AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Builders

Contents

Disputes about building works are often because of delays or defective works.

Complaints about delayed completion and defective works

If there have been delays in finishing the building work or the works are defective, you should make a complaint in writing. You should demand that your builder complies with the contract by finishing the work and fixing all defects within a specified period, otherwise you'll cancel the contract. The period you specify must be reasonable and abide by the terms of any contract.

If the builder doesn't comply

If the builder fails to respond or meet your demands following your compliant, you may want to take some legal advice before considering whether to write to the builder to cancel the contract.

If you choose to cancel the contract, your cancellation letter should also state that you'll be getting estimates from other builders to deal with the unfinished or defective works. Therefore, you should tell your builder that you'll need them to pay any additional costs incurred above the agreed contract price.

Once you have the estimates from other builders, forward them to your original builder identifying which one you've accepted and repeat that they'll need to pay those costs when the work is done.

Demanding costs

Once your new builder has finished the necessary work, you can write to your original builder demanding payment within a specified time.

If you haven't already paid your original builder, you should claim the difference between the agreed contract price and the cost of paying the new builder to finish the work or repair the defects, or both.

If you've already made some payments to your original builder (assuming you've paid them for no more than the work they did), your claim will be the difference between the amount paid to the new builder to complete the work and the amount you would have paid your original builder, plus the cost of repairing the defects.

If the builder doesn't pay these costs then, ultimately, you can take the matter to court.

When paying on credit

If you have any kind of credit agreement, think carefully and get legal advice before you withhold any payments because your future credit rating could be affected.

If you paid by credit card or the work is being financed by a credit agreement arranged by the builder, and the work costs between £100 and £30,000, the lender will be jointly and severally liable with the builder for any breach of contract. This means that you could claim against both the builder and the lender or credit card company for your loss.

You should tell the lender or credit card company if a dispute arises.

Disputes about costs

If the bill is greater than the builder's quote

If you accept a builder's quotation, you aren't obliged to pay the greater amount and you're within your rights to pay for the price you agreed. You can accept a quotation by marking it with the word 'accepted', signing and dating it, and returning it to the builder.

Getting more help

If the complaint still hasn't been resolved, you should consider getting in touch with any trade association or professional body that the builder belongs to. These bodies have codes of practice that aren't legally binding, but set the standard of quality consumers can expect from their members. In addition, they may have conciliation or arbitration schemes. You can use these schemes to resolve disputes with members of the professional body.

NHBC conciliation service

To be able to use the National House Building Council (NHBC) conciliation service, there must be a house purchaser's agreement, which sets out the contract between the house builder and the house buyer. This agreement gives the house buyer certain rights against the builder who is also selling the property. It's only when this document, which is produced in duplicate, is exchanged between the 2 parties that the NHBC scheme comes into operation.

Under the NHBC scheme, the builder gives a guarantee that they'll correct any defects caused by the builder and anything else that isn't up to the required standard of work. This guarantee is valid during the first 2 years of buying the property. In addition, the builder will correct all major structural defects without cost to the buyer for the first 8 years.

Arbitration service

If conciliation doesn't work, you can take the dispute to arbitration if this scheme is available. Arbitrations involve an expert in the relevant field who helps you resolve the issue.

Bear in mind that an arbitrator's decision is final. If you're not happy with their decision, you can't then go to court.

Small claims court

The county court is an alternative to arbitration when the dispute is for a sum of less than £10,000.

Useful contacts

Below are trade associations for the main trades:

Builders

Gas

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