NSW Non-Payment of Renovation on Farmhouse - Take to Small Claims Tribunal?

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11 September 2015
We have renovated an old country farmhouse that is being managed by friends who are the power of attorneys for their hospitalised elderly father.

The contract was initially drawn up by and agreed to by all parties to repair the house yards to it's former condition with the majority of work to be done by outside tradesmen and our small part which was cleaning up gardens, etc. was to paid was in lieu of rental.

The condition of the house was so bad that most tradesmen would not touch it so it was decided verbally that I would do the work and be recompensed accordingly. The renovation has taken a six months to complete and when I submitted the final account they are refusing to pay it saying they did not authorise the work even though they have been paying the bills with no questions asked, they have been in the house numerous times and have seen the work and are very happy with it. There is no dispute to the quality of work and no council permit was required being just a renovation with no major structural work undertaken.

Because they are friends we even gave them a discount on the work to help them out.

We have a complete diarised and full photographic records of the whole renovation and all financial records of all the accounts paid etc.

The final amount of all the work carried out is over 22,000 dollars and would be less the amount of rent that would have been paid. The final amount would be close to 10,000 dollars. The house was borderline condemned when we moved in and we could not even obtain insurance for the first 5 months of occupation. The amount charged was only 25 dollars per hour and can we charge them at industry rates?

My questions is do we have a chance of winning this case if we took it to court and should we proceed through the small claims tribunal with a smaller amount or the local court with a larger amount?

We are not greedy and are just asking for recompense for the work completed.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.



Hi Sami,

Its impossible to say without having an understanding of all the circumstances surrounding the situation, but I don't see any major impediment to you pursuing your friends for payment of the invoice through civil proceedings.

I would start by sending a formal letter of demand setting out the basis on which you are claiming the sum you are charging, then set out any discounts applied and attach any evidence you have that supports this. Then state that if $X amount is not paid by a certain date, then you reserve the right to institute legal proceedings to recover the money. If you receive no response from this, you can send another stating that you are going to institute proceedings. Then proceed to file a claim.

Whether you choose to pursue a smaller value in small claims or the full amount in Mag's court is up to you, however in small claims neither party is allowed to have legal representation so you will be on even playing field if you do not engage solicitors to assist you with the matter. The cost of filing a claim will also be less. If you go through the Magistrates court, either party can retain legal representation and the unsuccessful party will likely cop an order to pay the other party's legal costs.