When your customer kicks the bucket…
In the middle of a job
May 14, 2012 by Robert Koci
When it comes to contractor-client relationships, things can get complicated… but has this ever happened to you? Recently, a reader wrote in to tell us his client died while he was renovating her home.
Here’s his letter:
I have a situation that I thought you may be able to give or get me some advice on. I am in the middle of a full townhouse renovation. My client, a single mother, died a few days ago. I have had no contact with anyone of authority on her estate, but have stopped the job.
Do you have any suggestions on anything I should do to make sure I am as covered as can be? Any advice would be welcome.
We sent the letter off to Mike Draper of Renovantage, who forwarded it to lawyer Bram Zinman. Here is Zinman’s advice:
The reader should first ensure that the deceased is the registered owner; a simple title sub-search will establish this. If so (and assuming there is some form of contract between the owner and the reader), then finding out if there is a will through others who may live in the house or other contacts is important. The will can inform you of any executors/trustees of the estate who are able to carry on the business on behalf of the deceased. Unless and until you can resolve the above, do no further work on the property.
Once you have verified who the executors/trustees are, establish the extent of the work remaining and payment for it with them. Also, be sure to compose a statement of work done/services rendered up until the last date of work. In this way, you can determine how much to claim under the Construction Lien Act within the 45-day lien period. If nothing happens during that period, it may be advisable to register a Claim for Lien (provided of course you are out-of-pocket). I would also advise the reader to consult a lawyer competent to give advice in this area of law because this may get legally complicated.
If you’ve been in a similar predicament and would like to offer suggestions to our reader, please feel free to post a comment here or e-mail us at: email@example.com
Heidi Filici is a freelance writer based in Toronto and a part-time contributor to Canadian Contractor.