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Standard of work - building project disputes

Home improvements are generally made to enhance the aesthetic appearance, increase the size of the living areas, and increase the value of a homeowner’s property.  The decision to make home improvements often involves significant investment and financial planning.  It is therefore crucial that a homeowner takes time to research relevant building contractors so that they can make an informed choice to make sure they are contracting with the right party before formally instructing them to carry out the building works on their home improvement project.

Unfortunately, despite a homeowner’s best efforts to carry out their due diligence checks prior to engaging a building contractor, problems do arise.  It is not uncommon in building disputes for homeowners to raise concerns over the quality of the goods/materials used and the standard of workmanship undertaken by the building contractor during the building works on the project.

 

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Builder standard of work dispute

When building disputes arise concerning these issues it is important to ascertain whether the parties entered into any written form of contract which contains express terms and conditions dealing with the quality of the goods/materials and the standard of workmanship to be applied on the project, and the rights of the homeowner if things go wrong. 

Some building contractors have their own standard terms and conditions which may provide details in this regard.  Depending on the size of the project there may also be a standard form JCT contract such as the JCT Minor Works Building Contract 2016 (“JCT”).  There are many forms of JCT contracts, and it is important that homeowners take independent advice prior to entering into these contracts as some standard terms may require amendments due to them having draconian consequences. 

It may well be that the parties have not agreed any express terms and conditions prior to engaging a building contractor and the scope and price of the works are simply by reference to an initial estimate/quotation or correspondence passing between the parties.  Wherever possible it is important that any agreed terms in correspondence is clear so as to avoid any ambiguity in agreed terms to reduce the risks of disputes arising.

When a homeowner is instructing a building contractor as a “consumer”, which is generally the case when it is an individual’s own main residential home, then there are implied terms which are also incorporated into the building contract by virtue of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  These require a building contractor to carry out the building works with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price (unless it is clear from the terms of the contract what the price shall be).

Given the stressful nature of building works and the effect it has on homeowner’s daily lives and routines, disputes, and concerns over the standard of works can only exacerbate the already stressful situation.

When faced with concerns over the standard of works it will be important to try and raise these directly with the building contractor at your earliest opportunity.  It may be that homeowner’s can resolve their concerns by early intervention so that the project can continue to completion without any significant delays.

If however, the dispute exacerbates and is not capable of being resolved it is vital that evidence is preserved and so a contemporaneous record of all the works should be taken.  This can be done by taking pictures or videos of the works as they progress.  In addition, all conversations/instructions with the building contractor and any other third party should be recorded in writing so there is a written trail of evidence that can be referred to in the event of a dispute.

Depending on the nature of the defects it may well be important to obtain independent expert evidence from a Building Surveyor.  This expert should be instructed to inspect the works prior to any remedial works being carried out and to provide a report on the defects found, whether it was due to works provided under the contract, that the works have caused the defects and that such works have not been carried out with reasonable care and skill to the standard of a reasonable and competent builder.  The expert should also set out what the cost and method of repairing each defect would be often illustrated by reference to a Scott Schedule annexed to the report.  If you wish to rely on the expert report in any future court proceedings, then the report will need to comply with Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Resolving a building dispute concerning defective works and materials can be complicated especially if there are significant differences of opinions over the operation of the contractual terms on the project.  Building disputes are notoriously expensive if court proceedings are involved.  Therefore, it is important that homeowner’s who find themselves in a dispute with their building contractor to seek early independent legal advice to ensure their best position is properly reserved before any dispute escalates further.

If you think you may have a claim and wish to discuss it with us, please telephone our specialist team on 01616 966 229, or complete our online enquiry form and someone will respond to you as soon as possible. 

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