blue kitchen with glass door and ceiling

Can You Break a Contract with a Builder

Having a written contract with your builder is crucial for ensuring that the project will be completed according to specifications. If the builder fails to do that, a contract provides you with legal options to pursue compensation in court. Some people assume that they can’t break a contract with a builder after it’s been signed. That’s not true in some cases.

Situations when you’re allowed to break a contract

builders looking at the plans on a table

A contract is legally binding for both parties that conclude it. This means that the builder can take legal action if you don’t pay as initially agreed. But it also means that you can break the contract if the builder fails to hold up their end.

There are very specific circumstances that allow you to do that, however. You must always consult a lawyer before deciding to break a contract. Even if you believe you are in the right, the law might not always agree with you.

Some situations that allow you to break a contract include:

construction worker in a building site
  • The contract has specific clauses for premature cancellation. This usually involves paying a cancellation fee that’s agreed upon in advance.
  • The contract was concluded on misleading grounds. For example, the builder lied about their qualifications or schedule.
  • Most commonly: the builder does not fulfil their contractual obligations. If they delay the project significantly, or they fail to provide certain services that were included in the contract, this may be grounds for cancellation. 
rear house extension with bi fold doors

Be careful: a contract does not have to be explicitly concluded in writing

Many people wrongly believe that, as long as there is no written contract, they are not bound by any terms. That’s not true. Even a simple, informal agreement can hold up as a valid legal contract in court.

Find out whether builders give out contract before starting the work.

construction worker at work

Paying a deposit can also be seen as an implicit agreement to the builder’s terms. The same goes for telling them to start working without signing contract.

Not having a contract can make things more difficult for you in this scenario. In the event of a dispute, it will be harder to prove to the court that the builder has violated any of their obligations. For this reason, you must always make sure to get the entire project outlined in writing. This will allow you to break your contract with your builder in case things go wrong.


Clara Annesley

Clara Annesley is an interior design and construction content writer. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Architectural Design Technology from the University of West London. Clara specialises in residential construction for topics like health & safety, architectural design and writing cost guides for renovation and remodelling projects.