Han Joosten wanted to have his steel motor yacht painted. There were only verbal agreements on the hourly rate and a global time schedule. This cost Joosten dearly.
Joosten had received an offer of 20,000 euros for painting the entire hull and superstructure of his steel motor yacht. He decided not to accept the offer and chose another painting company. It was agreed that the superstructure would be stripped down to the steel and rebuilt with epoxy materials and that the hull plus the underwater hull would be repainted. Joosten and the painter also agreed on an hourly rate of 40 Euros. All these agreements were made verbally. The painter would need approximately two months and started work in November 2010.
The months passed and it was unclear when the work would be finished. In mid-June 2011, Joosten told the painter that the project was not progressing at all. Because the invoices were getting out of hand, he asked the painter for an estimate of the remaining work. And because he no longer had any insight into the work for which invoices were being sent, Joosten also requested a thorough specification of the hours worked. To his horror, a paint job which he thought would cost him 20,000 euros, now turned out to cost him more than 31,000 euros. When asked, an expert judged that (cautiously put) the specifications had been written generously. According to the expert, the assignment should cost a maximum of approximately €22,000. Since Joosten had in the meantime developed doubts about the correctness of the hourly specifications and since he lives in the area, he had posted himself outside the premises and taken photographs of his ship at various times of the day, so that he could compare the hours and days stated. Joosten calculated 423 hours of work, which, including materials and VAT, made an amount of 24,000 euros reasonable. So that showed a difference of 7,000 euros (!). The painter rejected the offer of €24,000, whereupon Joosten turned to Hommersom. Mr. Hommersom wrote to the painter about the (excessively) long duration of the work, the invoicing which was out of proportion to the scope of the contract, the submission of incorrect hourly specifications and – because of the slow progress of the work – missing a sailing season. The painter responded that the yacht was in a poor condition, that a lot of work had been needed to prepare the superstructure and that he had told Joosten to count on an amount between 25,000 and 30,000 euros (excluding VAT). With respect to the duration of the work, the painter stated that it simply required a lot of work and that he had informed Joosten about this. In short: a ‘yes-no’ discussion. After all, the work had only been discussed verbally and the only concrete agreement was an hourly rate of 40 Euros. Everything else was left open. Legal proceedings would be very costly, as an expert would have to give an opinion on the reasonableness of the work. Joosten would have to provide proof of all his contentions and that was difficult, if not impossible, simply because nothing was on paper between the parties! As the painter had meanwhile invoked the right of retention, Joosten was also in a stranglehold (in this case the right of the painter not to hand over the boat before payment has been made, see also the article about this in Waterkampioen 9/10, 2011). In the end Joosten chose to pay the painter (under protest).
How can you prevent this kind of situation? Simple: ask for an itemized cost estimate/quotation in advance which specifies the hourly rate, the exact scope and the type of work to be done. These agreements fall under the definition of “contracting work”. Article 7:752 of the Dutch Civil Code says: “If the price has not been determined at the time the contract is concluded, or only a recommended price has been determined, the client shall owe a reasonable price.” Paragraph 2 says “that where a guide price has been determined, it shall not be exceeded by more than ten percent unless the contractor has given the principal timely warning.” Unfortunately, none of this was the case in Mr. Joosten’s case, leaving him “at the mercy of the gods.”
TIP Always make sure you have a concrete and well specified, written quote/cost estimate. The contractor must come up with good arguments if he wants to charge you for exceeding the budget by more than 10%!
More information or download old articles: https://www.anwb.nl/kampioen/algemeen/digitaal-archief