Breach of contract

Discussion in 'Legal' started by J Swallow, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. J Swallow

    J Swallow UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    1 0
    hi will try and be accurate and to the point as could end up long winded.

    I have a customer who after finishing a previous job ask me for the price to decorate a living room. They would supply materials and move all furniture. Customer uses Facebook Messenger to contact me. I sent quote to them in second week of October via Messenger and got a reply 19 days later asking to book me to do work mid December. I sent a message following morning with the dates I could book job in and got reply that evening. job was booked to start in 6 weeks time.
    Week before I was due to start job a message to give her list of materials and sort out about getting into house to do job. I get a reply saying sorry to mess you around but i need to cancel this work. I asked if they wanted to re book was told yes and would get back to me in 5 days. After 14 days and no reply I sent another message asking if still wanting to re book, no answer. 23 days later I sent another message stating I had not heard from them and felt they where messing me about and by cancelling short notice makes it hard for me to fill that space with another job and I had lost out on £XXX.XX money and by them accepting the quote there was a contract setup between us and as they had cancelled late and didn't re book I would be looking at charging them part/all of the loss of earnings and to contact me if they felt this was unfair.
    response from them was circumstances had changed and that they felt 7 days was fair notice and they wouldn't be paying any or all of the money and would defiantly not re book me.
    If you read this far thank you, my questions are.

    I feel they have breached contract under UK contract law. could this be wrong?

    Should I seek legal advice before moving forward with breach of contract letter before action or do it myself?

    Is it straight forward or is there anything I have missed?
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: J Swallow Member since: Jan 14, 2019
  2. estwig

    estwig UKBF Legend Full Member

    12,120 4,217
    Your probably in the right and they probably have breached contract.

    The time, effort, cost and stress of taking them to court to get a weeks wages isn't worth the effort. Next time take a deposit.
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: estwig Member since: Sep 29, 2006
  3. Blaby Loyal

    Blaby Loyal UKBF Ace Full Member

    1,016 193
    In the absence of a written contract clearly setting out the provisions for payment in the event of cancellation then you will have a very hard time succeeding.

    Your communication to them advising them of the cancellation fee is probably post-contractual and, therefore, unenforceable. It would be a matter for argument as to when your contract with the customer came into existence.

    A Letter Before Action might do the trick though after all "if you don't ask, you don't get".
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: Blaby Loyal Member since: Jun 12, 2018
  4. Newchodge

    Newchodge UKBF Big Shot Free Member

    11,714 3,027
    Did your contract specify whether and/or how either party could cancel? Did it specify what proportion of the total cost would be payable if cancelled 7, 14, 21 days before the event, or any other period. How much was the whole quote?
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: Newchodge Member since: Nov 8, 2012
  5. Blaby Loyal

    Blaby Loyal UKBF Ace Full Member

    1,016 193
    Perhaps another thing to bear in mind is that your claim is one for damages. Under Common Law you are under a duty to mitigate your loss.

    If you do go on to make a claim and the claim is defended then you will need to evidence your loss and what steps you took to replace the job. For example, if the job was worth £500 but, as a result of the cancellation, you got another job for £600 then have you actually suffered any loss?
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: Blaby Loyal Member since: Jun 12, 2018
  6. Paul Norman

    Paul Norman UKBF Ace Free Member

    2,427 743
    As business people, we all probably feel some of your pain here.

    And this is breach of contract. What the courts would do to put it right - if anything - is a guess, of course.

    And painful, annoying and frustrating as it is, the damage to your local reputation of pressing the point might be more. People cancel. It is annoying. They do it to me, too.

    It is worth asking for a meaningful, and clearly non refundable, deposit.
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: Paul Norman Member since: Apr 8, 2010
  7. Lee Oakley

    Lee Oakley UKBF Contributor Free Member

    87 22
    Hi J, assuming you wanted to throw good money after bad it should be noted that the courts do give consumers a lot of leeway in dealing with companies where there isnt any clearly defined contract terms in place.

    The court will simply say that if you havent written down any terms and conditions to form a contract, how can you expect any resulting contract to be enforceable?

    You cant enforce terms people havent been made aware of and perhaps didnt even exist until after the fact?

    There would be an almost certain likelihood that, in the absence of a signed contract detailing their cancellation rights and your full terms and conditions (if any do infact exist) that them giving you 7 days notice to cancel would be considered fair.

    Personally, as frustrating as it is may be for you, being self employed when you don't have the security of a salary each month, I would look at this as a chance to tighten up your procedures and introduce some terms and conditions, with any cancellation rights/terms explicitly written down.

    Be careful to strike the balance between being fair and equitable in avoiding last minute cancellations and putting customers off all together though!
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
    Posted: Jan 14, 2019 By: Lee Oakley Member since: May 21, 2018
  8. Michael Gerard

    Michael Gerard UKBF Regular Full Member

    458 215
    It is obviously very annoying when a customer decides to ‘cancel’ work at the eleventh hour, especially when a lot of planning has been involved and other work may have been turned down in order to accommodate the now-cancelled work.

    In order to consider whether you can make a claim, you must in the first instance establish that a valid contract between you and your customer has come into existence. For a contract to be valid, important elements must exist which are offer, acceptance, consideration, an intention to create legal relations, certainty and capacity.

    You have made an offer to decorate a living room and that offer has been accepted, whilst the consideration is the monies you will receive in exchange for your resources. The other 3 elements should be present, and thus there is a valid contract between you and your customer for you to decorate the living room for the agreed price.

    Part of the contract terms was that you would start the work in “mid-December”, and through no fault of your own this did not happen with the customer stating that she: “had to cancel the work”. At that point, the customer has wrongly repudiated the contract and you had 2 options, either to accept the repudiatory beach and bring the contract to an end [and pursue for damages] or affirm the contract. From your outline of the situation, you affirmed the contract by offering to re-book the work. However, since the customer agreed to re-book the work, by her subsequent refusal to engage with you, I would say that she has demonstrated that she has no intention to be bound by the agreement, and thus this is another repudiatory breach of contract which you can again either accept and bring the contract to an end or affirm the contract.

    Assuming this time that you want to accept the repudiatory beach and bring the contract to an end (which you should do in writing), you will then be able to claim damages as a result of the repudiatory breach, and assuming that you are a sole trader, such damages can include loss of earnings, subject to proof and demonstration of mitigation.
    Posted: Jan 16, 2019 By: Michael Gerard Member since: Feb 28, 2010