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Postponing a contractual work


Hello Rav,

I had a question regarding paying a contractor a cancellation fee/push off fee that he is charging us.
We are in the process of purchasing an apartment bez’H.
We scheduled him to work for us this week, starting yesterday and was supposed to take around 1 week plus 2 days (7 work days) , and verbally confirmed with him about 2-3 weeks ago.but only confirmed via email last week Monday.
This is what it says in the estimate (not a contract): Payment schedule is as follows 30% deposit on the first day (cash) of estimate and a date will be set to start the work. 50% due at completion of about 1/2 of the approved jobs list. The remainder upon completion. Cash=no VAT

We were under the impression that we were allowed to do some work there, especially because we are just fixing some mold issues, but were mistaken, as the seller’s lawyer won’t allow us to do any work in the apartment.
We verbally cancelled with the contractor, telling him that it will have to wait a few weeks or so until the mortgage goes through, Sunday morning, but gave him notice that we may have to postpone last Wednesday, 4 days after confirming via email.

He is now charging us 30% for postponing the the original estimate.
So basically he is charging us around $900 for not working this week.
He says that he already hired the workers and must pay them. That I understand.
But he also says that he has found other work already for Wed. and Thurs. and so should mitigate some of his losses.

What is the right thing to do here? It was our fault for the cancellation because we should of had explicit permission first, but 30% which is $900 for not doing the work seems like a lot. He is not paid by time, but is contracted for a job. There was no mention of a postponement fee and we still want the work done.
I know its complicated.



Answer from Horav Y. Fleishman shlit”a

He can only charge for his actual losses because of garmi and even that is not certain since it depends how much you were negligent. In the worst case scenario he has to prove what is losses were and that is what he can charge, and not more than that.

Best wishes

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