Q&A - Should I pay for a bad decorating job, or can I withhold payment?

Q:    I arranged for my house to be completely decorated inside and out whilst I stayed with my daughter who is in my COVID bubble. I listed everything I wanted doing and all the paint colours before the decorator quoted. On my return home, I found his workmanship poor, he had painted the ceilings white instead of doing them the same colour as the walls, and he had used gloss on the woodwork when I had specified eggshell.

When I contacted him, he denied I had specified any colour for the ceilings, so he had painted them white ‘as that is what people always have’. He also denied I had requested eggshell woodwork. In addition, I had asked for a specific quality masonry paint externally, and I know he used a cheap version because I found an empty tin. Now he is chasing for payment and is being unpleasant. Should I pay, or can I refuse to pay?

A:    If you pay, you can still take legal action for compensation, provided you can prove your reasons for disputing he carried out the job as you requested and as per his quote. If you do pay, either pay by cheque and write “paid under protest” on the reverse of the cheque, or else give him a covering letter saying that you are paying “under protest”. Another option would be to make a part payment and tell him you are withholding the balance until he rectifies the work in dispute, but again, put this to him in writing.

Your third and possibly most comfortable option would be to seek legal assistance to resolve the matter. If you feel the cost of this is prohibitive, check whether you have legal expenses cover with your household insurance. If you do, it may cover the cost of hiring a solicitor to take a claim to court for a dispute with a tradesman.

Article April 2021

This question has been answered by James Denton, a solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, most of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.