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I recently had a contractor do some work on my house.

I was not happy with them at all: They started later than promised, finished later than promised, did not update me on progress, literally forgot to do part of the project (they did it later, after it came up in inspection), sent me the wrong invoice, and then failed to void the wrong invoice as promised.

The original terms were 1/2 up-front and 1/2 when the job is done.

Now that the job is done, I have not received the final invoice. (I can guess why: I have reason to believe they sent it to the wrong address because of their own sloppy record-keeping)

Do I have any legal obligation to pursue this invoice? To call them and ask about it?
Or am I safe in not paying until I'm invoiced, and not being particularly aggressive about receiving the invoice? What might happen in the long run if I never receive the invoice and never pay it?


I found the following parts about payment in the contract:

Payment for each invoice is due to XXX no later than five (5) days after the invoice date.


Full payment of XXX’s final invoice within 30 days of the date on the final invoice is a condition precedent to the operation of RWA’s warranty.


Followup:
Based on discussion here, I realized that what I was really after is a Lien Release. I went into their office and demanded the Lien Release. That is when they realized they had not provided the final invoice, and they finally provided one (more than a month after project completion). I paid the invoice (reluctantly, but honestly), and got my Lien Release.

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    If they finished the job, you're obligated to pay, regardless of whether they started and finished later than you would have liked, unless they committed to a specific timetable in the contract. – Andy Oct 1 at 20:03
  • I'm not denying that. I can and will pay, as soon as I get an invoice. But that isn't my question. – abelenky Oct 1 at 20:09
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    You don't mention the location, but most likely your country has some statute of limitations (say six years), and if they send the invoice within six years, you have to pay, if they don't send an invoice, you don't. – gnasher729 Oct 1 at 20:50
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    A statute of limitations would not apply to an invoice. There’s almost certainly no situation where not receiving an invoice would’ve a defense in a breach of contract suit. The only statute of limitations OP would need to worry about would be one applicable to contract claims. – A.fm. Oct 1 at 23:05
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    Because the contractor or any subcontractor or supplier could file a lien against the property if they're unpaid, I would chase the invoice. – mkennedy Oct 2 at 0:48
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Give the contract language now included in the question, it seems that payment is not due until after the invoice is submitted. I don't see any obligation on the homeowner's part to prompt the contractor to submit the invoice, nor to pay until it is submitted.

It might be well to keep a sum reserved so that a late invoice will not find the homeowner with a cash flow problem leading to a default, which could allow the contractor to claim damages or file a lien. But I don't see how a lien can be field before the invoice is delivered, because the payment is not due until 30 days after the invoice date, and no lien can be field until payment is overdue.

It seems that the warranty on the work is not in effect until after final payment is made. If there is any reason to consider a warranty claim, it might be desirable to get and pay the invoice.

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That depends on what is in the contract for the job, and on the state of the job.

If the agreement was that you would pay when the job was complete, you are obliged to do so (assuming that it now is complete) or at least offer to do so, and 'thy didn't send me a bill would not be an excuse.

But if the agreement is that you will pay on receiving a final invoice (or say within 30 or 60 days after that) provided that the job is complete, then you may wait until they send you a bill.

In general, each party must comply with the terms of the agreement/contract, whatever they may be, unless one (or more) of the term is forbidden or modified by law. So you would need to look to the specific contract to see what you have agreed to do.

  • Good answer! Thanks. I updated the question with some of the contract text, which cites the "invoice date". But I'm unclear if that counts if I haven't received it! – abelenky Oct 1 at 21:21
  • At least in England and Wales, if the OP didn't pay, then the contractor would have to turn to the courts to force them to pay. The first thing the contractor would have to do, would be to write a "Letter before Action" demanding the money within a deadline and saying that if it not paid the money will be demanded through the courts; if the OP pays at this point, there is nothing further the contractor can do. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 4 at 11:01
  • @MartinBonner: Note that in no way am I suggesting I won't pay. I'll pay as soon as I get an invoice; I just haven't seen an invoice yet, and am asking if I need to do any leg-work to make sure they submit an invoice and get paid. – abelenky Oct 7 at 20:43
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    @abelenky Yes, my point is that (in E&W) even if the contract theoretically required you to do legwork, the only way to enforce that requirement is via the courts - and that has to start with a Letter before Action: at which point you have an invoice (and can pay immediately). In other words, a requirement for you to do legwork would be unenforceable. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 8 at 6:33
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Do I have any legal obligation to pursue this invoice? To call them and ask about it?

This sounds confusing. If the contractor "literally forgot to do part of the project", then the job is not done and therefore the latter payment is not due yet.

That being said, under contract law you have no obligation to pursue the invoice unless the contract provides that the lack of invoice forfeits or voids your guarantee.

Contract law aside, not having the invoice could complicate things in the event that you have to undergo to tax scrutiny and are unable to prove that the work on your house qualifies for tax benefits as per your IRS filing(s).

  • Sorry for being unclear: They forgot to do part of the project, until I pointed it out. Then they came back and did the missing flooring later. It was done eventually, but not in anyway that would lead to a satisfied customer. – abelenky Oct 1 at 21:08

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