What can I do if a guy I’ve known for a while is supposed to be rebuilding an engine which he got 8 months ago but it’s still not done?

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What can I do if a guy I’ve known for a while is supposed to be rebuilding an engine which he got 8 months ago but it’s still not done?

He claims that he has been busy and is getting it done but I haven’t seen any in person. It should take no longer than a month for this type of project. Anyway, I gave him $1000 for parts to start and I would pay the remaining balance when it was completed. So basically, I’m wondering if a contract can be written up stating the car info and what has to be done and within a certain time period? And if he doesn’t sign it then can I take him to small claims and get my money back and then some because of lost time and failed promises?

Asked on September 23, 2017 under Business Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, a contract can be written up with the details you state, and for future reference, you do so next time before giving anyone money--get the contract first, because the contract only binds them *after* they sign it. 
That said, even without a formal written agreement (which is better to have, since it clarifies all the obligations and responsibilities and terms) there is *always* a contact--an agreement between you and the other person, pursuant to which you agreed to pay him and he agreed to rebuild an engine. If he violates the terms of that--i.e. he has taken your money and not rebuilt the engine for you--you can sue him. While the oral (unwritten) agreement did not specificy how long he'd have, if 8 months is too long (not knowing engines, I cannot offer an opinion on how long is too long, so use your own judgment), you can sue for breach of contract. If you believe he lied about what he could or would do, you can also sue based on fraud (on lying to you to get you to do business with him) and/or theft by deception (tricking you to get your money). For $1,000, suing in small claims court, as your own attorney or "pro se," is the best option.


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