A contractor cannot inflate the price of extra works, if the parties had agreed on the rates, before the works started. This was held by the Magistrates Court presided by Magistrate Dr Marse-Ann Farrugia in a judgement delivered on 15 December 2023. The case was Mario Falzon on his behalf and on behalf of Proman Interior vs Erika Zammit.
The claim amounted to €10,951 which represented plumbing, electricity and masonry works in a property in Ħal Lija.
The Defendant, Erika Zammit filed a statement of defence, in which she stated that she paid for the works according to the rates the Plaintiff had quoted and that he should suffer the court costs, because he failed to turn up for meetings with the architect to verify the works.
The Court analysed the evidence brought before it. The Plaintiff had given quotations for finishes that needed to be done in the Defendant’s property. In fact, she had given him the architect’s plans. The quote was over €31,000 but the final bill was of €42,000. The Plaintiff explained that the increase in price took place because of the difference in the quality of the work and there were additional works. The Plaintiff further argued that he did not agree with the Defendant’s architect’s calculations. The architect testified that her calculations were based on the agreed bill of quantities. She explained that there was agreement on the bulk of the works but not on all.
The Defendant testified that there was an agreement on the quotation, however, the Plaintiff issued a bill which was higher. She explained how five items were in fact higher than that originally quoted. Furthermore, she explained that not all the works were complete and other works were not authorised.
The Court pointed out that in the proceedings the Defendant claimed that the works were not done well, however, no plea was raised on this. Since no formal plea on the quality of the works were raised then the court did not consider this as a defence.
The main issue at stake was quotation five, in April 2012, which was different from the invoices issued in March and July 2013. The Court further pointed out that the quotation included the furniture of the bedroom and this was not delivered. As such the Plaintiff reduced the claim by €1,976. The Court held that the original agreement between the parties established that a soffit was to be placed in the bedroom, but as the works were being carried out the Defendant wanted to place more soffits in other rooms. The Court held that the Plaintiff has a right to be paid for works he carried out. But the Plaintiff had to apply the same rates for any extra work done and not change the rate. The Plaintiff in fact changed the rates for additional works.
Another point of contention was the works carried out in the basement. The Plaintiff described this part of the invoice as painting and decoration of the walls. However, the Plaintiff only applied oil to the walls. The walls are carved out of stone and therefore there were no stones to plaster. In cross-examination, the Plaintiff was not clear on what these were and how they were charged. The Court commented that the quotation given by the Plaintiff did not include works in the basement, because they discovered the basement after the quotation was given. The Court analysed the photos presented and the basement is formed from cut rock and a built wall. Therefore, the Plaintiff should be compensated for the work carried out. The Court established that the amount claimed should be reduced, to reflect the quote agreed upon. The Court repeated this when calculating the claims for works on the windows and doors and flooring and wall tiling.
In all the Court calculated that the Plaintiff was owed €6,259, a lesser sum.
As to the costs of the case and the plea that the Defendant should not be condemned the costs, the Court quoted Article 223(1) of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure.:
“(3) In all cases, it shall be lawful for the court to order that the costs shall not be taxed as between party and party, when either party has been cast in some of the points at issue, or when the matter at issue involves difficult points of law, or where there is any other good cause”.
The Court held that although the Defendant was right in that she did not have to pay the total claim, but at the same time the Plaintiff was also right in that he was owed money. Another factor is that the Plaintiff reduced his claim during the case. The Court ordered that each party pay its own costs.
Av. Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud and Mifsud Advocates
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