intended to be of a general guide only and should not be viewed as providing a definitive legal analysis.
Michael is a Solicitor, Chartered Builder & Registered Construction Adjudicator, and is a director at Michael Gerard Law Limited, a solicitors practice regulated by the SRA.