Sorry for the long post but we need some serious advice which is greatly appreciated!
We gave our client a quotation in October 2007 and she accepted to have the work done right after Christmas. She paid the down payment per check (mostly used to buy materials) and we performed the work on thursday (12-27-07) - installation of approximately 180 linear feet of aluminum gutters all around her house. After she inspected the work she gave us the final payment check as agreed upon in our quotation "final payment is due upon satisfactory completion of the work". The first check was for $700 and the second one for $480.
She called saturday (12-29-07) and said that she was not happy with the work and we suggested to come out on monday to remedy what they thought was wrong with the gutters. Her roommate called also a little bit later and DEMANDED that we came out the same day (saturday) to "fix the gutters RIGHT THEN OR ELSE" - she was very rude. We bought more material and remedied only a small section because it was getting dark. The issue the client is having is that the gutters are not 100% level. Aluminum gutters are different from PVC gutters which are angled already, aluminum gutters are very hard to install perfectly level. We also pointed out BEFORE we started the job that there would be seams every 10 ft and that we would seal those. Both women agreed to that and didn't seem to have any problem with the seams. While we were installing clips to level the gutters, 3 guys were constanly around us and acted very intimidating and pointed out issues we were going to address later. We said that the homeowners needed to take a look at the work and let us know on sunday during the day how they liked the section we remedied and we would come back out on monday to do the rest of the gutters the same way.
They never called us on sunday. We called back on monday (12-31-07) and the demanding one of the two women said that they wanted a FULL REFUND of the money for the whole job (including the money for the materials - adding up to around $650). We suggested to get together face to face to resolve the issues they are having.
On 01-03-08 the nicer woman called and we set up a time to meet. Later in the morning the demanding woman calls and threatens to take us to court if we would not agree to their demands, a whole refund. That evening we met for coffee with the nicer of the two women and we suggested to her that we would come out and redo the work completely. She said that she was not going for that and that she had lost confidence in us completely. All of a sudden the demanding woman shows up and gets very hostile with us. Again, she threatens to take us to court and to destroy our good reputation if her demands would not be met - a full refund in the amount of $1,180.
She wants the money back for the gutters that are attached to her house and money for our labor. We can't use the gutters for any other job - all our clients want PVC, not aluminum - and some of them are cut to size, have holes in them from the screws and have sealant every 10 ft as well. We value our customers very much but this is going way too far. We have had very picky clients in the past and always made them happy with the work we've performed - by going the extra mile and beyond. We know that we can't please everyone but we sure are always trying our best. We can't afford to pay close to $1,200 for nothing and to let her get away with it.
She mentioned that she put a stop payment on the second check (she only mentioned the second check, we don't know if she also put a stop payment on the first one which we used for the materials). So that means that we are in the hole with our bank and that the money we paid to our workers is out the door as well. We checked with our bank yesterday and the check was returned yesterday because the client put a stop payment on it.
We think that they are in breach of the contract with us. What legal consequences follow? Can we take them to court for non-payment for services performed and/or put a lien on their property? We think that she closed the contract with us by giving us the final payment in form of a check and then put a stop payment on it. Is putting stop payment on a check the same as having insufficient funds in their account in regards to check fraud? We can see that a client would put a stop payment on a check if the contractor took the check and then ran without performing any work but we bought all the materials and installed the gutters. We offered (free of charge of course) remedy of the issues the clients have with the performed work numerous times but they simply declined - we feel that we have done everything what we possibly could to fulfill our end of the contract and to resolve the issues. The issues can be resolved by 1. either putting clips on the gutters all around the house or 2. completely redoing the job which we are willing to do. Do they have a legal leg to stand on by threatening to take us to court? The mean woman also mentioned that she is considering to have someone else take down the gutters for $7 per linear foot and bill us for that work even though we offered to take down the gutters for free - can she do that?
Thanks for any advice!!