Is our building contractor required by law to provide an itemized bill?

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Is our building contractor required by law to provide an itemized bill?

We have recently had work completed in our home by a contractor. We asked twice for an estimate but they never provided one. We allowed them to continue the work, hoping for the best as we wanted our home done for the holidays. Now, they have provided a bill for an amount much higher than what we expected or think is fair. They have not provided any explanation, even when asked for an itemized bill. Are they required to provide an itemized bill for us?

Asked on December 12, 2011 under Business Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The law does not specifically require an itemized bill. If you do not believe or agree with the bill, your recourse is to refuse to pay and  then either settle with the contractor for some mutually agreeable amount, or wait for the contractor to take legal action, at which point you can use the legal process of "discovery" (e.g. subpoenas; interrogatories, which are written questions; notices to produce documents) to obtain information as to cost, to attempt to prove that the bill was unjustified.

Note, however, that by allowing them to do the work without requiring an estimate or proposal, you are in a weak legal position--you likely would have to show not merely that the bill is higher than expected or that it "should" have been, but that the contractor is committing some form of fraud--such as billing you for work not done; billing you more for materials than the materials actually cost--to prevail. You in essence gave the contractor a "blank check" by having him do work without an estimate, proposal, or some maximum cap to cost.


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