When we had an addition added to our home recently, we were charged extra for what the contractor called “unforeseen existing conditions”. Is it standard practice for the contractor to not investigate thoroughly and then charge extra for conditions they say they didn’t know about?
From the tone of your question I would guess that you felt that you should not have been charged for your unforeseen conditions. Without hearing more details on the situation, it would be hard for me to guess whether it was something that the contractor may have honestly missed, or if it was so obvious as to cause suspicion. I will assume it was a hidden condition. In this case, here is one way to look at it. If the contractor would have known about the problem and figured the work in the original contract would you not have been charged then? As a matter of fact, I would guess that you would have been charged more since the contractor would have added their markup on top (which is how they stay in business). Chance are that you were given the best possible price on the extra because it was an unforeseen condition. This is assuming you were dealing with a legitimate contractor.
Yes, it is common practice for contractors to charge for items they were unaware existed. That is why having a thorough contract & specifications is so important. Contractors often hear the phrase “We talked about that” when reviewing an item the owner thought was included. It doesn’t really matter what was talked about, if it’s not in the specs, it was not charged, therefore it cannot be included in the original price.
The customer says they thought it was included, the contractor says it wasn’t. The solution is to make sure all parties review the specifications very thoroughly and understand every detail of work to be done. Then all parties must understand that if it isn’t included in the specifications in writing, it is not getting done without an extra charge.
This is also a troublesome area when comparing contractors. How do you know if they are all figuring the same thing? You MUST look at their specifications very closely. Chances are if one contractor is cheaper than the others, they probably missed something. You must compare apples to apples. I would certainly be more inclined to trust a contractor who brings existing conditions out in the open at the beginning – even if they know the price will be higher, than a contractor who may be playing dumb (or really is).
Remember, only you as the buyer can decide who is on the level. Once again, in remodeling as in anything else – you only get what you pay for. Check the specifications thoroughly!
Answered by: Patrick Benkowski, CR
President – Roadrunner Custom Remodeling Inc.