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Dispute with craftsmen? In these cases, you can withdraw orders

A bathroom renovation is pending, new tiles are needed in the kitchen or the house is getting soundproof windows: private individuals usually hire craftsmen to do this and other work.

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Dispute with craftsmen? In these cases, you can withdraw orders

A bathroom renovation is pending, new tiles are needed in the kitchen or the house is getting soundproof windows: private individuals usually hire craftsmen to do this and other work. There can always be friction between the parties.

If the construction site is not finished at the desired time or if the craftsmen interrupt the work in order to finish another construction site first, this can cause frustration on the customer side. But how to proceed?

"Friendly, but determined, seek a conversation and show the other person your limits," advises Holger Freitag, attorney of trust for the Association of Private Builders (VPB).

If this has no effect and, for example, the schedule for a refurbishment is thrown up by an unreliable specialist company on the customer's side, the customer can withdraw the contract from the craftsman at any time.

"If the customer cancels, he has to pay for the services rendered by the craftsman up to the time of cancellation and, so to speak, his lost profit due to the cancellation," says Freitag. The law vaguely provides that the entrepreneur is entitled to five percent of the remuneration that was agreed for the services not rendered.

But precisely because it is not exactly stipulated, according to Freitag, a contract termination often leads to legal disputes about the amount of the remuneration.

Furthermore, a “termination for good cause” is also possible. This can happen if the relationship of trust between the customer and the tradesman has been severely disrupted or if there has been a serious breach of contract.

In case of doubt, the terminating party – this can be both the client and the craftsman – must provide proof of the important reason for which he or she acted in this way. "In that case, after acceptance of the canceled part of the work, only the part services that have been provided without errors have to be paid for," says Freitag. Any advance payments made are to be offset.

In any case, it is advisable to give notice of termination in writing. This means a handwritten signature under the cancellation text. "Mails or SMS are not enough," says Freitag.

In general, be careful with advance payments. It is understandable and legally not objectionable when craftsmen ask for an advance payment for the purchase of comparatively expensive material such as tiles in special individual cases. "Nevertheless, if in doubt, you shouldn't pay in advance," says Carolin Semmler, in-house lawyer at the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia.

A payment obligation only arises when the customer has accepted the work. This means that the work has been completed in accordance with the contract and the customer has given his consent. If you pay in advance and there is a dispute afterwards, it can often be difficult to get your money back.

It is helpful to make concrete agreements from the outset so that trouble and breakdowns between craftsmen and customers do not occur in the first place. "Clients should discuss all the work that needs to be done with the specialist companies as precisely as possible and record what has been agreed in writing or at least in text form, for example by e-mail," recommends Semmler. So both sides have something in hand.

The time frame in which the work is to be carried out should also be clearly agreed from the start and, if possible, fixed in writing. The same applies to the costs incurred.

So that there are no unpleasant surprises later when you receive the invoice, it is advisable to obtain a cost estimate before starting work. "Agree on a fixed price later if possible and put that down in writing or by e-mail," says Semmler. If there is no agreement on a fixed price and if the estimated costs are significantly higher in this case, the craftsman must inform the customer immediately.

After completion of the work, acceptance is carried out by the customer. If there are defects, the customer should ask the craftsman to rectify them, stating a deadline.

"The cost of remedying the defect is borne solely by the craft business," says Freitag. In the event of defects, customers do not have to pay the full invoice amount. You can withhold a reasonable part of the remuneration until the defects are remedied.

"As a rule, double the costs required to remedy the defect are considered reasonable," says Semmler.

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