Builder remained absconded for 1 year asks for 3 lac now
In month of March 2014 I had given contract to build ground floor of my 75 yards house to a builder who was a friend of my brother. He had just started the building construction business. I told him to have a written agreement in place to avoid any confusion later if anything goes wrong. He denied saying "Its not required, badiya makaan bana denge aapka aap chinta mat karo". On a high level following was agreed verbally:
1. That the cost of furnished and completed house would be Rs. 8 lac.(As per builder's demand)
2. That agreed amount would be dispersed as and when demanded by the builder.
3. That the house would be completed in 3-4 months.
4. Construction material and other things during house construction would be used as per my satisfaction.
I paid Rs. 1 lac in advance to start the work as per the demand. He started the work. The building material he used in the construction was not of our choice. He used weak bricks in the construction. When I complained about it he got angry. This was violation of fact that he would build the house as per my satisfaction. Then he stopped work without reason. He resumed after a week. He demanded for more money. I paid him Rs. 1 lac more. Worked for 2-3 days and again stopped the work without informing me about the reason. In the meantime I knew personally that he got another contract to build part of a school. So even though he did not tell me the reason why work was stopped, I knew the reason. He was building the school which was way bigger project for him than my one floor house. He even stopped visiting the site and did not come to meet me after many requests. He resumed again and demanded money. I paid Rs. 1 lac more before the RCC roofing. Ultimately on 17th of May 2014 he build the RCC roofing and then he told me to wait for 15 days. During these 15 days he was totally into other projects which was fine with me. But even after completion of 15-20 he did not start the work. I called him multiple times, messaged him multiple times but he did not listen to me. He stopped replying to my messages and taking calls. I even visited his house to meet him but could not find him. I asked his mother to tell him that he should meet me asap but even that didn't have any effect. Seemed like he was totally ignorant at this point and stopped caring for what was agreed upon. I waited for him to resume work for around 2 months but he never came back and did not even tell the reason for not resuming the work. He abandon the project. Point to be noted that there was no blocking conflict during all this happened.
Finally when my patience was over I gave him ultimatum of 7 days to remove all his stuff from my house so that I could get the work completed by some other contractor. I messaged him about this on whatsapp of which I have a copy in my phone. My last message to him on whatsapp was sent on 3rd of August 2014 to which he did not reply. He always demanded advance money before any work was done and I paid in time. So all in all I paid 3 lac to him until the RCC roofing was done.
I thought of filing a lawsuit against him but I ignored and let him go as my focus was on to build the house. I did not want to go around the courts. I estimated that he did equivalent amount of work for the money I paid but the mental harassment me and my family suffered was way too much than this as my neighbours and relatives started questioning us as to what kind of extraordinary house I was building as its not getting completed. That was embarrassing.
Anyways I got the house completed by another contractor. Now happened unthinkable and could be called as irony. After nearly 1 year, he complained against me in some labour union that I cheated upon him and did not pay him the appropriate amount for his work to build my house even after repeated demands. He also hired a lawyer to send a court notice. He is demanding Rs. 3 lac more for the work he had done which is totally illegitimate. Fact is that in the last 1 year, I never saw him. There was zero communication between us. He never told me why he abandon the work and never asked for any money or anything in the last 1 year. I have history of whatsapp communication in my phone with him.
According to me since he left the project without a any reason, I am not liable to pay anything to him now. Since it was his decision not to continue work, this case is not valid.
Sir, please suggest me whether I should go ahead and fight him in the court or what is the appropriate action in this matter. Does he stand any chance in the court if I fight him in the lawsuit? I am supposed to reply to his notice within 15 days.
Also please ask if you need any specific details in this regard.
Asked 3 years ago in Property Law from New Delhi, Delhi
1) you should contact a local lawyer and defend suit filed by him
2) you should in your defence mention that he abandoned work and you had to hire another contractor to complete the work
3) I do hope all payments were made by cheque and you have retained photographs of work done by him
4) you have good case on merits
1. Not executing an agreement with him was a blunder you committed. As a corollary thereto, none of you is able to assert legal rights against the other.
2. Labour union has no authority to act against you. Only a court of law can adjudicate your dispute.
3. If you have received a notice from his lawyer then have your lawyer reply to him.
4. It will be futile on your part to go to court against him as you have no documentary evidence to stand on your feet against him in the court. If he files a lawsuit against you then contest it as you are not liable to pay him.
First of all reply to his legal notice denying all his allegations and also you may turn the table against his saying that he is responsible t o pay you back the excess amount he has taken for the unfinished work.
Next you may file a complaint against him before the consumer forum for deficiency of services narrating all the facts and seek compensation for mental agony as well as physical losses.
The above steps will make him wonder about the retaliation and back fire and may come to a negotiable table.
1. The case does not lie in labour court.
2. The private contractor is not a labourer as provided for under ID Act.
3. Fight the case in labour court. You will win.