Change-Order Fun and Games

      It's important to keep the understandings clear: the original signer of a contract (not a relative) needs to sign off on change orders. June 23, 2006

I am recently having a problem with a client in a bathroom remodel job. The brother of the women who signed the contract with me wants to make changes to the layout after I have been working on it for 3 days. He wants me to change the size of a custom built linen cabinet that is already built, so the entrance door can change opening direction. He is arguing with me about it to the point that I have had enough. He wants me to cover the cost. My question is, why do I have to deal with him when he was not involved in the original layout of the cabinet and he did not sign the contract?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor F:
Tell him just that! And tell him if he wants to argue with the one that signed the contract, he can, but someone is going to pay for the change if it's made. If you do make a change, get it signed off on and get it paid for before any other work is done.

From contributor P:
Change orders are common. You are not obligated to do any work for free, without a contract or change order. The brother is most likely looking out for his sister, and is doing the standard m.o. to get a freebie if at all possible. Normally, it is written on the original contract what the extras will cost per hour on the changes. But if you do not address this on the contract, just stop and talk to the woman, talk about what it will cost for the changes, and then get the change order in writing.

The courts will always back up what is written in a contract and signed by both parties. Anyone else will be ignored. Don't worry about what the brother says - he can't do anything. Mostly, keep your cool, and work things out with the customer.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for replying. I did have in the original contract what extras would cost, if any were added by the homeowner. I hate to be hard on these people, but I feel I should stick to my guns because there's too much money at stake.

From contributor C:
You are not being hard on these people, rather you are being professional. If there are potential issues regarding the layout of the job, I suggest that you might want to talk with the one who signed the contract, let them know that someone else wants to make changes, and see if she is even aware of what the brother is trying to change. If she wants the changes also, then talk about the cost of the changes. I would simply tell the brother that any changes are between your company and the one who signed the contract, period. Be polite, but stick to my guns. Just don't waste your time arguing (or even discussing) the issue with a third party at this point. Tell him to talk to his sister, not you. You might want to remind the sister that the only persons who can legally change the contract are you and her. After all is said and done, the sister may not even want the changes!

From contributor H:
Been there, done that... did not get paid! Built stairway for Mother. Son wanted upgrade on balusters. He signed change. Mom would not pay additional cost. Went to court. I lost. If you make the changes, and the brother signs the change order, the original signer of the contract does not have to pay you. Neither does the brother. It sucks, but it's the law, at least where I'm at.

From contributor I:
Stop for a moment. Imagine that you turned up at the end of the job and had decided, off your own bat, to change the sizes of the cabinets that you built. If they asked you to go away and do them to the agreed size, would you feel that they were being hard on you? When a contract is signed, the deal is fixed. Anything changed is effectively an additional contract. If you vary the original contract, it can only be confirmed by the actions of the parties to that original contract. Be polite but firm, but make sure that all your negotiations include the sister and are confirmed in writing by the sister.

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