I recently opened a shop, and a company I hired to do some building work before we opened just sent me an invoice that's more than the amount we had verbally agreed on. I hired this builder because he looked at a quote I got from another company and told me he could do the same job for around half the cost. I have nothing to show as proof of our verbal agreement. There's no way I can pay the amount the builder is now asking for. What can I do?
When a contract concerning building work is a verbal contract, if there is a difference in the understanding of the agreement between the client (iraisha / 依頼者) and the contractor (ukeoinin / 請負人), it is difficult to determine objectively which is correct.
A contract can still be recognized even when made verbally, for example when trying to finalize a sale at a store. However, in cases such as building contracts where the content of the contract may cover many items, carrying out construction work can be subject to various conditions, and the work is to be completed within a set period of time and so on, it can be difficult to adhere to the content of the agreement based solely on the recollection of both parties. For this reason, it is necessary for both parties to enter into a written contract (keiyakusho / 契約書).
As Article 19 of the Construction Business Act (kensetsu-gyō hō / 建設業法) stipulates that "the parties to a contract for construction work shall record the following items in writing, sign or affix a registered seal and exchange documents when making a contract based on the principles of the preceding Article," in principle, a contract document is required for construction work.
As the issue here is the discrepancy between what both parties understand to be the content of the contract, you can consult the Aichi Prefectural Residents Consultation and Information Center (kenmin sōdan jōhō sentā /県民相談・情報センター, 052-962-5100), or apply to the Construction Work Disputes Committee (kensetsu kōji funsō shinsa-kai / 建設工事紛争審査会, 052-954-6502) to have your dispute resolved. You may also need to consider dispute resolution by legal means, so consulting a lawyer is another option.
Legal consultations for residents may be available in your municipality, so please contact your local government office to check. Nagoya International Center and the Aichi International Association provide legal consultations with support in a number of foreign languages. The Aichi Bar Association also offers legal consultations, so please contact the legal consultation service you feel meets your needs.
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