Freelancers' Questions: What if my contract's silent on expenses?

Freelancer’s Question:

Can a fellow freelancer who sub-contracted some work to me refuse to pay my travel expenses, even after I undertook the agreed work for him on a freelance basis as a sole trader?

I wasn't notified before I started the work that he wouldn't be paying me my travel expenses. I’ve been informally advised to take legal advice but would like some general information before I escalate the matter.

What if my contract's silent on expenses

Expert’s Answer:

Unfortunately, your chances of payment come down to the contract in the most part i.e. what the two parties agreed will be the case.

In respect of some elements to your working relationship, there are implied terms (i.e. which do not need necessarily to be covered by a contract), but the payment of expenses is not included within this.

So where the contract is silent as to the position, unless it was expressly agreed prior to the project that expenses would be paid by the client (a fellow freelancer in your case), none would be due. There is no implied term that expenses are refundable and commonly a client or engager will only agree to refund such expenses on a case-by-case basis, which usually has to be agreed (confirmed) in writing.

To summarise, the position over whether or not such monies are reimbursable will come down to what the parties have agreed in their contract (be that written or oral). Therefore a pointer for you for the future, I suggest, is that you need to ensure as a sub-contractor that the contract you have with the freelancer, your client, clearly states that your expenses will be reimbursed.

The expert was Ben Grover, the senior legal consultant at Lawspeed.

More on sole trader expenses.


25th February 2016

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