Can we get a judgment to repay design fees if our designer’s plans generated bids for 2x the budget we asked the designer to stay within?

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Can we get a judgment to repay design fees if our designer’s plans generated bids for 2x the budget we asked the designer to stay within?

We hired a designer for a kitchen remodel. We told her our budget is $100K and outlined “must haves”, including removal of a wall and raised ceilings. She indicated she believed our budget would allow for the remodel we envisioned. She’s charged $14K. Contractor bids came in at 2x the budget amount we gave her. We’ve paid her over $10K to date and she promises another invoice of $3K. The project is a “no go” because bids put it far beyond our budget. What recourse do we have, especially one that will not be too costly to pursue?

Asked on May 11, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

From what you write, it would be worthwhile to meet with an attorney to discuss the situation in detail--you may have grounds to recover your payments (and avoid future payments) based on "breach of contract." The key issues will be: 1) did you clearly indicate to her (as you seem to have) the parameters of the job prior to her taking it and you agreeing to hire her, so she took the job in knowledge of the budget you had to work with; and 2) as a practical matter, can you show this, such as with emails, signed proposals or contracts, text messages, testimony, etc. If you can show that the agreement was that she would produce a design for a $100k budget but she came back with one for $200k, that may well be  breach of contract.


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