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Home improvements - sifting out the good from the bad

View profile for Heather Bailey
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Home improvements - sifting out the good from the bad

5 tips to ensure your home improvements are as good as you hoped

  1. Select your contractor carefully; look at reviews, seek references from previous work they have completed, check profiles on websites such as www.checkatrade.com, check their accounts on companies’ house, and obtain their insurance details.
     
  2. Ensure you have a written contract which details all the terms and conditions and contains details of what to do if things go wrong.
     
  3. Think carefully about the price. If it sounds cheap, it is likely that the contractor may try to cut corners. Where you can, make payment by credit card to ensure protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974; the credit card company can be held jointly liable for the work of the contractor. You only have to pay a small deposit on credit card to gain this protection. Make sure you pay the card off in full if you are able – to avoid high interest payments.
     
  4. Avoid paying large sums up front. A good company should be in a position to pay for materials prior to the job commencing.
     
  5. Try to agree payments in instalments (at certain stages of the building works), with a retention payment to be held back until you have signed to confirm you are happy with the works.

5 tips to help if things go wrong

  1. Take photographs of the issues; these can be taken during and after the works, to demonstrate any poor workmanship.
     
  2. Set out a full history of the issues in a letter before action to your contractor. This should confirm the facts of the dispute, what you believe is wrong, how you feel the issue could be rectified and any remedy you are seeking (whether monetary or work type specific). The contractor has 14 days to acknowledge this letter and you should request that they confirm their Insurance details when they return to you.
     
  3. Instruct an expert to provide an experts report confirming the issues with the works, and what is required to rectify the same, along with the approximate costs. This report should comply with Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules (which can be found online), and most experts will be aware of these.
     
  4. Notify your legal expenses insurance company of any issue which may give rise to a claim, as soon as you are aware of it. This will ensure you comply with the terms of reporting within your policy. Legal expenses insurance is a policy which is usually added to common insurance products such as home or motor insurance, for a minimal cost. They cover your legal fees for a wide range of disputes, so you don’t have to deal with these things alone, and making a claim on these policies does not usually affect your insurance premium for the main insurance product.
     
  5. Do some research into the defendant: You will need to ensure that they can afford to pay any County Court Judgment sum which is awarded against them if your claim is successful. If they cannot pay, do they have assets from which you can secure payment, or insurance which would cover the costs.

If you do experience an issue and would like professional legal advice from our specialist dispute resolution team, please contact us on 0175 321 6399.

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