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How to avoid a dispute with your builder

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Thinking of buying a new home? Ensure you are covered

Building projects can be very expensive, and so it is important if you are making changes to your property that you protect your investment by researching and carrying out various checks on the builder you appoint to carry out the work. Below are some of the things you can do that will minimise the chance of a dispute and help your case should a dispute arise.

Research the builder

Make sure that you instruct a reputable builder. Ask to see examples of previous work, similar to the work you are instructing them to carry out for you. If they have a website or social media page have a look to see if you can find photographs of their work or testimonials from previous customers.

If the builder is a limited company, you can obtain copies of their accounts from Companies House to check whether the business is financially stable if you do have to bring a claim against them. If they are a limited company, it is the company that you would claim against, not the directors personally. If it is not a limited company, then your claim would be made against the owners of the business personally and therefore you need to know whether they have any assets themselves, that you could enforce a judgment against in the unfortunate circumstance that you need to do so.

Check for trade association membership

If the builder is a member of a trade association or professional body, ask them for details of this and check with the association about what assurances they can offer you about the builder’s work.

Check that they have appropriate insurance cover

The builder should have public liability insurance as a minimum. This means that if anyone injured on site while the work is being carried out, or if the work causes damage to other parts of your property, you should be able to bring a claim on the insurance.

If the builder says that they have this then request a copy of the policy. They should also have insurance to cover any potential claims for defective work. This would mean that even if the builder could not afford to pay you personally, their insurance company would pay.

Ask for a written quote instead of an estimate

An estimate from a builder gives them the flexibility to increase their costs during the project should unforeseen work arise. You should request a written quote instead which details exactly what work they are agreeing to carry out and for what price, and what materials are included in that price. If anything changes during the project and more work is required that was unforeseen at the start, ask for a revised written quote before the work is carried out.

Have a written contract

A written contract will help the parties during the project know exactly what is expected of them. Not only that but it will also significantly strengthen your case if a dispute does arise. The contents of a verbal contract are much harder to prove than a written one.

Make sure that they are aware of your time expectations

You will expect the project to be finished in a certain amount of time but often disputes can arise when a project ends up taking months longer than it was expected to. It is therefore important that an agreed time is specified in the contract so that it is binding with the exception of any delays caused by complications outside of their control such as adverse weather.

Agree on a payment plan

The way that you are going to pay for the project should also be agreed and made part of the contract before you sign it. It is not advisable to pay the full amount before the works are carried out.

It is recommended and reasonable to pay for the materials up front and to pay for the builders’ time in staged payments once particular sections have been completed on longer projects. This way it is an incentive for them to finish a project properly and to meet the time expectation set out in your contract.

Check if planning permission is needed

Small projects may not need planning permission or be subject to building regulations, but many do and so it is important that you check with your builder whether this is required before they commence the works. Your architect or builder should be able to tell you if these are needed but you should still make sure yourself to avoid issues with your local authority afterwards.

Ask for evidence of any qualifications or certifications

It is important to make sure that the tradesman you choose to carry out the works is properly qualified for the job that you are asking them to do. If the work being done requires a specific certification, such as gas or electrics, ask to see a copy of their relevant certificates which should be up to date.

Take regular photographs or videos of the project

If a dispute does arise, the more evidence you have to support your claim, the stronger your prospects of success will be. You should take photos or video footage of the work area before the project starts and at each stage throughout so that you can document everything. If you can, make sure that the photos are dated in case that they need to be referred to later on.

Unfortunately people do occasionally find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to take legal action against their builder, contractor or tradesman when the work has not been carried out properly. If you find yourself in this position it is important to get advice as soon as possible. Our solicitors have extensive experience handling building dispute claims and we have various expert contacts that we can engage on your behalf to assess the works and provide reports on the quality of them. It is important to get reports at an early stage of the case before any remedial work has been carried out.

To speak with one of our building dispute specialists call us on 01616 966 229.