not had time to read the whole thread but my experiences of managing a building project over the last year have left me feeling naive believing all the stuff that is said about web design etc "you need a contract" etc etc.

as far as I know the law for a designer would be the same as anyone else doing work making or fixing something for someone.

- once an agreement has been made for a project to be undertaken for X cost, then a contract exists in UK law. In fact if they sack you before completion you can sue them, even without anything on paper.

- conversely, if agreed money is not paid then the person who did the work is entitled to come and remove it from your property. As long as they don't need to break in to gain access, they are within their legal rights. It is their work and as such their property. They could walk in through an open back door or climb through a window, or be let in by a guest. It doesn't matter. As long as they don't have to break in it's tough. There is no requirement for a grace period or a warning either.

Having had to deal with the deep end of building works and learning all this as I went along, and speaking to people who have or have run their own companies doing eg gas fitting, none of these scenarios are particularly uncommon.

Of course there are many other potential nightmare scenarios, but do you understand where I am coming from here?

- in British law an agreement is as legally binding as a written contract
- in British law the tradesperson is legally entitled to remove all of their work at any point until the bill has been paid.

Often in practice it comes down to a kind of face-off with bluffs and double bluffs. It's civil court stuff not criminal court stuff anyway, but nobody really wants to pay solicitors etc etc.

I am now feeling very naive for actually having spent money getting a solicitor to draw up a contract for web design work. As far as evidence to show a court in the event of non-payment goes, a string of emails showing the salient points would be more than adequate. One thing to be aware of, though, is that dates and time-scales should be stated. Even then there is for both parties the legal concept of "reasonable" time for completion and payment - just as the work has to be done with "reasonable" skill.

One thing that has really screwed me up is that you are supposed to give an incompetent worker the chance to fix their bad work before you sack them if they thought they were going to complete the project. This just strings things out terribly - and if someone really is incompetent, one problem just leads to another. As an employer I now know - sack first, dare them to sue.

You would probably be within your legal rights to just delete your own work from their server.

IANAL, any comments appreciated as I feel like a sucker.