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A plumber gave me a quote to bring natural gas to a standby generator, which I accepted. He began work today. This evening he sent me an email saying that to install a larger gas meter would cost at least an additional $2,500. (An increase of over 50%.) He used the words "a class 500 meter bar". He says he is willing to negotiate.

It should have been clear to the plumber that the 250 meter would not run the stove, oven, house heat, clothes dryer, and hot water heater, as well as the new whole house generator. So he low balled me with his proposal.

What options do you suggest?

Update One: I have decided to tell the plumber to pick up his tools (which I have relocated to the driveway), and to give me an accounting for the supplies he purchased, and a refund for the money I gave him that he has not spent.

I guess I also need to tell the city building dept to take his name off the building permit.

Does this sound reasonable?

Is there anything else I should be thinking about or doing?

Update Two: The plumber should have disclosed the cost of everything up front that was a necessary part of the project. A couple of hours after I complained to the electrician who recommended the plumber, the electrician sent me an email saying the plumber only intended to charge $400 additional for the meter bar, not the $2500. The $400 is about what it costs. I have sent an email to the plumber to call me if this is true. (I do not have his tele number and it is not on his prop.) Would you recommend rehiring this plumber?

Update Three: On the advice of the city plumbing inspector, I called the county official in charge of consumer protection in such matters. It seems that official is also the person in charge of issuing plumbing and electrical licenses. That official got some documentation from me and then called the plumber. He negotiated a $1,000 refund from the plumber. The check is to be made out to me but sent to the official. Then it will be forwarded to me. I am optimistic. (This is not an ideal solution because the original plumber did no professionally competent work, so I am still out $1,000 of the $2,000 I gave the plumber up front.)

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    Was it determined that your meter needed to be upgraded? For additional capacity? – Tyson Sep 13 '16 at 2:19
  • @Tyson I modified the question to address your comment. – Yehuda_NYC Sep 13 '16 at 2:28
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    Are the pipes to the meter big enough for the larger service? – Harper Sep 13 '16 at 4:48
  • @Harper There was no mention of running a new pipe from the house to the street. – Yehuda_NYC Sep 13 '16 at 12:43
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    Further, if you cancel the contract and the contractor doesn't like the payout you propose, in at least MA he can put a lien on your house until the matter is settled. You need to chat with a lawyer. – Carl Witthoft Sep 13 '16 at 15:57
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Most of the time the Gas company will provide a larger meter in my area. He quoted the install and missed this. I would verify his license and bonding sounds like ?. Since you won't be running everything at the same time you may not need that big of meter. Call the gas company and ask them for the size required and the cost of an upgraded meter. Then check with the better business bureau and file a complaint if the larger is not needed and the work quoted is not done at the contract price.

Below is part of an Oregon CCB bonding statement -

The surety bond guarantees that contractors comply with the Oregon Revised Statutes. In the event that the contractor’s non-compliance results in third party damages, a claim may be filed against the bond. A property owner is entitled to file a CCB complaint against a contractor for improper work or breach of contract. The CCB may then direct the contractor to reimburse the property owner for damages for a valid complaint. If the contractor does not do so, the bonding company is obligated to pay the funds due to the property owner, up to the amount of the bond. The contractor is legally obligated to indemnify the surety for any losses as defined in the indemnity section of the surety bond application.

At least in Oregon and Washington states the bond protects the owner from unsafe building. This is true even if it passed inspection and a damage causing failure is later found. I don't remember how many years they can go back, but I keep my old code books, and there used to be an exception for exterior outlets over 6.5'. A buddy of mine put several eve outlets in standard receptacles. A new home owner was putting up Christmas lights in the rain, got shocked and fell. The insurance company and lawyers were going after him for damages because that was no longer the code. I found the code book showing it was legal when it was installed, and he did not have to pay, but it still cost him several thousand dollars in legal costs.

  • The gas company in Westchester NY is strict. They do not hold by the logic of "it will not all be running at the same time". I agree with the gas company. The standby generator might come on when no one is home and while various gas appliances are in use. – Yehuda_NYC Sep 13 '16 at 8:52
  • The pipes feeding the house seem to be large enough. There was no talk of running more pipe from the street. – Yehuda_NYC Sep 13 '16 at 8:53
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    If he is licensed and bonded the contract also protects him. He may have been trying to up sell you to make more $. I understand feeling uncomfortable but his bond also protects your property. If he did poor work the bond would so expensive it would quickly put him out of business. – Ed Beal Sep 13 '16 at 12:59
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    @DMoore It may be that way in your state. what I added to the answer is not opinion but what is covered here. If the job is not correctly done with some damages the company issuing the bond ends up having to pay, to me that protects the home. Telling the OP to pull out of a contract (that the meter was not covered) in the contract may end up costing more in legal fees or a lien being placed on the property with the contract as proof. – Ed Beal Sep 13 '16 at 19:23
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    Yes but two things here. That does not make your house not blow up. And the big one is who would want to go through filing claims and sueing over shoddy workmanship and having to prove something was done wrong years ago. I have had to be bonded to do jobs years back - I have never seen a bond claim happen more than a few months after a job and usually it is during the job. Home owners should understand that being bonded does not mean they are great - it just means they have insurance. – DMoore Sep 13 '16 at 20:21

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