Legal Question re: Estimates

Apologies first because, while I know this information is probably online somewhere, I can’t find it.

Company A was hired to fix my roof after sustaining extensive hail damage. The estimate they gave prior to being hired was about $3900. They had to purchase an additional $51.12 in materials during the renovation. To date, they have received approx. $5300 from our insurance company.

After several weeks of pretty much being harrassed by Company A, our insurance company issued another check in the amount of $1900. We were required to send the check to our mortgage company and they now refuse to release it, saying Company A has gotten “more than enough” for their job.

Company A now expects us to pay them that $1900 out of our own pockets.

Question 1: Is there a legal limit or something saying that final cost can only be so far over the estimate?

Question 2: If we don’t pay it (we can’t in the very near future, and surely not in a lump sum as our money tree was damaged in the same storm :wink: ) and they sue us, how likely is it that they’ll win, in your opinion. Disclaimer: I understand that none of this is really legal advice, and it shouldn’t be used to substitue actual legal counsel IRL, should it come to that.

I’m a resident of Minnesota. Thanks in advance.

I’m sorry that I can’t be more help, but it might be time to contact a lawyer about the whole estimate issue. The laws regarding the building trades are different from state to state; also, the wording of any estimate can make a significant difference.

Even the words such as ‘estimate’ or ‘quote’ may make a difference… or they may not. Typically, I think of an estimate as an educated guess and expect some leeway in the final price. I think of a quote as more of a hard price for the job, but then again, the semantics shouldn’t matter. What really matters is how the contract is worded and how Minnesota law handles reroofing work.

It’s not uncommon when working on a house to tear the old work off only to find that more work needs to be done than was originally expected in order to complete the job. That said, I don’t know what materials were bought with that $51.12 and I’m not sure how the company could have racked up thirty percent more in labor to install only fifty bucks worth of stuff. What you’ve said so far isn’t really enough to tell whether the roofing company is screwing you or if they just lowballed the estimate and are finding stuff that wasn’t originally included. Could you tell us a little more about what has been done?

Er, thirty percent in total costs, but you get the idea…

IANAL. When invited to view a job, if there is absolutely nothing which I cannot forsee going wrong, I will write a proposal to accomplish x, using y, in fashion z.

Where there are gray areas, such as hidden sheathing or wall damage, which I cannot predict, but realize may be evidenced after tear off, I include a clause: sheathing/decking will be removed/replaced with equal APA compliant dimensional material at a cost of x $/SF, billable under separate cover, subject to customer approval in advance.

That way the customer knows that if I find rotted material, he/she will get to see it, and I’m telling them in advance how much per square foot I’ll charge them to fix the hidden damage, above the original proposal amount.

I’ve found that my method assures both parties get a fair shake, and no one is signing a blank check.

The extra fifty was to cover additional decking because there was a space in our roof that wasn’t up to code (pointed out by the insurance guy).

They seem to think they need $1900 to cover the cost of a second dumpster that was never even here (unit cost, $314.91), more money to cover the steep grade, (doesn’t exist; I don’t remember the exact dimensions, but our insurance adjuster told Company A’s rep in person, flat out, they would not cover the grade because it wasn’t big enough. Or something.) and a few other things that they won’t tell us about. It’s clear to me that they’re trying to screw us, I just need to know what I can do about it.

Here’s the deal. This isn’t a company you call if you just feel like having a new roof. This is a guy that showed up at our house after two consecutive major storms. Company A deals specifically with insurance claims. That’s their pitch. They deal with them so you don’t have to.

I’m looking at the second of two estimates* right now and there are notes next to everything that say “Same as Ins. Est.” and “<name of insurance guy> OK’d pay”. The rep for Company A says he did it that way so we’d be sure to NOT have to pay anything out of pocket and basically, he’d haggle with the insurance guy after the fact. This estimate (which doubles as a contract) wasn’t signed by myself or the other owner of the house.

*We did sign an estimate prior to this, but backed out in time (I have absolutely nothing to prove we did so “in time”; I’ll ask the other owner) and we were promptly given a second estimate that matched our insurance adjuster’s estimate, for reasons mentioned above. I would think the first would be void as soon as the second was dated, but I don’t know.

I’m totally screwed, aren’t I?

PSA: Think twice before hiring a door-to-door roofing contractor. The more you know…

Oh, I forgot something I think might be important. In addition to the notes, there are asterisks next to a few things. At the bottom of the estimate, Company A’s rep. writes:

Which means, "This is your estimate based on amounts your insurance company has already guaranteed to pay. However, if they decide (because we harass them to death) to pay more, we’re entitled to that amount, regardless of the work we did or did not do, and if your mortgage company decides to hold the check hostage, well… fuck you, you have to pay us anyway. "

That sound about right?

Silver Fire, get in touch with your state consumer protection people. These folks are behaving in an unethical fashion, from what I’m reading.

I’ve done insurance repair work, and check the insurance sheet against my own book, oddly enough titled, “National Renovation & Insurance Repair Estimator”.

Minor items overlooked are quickly resolved with a phone call, as are hidden damage items.

No professional puts the customer in the middle.

Found the final invoice.

Remove & Replace Roof: $3,186.00
Attached Supplements: $3,896.07, including stuff that insurance never paid for (tear off: third layer? WTH? I didn’t even know we had a third layer!), or they’re simply charging more than the insurance paid. And they failed to include a $200 credit for having their damned advertisements in our yard for, like, two months. :mad:

And now I have to try to break this all down into an email so I can shoot one off the the MCP folks and, hopefully, get in touch with someone who can help me out. I suppose linking to this thread would be a bit unorthodox, right?

Don’t reference any online advice you may or may not have gotten. And I would use a real letter, not an e-mail, followed up by a phone call.

While estimates are by nature just an educated guess, doubling the final price seems like something unethical is going on. I am a contractor/sub contractor and I hate when shady scammers bleed homeowners for more money. It makes us all look bad.

Sorry for the no help post, but please get qualified legal advice and make copies or notation of all correspondence regarding your issue.

It seems that I’m fated to produce a post that reads “It all depends on state law. Consult a lawyer with expertise in this field in your state.” about once every 2.5 days.

But this is yet another one of the same ilk. I know that New York has some very explicit laws on what may be done based on an accepted estimate and what additional charges are acceptable and what forbidden. I know that North Carolina laws are a bit looser but still provide protection against a predatory contractor.

One excellent move which I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is to make a phone call or send e-mail to the Office of Consumer Affairs (title will vary from state to state, but something along the same lines) of your State Attorney General’s office. They will be able to advise you what your rights and duties are under the circumstances, have the legal power to act if the roofing contractor is attempting to go outside the state law to squeeze money out of you, and in any case can help to clear this up much more than even a legal or insurance professional here could do (unless there happens to be a Doper with particular expertise on your particular state’s laws in precisely this situation, an unlikely but not unheard-of situation).