How to handle disputes with builders
When building projects don’t go according to plan, it can cause problems, both for the owner of the project and the Builder(s). In most cases, disputes arise due to rogues passing themselves off as reputable builders. But what can you do if you find yourself in a dispute with Builders? Below, we consider some ways to handle the situation correctly.
1. Give Them Time To Put Things Right
Reputable builders take pride in their work and typically welcome any opportunity to fix any work you consider below standard. So, first, offer them the chance to do it over and get it right. However, this only applies if they are qualified. Suppose, for instance, that you found out that the builder is not qualified to do the work they claimed they could do. Stopping them from further work on your project is best.
This means they did not meet their contractual obligations under the Supply of Goods and Services Act of 1982. This Act requires workers to provide services that meet a proper quality standard. So, if your builder does not meet the desired standard, give them time to get it right or let them go.
2. Seek a Second Opinion
Suppose you have given your builder enough time to fix the issue, and they are either incapable or unwilling to do so. You may have to prepare for a possible damages claim. But before making a claim, you need to know what it would cost to fix the damage done. It may be worth it, at this point, to get another Builder or a Building Surveyor to take a look at the property and assess the work done on it so far.
However, you want to ensure that this assessment comes from an expert building professional and not just an Artisan. A professional can help determine what went wrong with your project, how to fix it, and what it would cost.
This assessment will not only highlight what you need to do to avoid further damage to your property, but it will also help determine the validity and extent of your claim.
3. Gather Evidence
When hiring a builder to work on any project, taking pictures and comprehensive records at every point is advisable. The logic is to establish a paper trail and build a wealth of evidence if there is a dispute. So, keep all evidence of communication between you and your builder(s), whether letters or emails.
This can support your case if you try to get your money back or sue the builder(s). However, if you had not gathered evidence before the dispute, all hope is not lost. You can start gathering evidence from the point of getting a new builder to assess the property. Take photos of bad work, abandoned tasks, and evidence of refusals to get it right or conversations between you and the builder.
You also have your contract (if any) to fall back on. It likely describes the work terms and expectations, which can serve as evidence of a breach of contract if the dispute goes to court.
4. File an Official Complaint
Suppose you have given your builder enough time to make the situation right, gotten a second opinion, gathered evidence of the damage, and still not reached an amicable resolution. It may be time to file an official complaint. The first place to start is the building company; check if they have a complaints procedure, and lodge a complaint with them.
If they don’t have one, find out if they belong to a trade association like the National Federation of Builders (NFB). If so, a dispute resolution scheme may be open to you via the trade association. However, if none of these work, you need to speak to a solicitor who will draft a letter. This letter is typically different from any correspondence you may have sent before.
It describes the basis of your claim, the damages you have incurred so far, and the legal steps you intend to take if the dispute is not resolved. Sending this letter shows that you are serious. However, ensure that anything you put out is accurate so your letter is not used against you. That is why getting a solicitor to put it together is advisable.
5. Consider Your Payment Channel
Did you make an upfront payment to the Builder? If so, the payment channel may play a role in helping you get redress.
For example, if you made payments via credit card, you may be able to get back some or all of the money. In the case of credit card payments, you can recover your money using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act of 1974.
Alternatively, if your building work was insured, you can claim from your insurance company. You can also check if your home insurance provides legal cover for building disputes. This option will require you to speak with a solicitor.
If every other dispute resolution avenue has failed, the only option may be to settle the matter in court. At this point, you need to speak with a solicitor to understand your chances and what you need to win.
The size of your claim will determine which track it would take in the county court. If your claim is below £10,000, the matter will go to the small claims track.
Claims above £10,000 are in the fast-track category, while complex claims, £25,000 and above, are in the multi-track category. While every dispute requires its unique strategy, you can expect your solicitor to make a case summary and file proceedings with the court.
Then, the defendant (Builder) will get a copy and have 14 days to respond to the proceedings. They are then expected to file an admission, accepting the claim, or a defence, disputing some or all parts of the claim. However, suppose they don’t respond to all these actions. You can apply to the court for a default judgment.
7. Explore ADR Methods
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques are an alternative way to resolve disputes arising from construction projects. These include arbitration, mediation, conciliation, etc., and are often less expensive than litigation in a law court.
Plus, they can help preserve the relationship between both parties. However, both parties must be willing to partake in the alternative dispute resolution process.
Most construction contracts provide for an ADR method for resolving disputes that may arise. But if it does, parties can, on their own, decide to settle out of court and choose a conciliation method that works best for them.