QUESTION: The remodeling of our kitchen is half done. My wife just announced that she really wants a bar sink in the island so that we can use it from our family room. I recall the contractor going to great lengths to explain change orders and scope of work. My wife says that this new sink is within the scope of the work because the contractor is already installing the main sink. I think this is going to be an additional expense.
ANSWER: This is a question that comes up frequently during remodeling jobs and that can lead to serious disagreements between contractors and their clients. Indeed, the contractor and the subcontractors hired by the general contractor have a scope of work. Exactly what that includes should be defined clearly by the construction contract. The general contractor is not obligated to perform work that is not indicated in the contract and his subcontractors perform only the work designated by their trade and the scope of their own contracts with the general contractor. The plumber is limited to plumbing; the electrician to electrical work, etc.
The scope of work is very important when the client requests a change. Good general contractors are careful to explain and document requested changes. They should be very careful to clarify in writing the additional costs that the client will need to pay. Sometimes the change order requires the contractor or sub to perform activities that extend the scope of work. Sometimes the change is simply a modification of the scope of work. Sometimes it is beyond the scope of work. Some modifications to the contract terms could be considered a cardinal change scope of work. Sometimes it is beyond the scope of work. Some modifications to the contract terms could be considered a cardinal change that might be a breach of contract. For example, if your contract called for workers to have access to the premises during normal business hours and your wife later insisted they only be permitted in your home between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., a breach of contract would be clear. The contractor would have the right to stop work until an agreement is reached.
Scope of work disputes usually focus on the reason for the extra work. Suppose your wife insisted that the painter use an inferior paint that began to peel before the job was complete resulting in additional time to repaint the area. The cause of the extra work was the result of the client's specification of the inferior paint, not the painter's workmanship. The extra cost would be borne by the client. On the other hand, if the contractor incurred extra costs to haul away more trash than he initially estimated, the cost would be his.
Since the contractor has included plumbing in the original work, it sounds like the extra sink would require a simple change order and an agreed upon cost, unless the plumber refuses because he has completed his part and moved on to the next job.
If you and the contractor cannot come to an agreement, you should seek the advice of an attorney who is familiar with general contracting.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar Street in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.