How to Dispute a Plumber's Bill

How to Dispute a Plumber's Bill

Tips and tactics to resolve the situation properly

By Glyn Sheridan

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The plumber's gone but he left his bill and it's more than you anticipated. Learn how you can deal with it.While it's always prudent to get a firm bid before hiring any type of contractor to prevent situations like this, it isn't always possible, especially in a plumbing emergency. If you sincerely believe the plumber overcharged you, there are steps you can take to dispute the bill.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Consult your homeowner's insurance. If you're filing a claim, they may intercede with the plumber on your behalf.

Step 1:

Request a labor and materials breakdown from the plumber. For example, if your invoice states $1500 for labor, ask the plumber to detail how many hours he spent on each part of your project and how much he charges per hour. In addition, if your plumber charged you $2500 for materials, request a list of each item he used on your job.

Step 2:

Find out what fee your plumber charges for a service call. Some plumbers charge a minimum fee that may equal two or more hours of labor, even if they are in your home no more than 10 minutes. If the fee reflects more than two hours of additional labor, after subtracting the plumber's commute time, ask him how he justifies that charge.

Step 3:

Ask your plumber what his or her markup is for materials. This is the percentage tacked on to the actual cost of the materials and fixtures installed in your home. Take the list of materials to your local hardware store and compare the retail prices with the figures the plumber charged you. Typically, the plumber usually adds up to 20 percent, though not all plumbers charge a markup.

Step 4:

Look for the addition of materials on the list that you don't think the plumber used on your job. For instance, if the detail sheet lists 20 feet of galvanized pipe and your plumber only installed a 2-foot section of pipe, there's a discrepancy. Bring it to the plumber's attention.

Step 5:

Call your plumber and express your concerns. If it's an honest mistake, the plumber will correct the error. If she or he doesn't, you still have a legal option if you're convinced that you were overcharged.

Step 6:

If you have exhausted all your other options, you may have to file a suit in small claims court. You will pay a small filing fee and you will receive a court date. The plumber will receive a summons to appear. Gather all your evidence -- receipts, correspondence, etc. -- and present it to the judge who will make a determination based upon the merits of the case.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Keep the lines of communication open when disputing a plumber's bill and avoid insults and accusations.
  • Before disputing the bill, compile a list of comparable material prices.
  • A plumber can file a mechanic's lien preventing the sale of your home that will remain on your deed unless you come to an agreement or pay the amount due.
  • Always check references before hiring a plumber.

About the Author

Glyn Sheridan is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

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