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My fiance recently went on a 7 night cruise abroad and would not have cellular service. She hired a local pet sitter to come by her house 3 times a day to feed, water, and change her dog's paper. They agreed on 9 days for $35.00 per day. The pet sitter requested and was paid $315.00 in full prior to beginning the service.

My fiance stays in a gated community and added the sitter to her guest list so that she can access the home. After the second day, the pet sitter was denied entry through the gate by security. The sitter contacted her emergency contact to notify her that she is unable to care for the animal since she cannot access the home. Her mother took care of the pet for the remainder of the 9 days.

Upon returning back to the country, she learned from her mother everything that happened. Thankfully, the dog was okay since her mother was able to take care of the dog while she was abroad. My fiance contacted the sitter to offer 4 days' pay, $140.00, for the 2 days of service she was able to do her job to compensate for any inconveniences. The sitter maintains position that the agreement was for $315.00 for 9 days of service and that it was not her fault she couldn't do her job for the remaining 7 days, so she kept the full payment.

Is it legal for the pet sitter to keep the full payment, even though the contract was breached?

Was the sitter right for keeping full payment with only providing a fraction of the services agreed upon?

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It is almost certainly legal for the sitter to keep the money. She was ready to provide the service, and it is not her fault she couldn't (and she may have turned down other opportunities because she had this one). I think your fiance's claim would be against the firm providing the security service (they are the ones that frustrated the contract). I foresee the following problems:

  • What are her losses? She was prepared to pay $315 (which she has paid), and the dog has been looked after. Where is the loss? (She may be able to argue that it was worth $315 to her, not to have to owe her mother a favour. I don't know if that will fly.)

  • The contract with the security firm almost certainly waives liability for this sort of thing. She would have to convince the court that the contract terms were unreasonable/unconscionable (or whatever the term is in the local jurisdiction).

There are two obvious options here: a) see if there is legal cover on her household insurance (or her pet insurance); b) forget it (it's only $175 all told).

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