In a sluggish property market, more people consider extending their existing property rather than move house. Building works and home improvements can be an expensive and time consuming business. It is important to plan carefully to help avoid disputes with the contractor after works have started. Let’s face it, prevention is always better than cure. Here are some helpful points to consider.
Before the works start:
- Make sure you have a written quotation and contract in place. As a minimum, the contract should include details of the work to be carried out, any local authority consents required, the cost, arrangements for payment and dates for beginning and completing the work. Keep copies of all paperwork.
- Do not pay the whole cost to the contractor upfront, if possible. Withholding payment(s) until certain stages of work have been completed gives you bargaining power in the event that work is unsatisfactory. This will also save you from some of the consequences in the (hopefully unlikely) event of your contractor going bust or disappearing with your money.
- Consider appointing a contractor who is a member of a professional body such as the Federation of Master Builders or the Royal Institute of British Architects. They set out codes of conduct and can offer mediation or arbitration services. It is also worth asking for references from a contractor’s previous customers. Ask friends and colleagues too for recommendations.
After commencement of works, the law states that contractors must observe the following:
- Use reasonable care and skill and perform the work to a proper standard of workmanship.
- Finish the work within a reasonable timeframe.
- The goods and materials provided must match the supplier’s description and be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and of a standard to meet the reasonable expectations of the consumer.
What should I do if things go wrong?
If any of the following factors apply you may be entitled to compensation:
- The contractor has not carried out their work with reasonable care and skill or within the agreed timeframe
- The contractor has been negligent in their work
- A repair carried out is unsatisfactory
- You have incurred additional expenses or suffered inconvenience because of a breach of contract
- Someone has suffered a personal injury as a result of unsafe goods or services
If it becomes necessary to take action:
- Always try to resolve the matter directly with the contractor.
- Gather all relevant documents including the quotation, contract, guarantee, any relevant photographic evidence and other agreements you have entered into with the contractor.
- Contact the contractor to outline your grievances, making it clear what you would like to happen and when.
- If the contractor fails to resolve the situation, contact their trade association and make use of any arbitration procedure. Remember that arbitration may be chargeable and any decision reached via this method may rule out the possibility of raising a separate court action.
- As a final resort you can raise a court action against the contractor.
If I can help with resolving any building related disputes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0141 552 3422.