[thelist] Selling a site on eBay when a client doesn't want to pay...

Nadeem Hosenbokus nadeem at multigraphics.biz
Sun Jun 15 12:41:32 CDT 2008


Apologies in advance for the lengthy email... I'm in a pickle here.

We have an overseas contact who deals with a client who wanted to build a
property website. We started it late 2006 with a 2 month delivery date
aiming for the site to be up and running early 2007. The requirements were
fairly sketchy and we were fools to agree to it but we did. We took a 40%
down-payment with a further 40% due when the development was complete and
the remaining 20% when the site went live.

It is now about one and a half years later and the project is still running.
Every time we uploaded a preview, the client added a few changes here and
there. Initially these weren't a problem but then when there bugs with these
news changes and further changes to add to the new changes and so on until
we got to a point where we had to admit that we got right royally scr*wed.
However the end was in sight (or so we thought) so we ploughed ahead to just
get it done and out of the way and then even more changes were added.

Now the client wants the code without making any further payments. He says
he'll take us (or the middleman rather) to court otherwise because we've
taken too long to deliver.

So I have some questions for those who may have had some similar

1. If we were to take the code and offer it on eBay would we be violating
any laws like intellectual property laws: the site basically allows users to
create an account, upload the details of a property, have a solicitor
assigned to it and then sell/buy online - but the unique parts of the site
(that allow interaction between solicitors and users) haven't been built
yet. All we have currently is a site that allows users to create an account,
upload a property and make an agreement with another user to sell or buy.

2. How much liability would the middleman have if we sold the code? Could he
defend himself in court if we don't deliver?

3. How would you end a project like this? It seems to be in limbo: the
project hasn't reached the stage where the next payment is due but the
client has said that he wants the code now without paying anything more. Do
we ask him for a formal statement to the effect that we can stop

And while I'm at it, another slightly related question: at the company where
I worked previously, we would spend up to a month detailing the exact
specifications of a project. Most of these projects were large Worldbank
funded projects and I could see the merits of spending this much time
working on functional and technical specs. The company I work for now
concentrate mainly on websites and our projects range from very simple sites
to fairly complex sites. Most of the time we could deliver the project in
the same time that it would take to detail the specs so we go along with the
most basic specs and our clients rely on our expertise to fill in the gaps.
What I do is to at least create screens showing all the fields of data that
I will need to capture and where and how to display the data - the design is
finalised before the project comes to me. So my question: how do you vet the
requirements for a simple website?

Sorry for the long email.


Nadeem Hosenbokus

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