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

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Common complaints about building work range from builders 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 was agreed.

Work should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, and, where there is no fixed timescale in the contract, completing the work within a reasonable time. You should never feel bullied into paying for work or materials 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.

2. Take references. Ask to see examples of any prospective builder’s work and talk to referees.

3. Expect the unexpected. Even the simplest of building projects may take longer than anticipated, be more complicated or involve one or two ‘hidden’ costs. Make sure you cater 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. Get it in writing! A contract may seem overkill with smaller projects, but it is essential on larger jobs. Whatever your plans, always get a full quote with a breakdown of what it includes.

If you feel your builder has not been doing things properly, an early conversation gives you and them the chance to express any concerns. Follow it up in writing. But if things go sour and the relationship ends up breaking down completely, what can you do next?

If a job ends badly (or not at all), you can take your ex-builder to court for a refund in respect of any part of the work they have done that you were not happy with, as well as for any additional costs you have 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 or materials.

If court is the only option, always get professional help. That said, avoid a court case if possible. Taking court action is expensive and legal costs may quickly swallow up any award. If your builder is in financial difficulties the chances of any award being honoured are slim. The process may be slow, stressful and an exhausting experience.

You may want to consider alternative dispute resolution such as mediation. This is quicker and cheaper, but it relies upon compromise between the parties.

For further help or advice, contact Jonathan Warner-Reed on 0113 280 2045 or jonathan.warner-reed@luptonfawcett.com