Ex­pert Q&A: Builder dis­putes

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Hello! - Emma WarnEr-rEEd is a qual­i­fied lawyer, le­gal aca­demic and au­thor. She’s our ex­pert on law.

Q What should I do if I fall out with the builders?

A de­cent builder is like gold dust – so they say. But is a good builder re­ally so dif­fi­cult to find? Com­mon com­plaints about build­ing work range from con­trac­tors not turn­ing up when they say they will, jobs tak­ing longer than agreed, sloppy work or the use of sub-stan­dard ma­te­ri­als, or the builder want­ing more money for work than you’d agreed, or thought you had agreed.

The Con­sumer Rights Act 2015 says work should be car­ried out with rea­son­able care and skill and, where there is no fixed timescale in the con­tract, should be com­pleted within a rea­son­able pe­riod of time. At the end of the day, you should never feel bul­lied into pay­ing for work that you’re not happy with. But many of the prob­lems that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence could be avoided if they took a few sim­ple steps be­fore work com­mences:

1 Be pre­pared. Make sure you have dis­cussed in full and al­lowed for ev­ery­thing that needs do­ing, in­clud­ing any jobs that other con­trac­tors may need to do – for ex­am­ple, al­ter­ations to wiring or pipework.

2 Take ref­er­ences. The best way to find a builder is al­ways by word-of-mouth rec­om­men­da­tion. If you don’t have one (and per­haps even if you do), ask to see ex­am­ples of any prospec­tive builder’s most re­cent work and talk to any for­mer clients of­fered as ref­er­ees. 3 Ex­pect the un­ex­pected. Even in the sim­plest of build­ing projects you are likely to find there is more to it than you at first thought º the work will take longer, be more com­pli­cated and in­volve one or two ‘hid­den’ costs. Make sure you make con­tin­gency for this in your bud­get.

4 NEVER pay for work up front. A trust­wor­thy builder with a healthy busi­ness should be able to af­ford to pay for build­ing ma­te­ri­als them­selves and re­coup the costs once the work is fin­ished.

5 Of­fer to pay for add-ons. Avoid the urge to ask your builder to, ‘Just do “X” while you’re here.’ Fix­ing that drip­ping tap or that ex­tra bit of plas­ter­ing is the thing that will make your builder run over time, and builders re­ally hate that!

6 Get it in writ­ing! A con­tract may seem like overkill with smaller projects, but is es­sen­tial on larger jobs. What­ever your plans, al­ways get a full quote with a break­down of what it in­cludes – need­less to say, a few notes on the back of a cig­a­rette packet is not enough.


Said Fred?

Bernard Crib­bins’

1960s hit song may have been about mov­ing a pi­ano, but sit­ting down for a cup of tea is def­i­nitely the best course of ac­tion in the first in­stance. Don’t think you need to do this alone if you don’t feel com­fort­able. If there is an ar­chi­tect, bring them along too or, fail­ing that, a friend could prove an equally valu­able ref­eree.

If you feel your builder has not been do­ing things prop­erly, an early con­ver­sa­tion gives you the chance to ex­press your con­cerns, and for the builder to voice theirs. Be­fore the meet­ing, think about what it is ex­actly that you are un­happy with, and give the builder an op­por­tu­nity to re­solve the is­sues raised.

Don’t be sur­prised if the builder has a few gripes of his own, too! Be hon­est with your­self – Have you made pay­ments on time? Have you changed your mind a lit­tle too of­ten? Are you ob­sess­ing over tiny de­tails and ques­tion­ing his com­pe­tence? Re­mem­ber, this is a two-way street, and you may need to re­think some of your own be­hav­iours too, be­fore you can move on

Hope­fully a nice cup of tea and a chat will be suf­fi­cient to clear the air. But if things go sour and the re­la­tion­ship ends up break­ing down com­pletely, what can you do next?

Should I lit­i­gate?

If a job ends badly (or not at all), you can take your exbuilder to court to ask them for a re­fund in re­spect of any part of the work they have done that you were not happy with, as well as any ad­di­tional costs you’ve had to pay to get an­other builder to put that work right. You may also be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion for any other fi­nan­cial loss you have suf­fered as a re­sult of their poor-qual­ity work.

If court is the only op­tion, al­ways get pro­fes­sional help. A rogue trader will know their way around the sys­tem and will quickly run rings around you. That said, best ad­vice is to avoid tak­ing ac­tion through the courts as le­gal costs can quickly swal­low up any award. Add to that the fact that, if your builder is in fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, then the chances of any award be­ing hon­oured are slim, and it makes for a thor­oughly slow, stress­ful and ex­haust­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

In all cir­cum­stances, un­less the amount in dis­pute is more than a few thou­sand pounds, the sen­si­ble choice may sim­ply be to chalk it up to ex­pe­ri­ence and find your­self a new builder.

make sure you’re clear about all of the work

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