Can a contractor charge for work performed after being fired?

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Can a contractor charge for work performed after being fired?

I contracted with a tree service to remove a fallen tree last week. He said that he could begin work the next day and that he should be done by the end of the week. This was not written in the contract, however. Friday came, but no work had been done. I called him and he said that another job came in and he put them in front of me however he would start first thing Monday morning. I said OK. As of 2 pm work still had not begun, so I called him and cancelled and told him I was getting someone else. At about 7 pm he called to say that he has removed the tree. Now am I legally bound to pay him?

Asked on March 22, 2011 under General Practice, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, if you had cancelled the work after he had already missed his deadline--or deadlines--for doing it, you are not obligated to pay him. If you'd canceled before he missed the appointment, that might be different--for example, after making the original appointment, when he said he'd be there by the end of the week, if you tried to cancel on Thursday (the week not over), he could probably hold you to the contract. But having already breached the oral agreement himself by not showing up when he was supposed to, he had no "right" to do the work--his breach enabled you to terminate the contract, which you did, by providing notice that you no longer wanted him to do the work.

All that said, it may be better to work to pay him *something,* since the work was done (assuming it was done ok) than potentially risk having him try to sue you.


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