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Builder ripping us off?

(20 Posts)
mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 21:33:20

Long story short, we are having major building work done to our house. We got several estimates and eventually chose a company. Their price was competitive, and the owner of the company is married to a friend of ours. We were promised a definite quote once certain unknowns had been investigated, like what was under floors, state of electrics etc. We were assured several times that the estimate included contingencies and was a worst case scenario which wouldn't be exceeded.

Work is now underway and things are going wrong. The owner didn't do things like book the company's plumbers, plasterers etc, and instead has employed randoms from the yellow pages. They are fitting us in around their other work. They took our bathroom out on the grounds that the new one would be in within 5 days. That was 3 weeks ago. We also have just a hob & sink, as the kitchen was also removed. We had to order the new bathroom, because they hadn't, despite already having taken our bathroom out. They'd said they'd order it the week before.

Basically everything is taking forever. The owner/project manager has made mistake after mistake, causing long delays. We have young children, and are left without a bathroom or adequate kitchen.

We've just received a revised estimate, in which the price has been jacked up by 25%. It is more detailed than the original, and specifies things like floor screeds. It is full of things which were always going to be needed and any competent surveyor should have anticipated.

Anyway, we're meeting the owner tomorrow. Would we be unreasonable to refuse to pay extra (c. £10k!!) for things which we believe should have been included in the original estimate? E.g. the original priced new bathroom floor at x amount. The new one breaks the cost down (screed, underlay etc) and comes in at 3x the original price.

We have always been very clear about what we want, and this hasn't changed. The owner/surveyor visited many times, took loads of measurements etc. They've made some mistakes which they're trying to pass on to us.

Does anyone know where we stand if we refuse to pay? Should we threaten legal action? Please help.

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 21:33:48

Sorry it's so long.

Tobyjugg Mon 24-Nov-14 21:38:11

You need a lawyer or, at the very least, CAB.

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 21:39:37

Did you sign a contract? DId you agree a timescale for the works? Do you have an architect or construction professional supervising works on site?

(Quite possibly all questions you would rather not have to answer.....)

pauline6703 Mon 24-Nov-14 21:40:15

Get advice. Do not pay without getting legal advice.

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 21:40:39

A lawyer is only any good to you if you have some evidence of an agreement with some reasonably defined terms....

mortil2 Mon 24-Nov-14 21:45:41

This sounds so very familiar (sadly). Do not pay until you have had some legal advice. It's so sad when you have got him through a friend. Good luck!

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 21:47:45

We didn't sign a contract, which I know was very stupid. However we do have an email trail in which we agree to go ahead as long as the estimate is not exceeded, and in which the owner states that it's a worst case scenario. The owher is a quantity surveyor, just a bloody awful one. Will call CAB in the morning. Argh.

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 21:50:35

Well, perhaps the email is evidence enough of a contract. The thing is, is the builder able to complete the works to a satisfactory standards for the price that you have agreed? There is no point forcing him to complete to a certain price if you are going to be left with shoddy workmanship...

(Not arguing with the fact that you do appear to have an agreement in place which he is trying to wriggle out of.....)

It might be worth getting an independent professional to act as a neutral third party to help you resolve this.... a decent building surveyor, architect or project manager....

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 21:51:00

Thanks for all the replies. We did agree a timescale. When we challenged them last week, the response was that if they were sitting in the office updating timescales, then they wouldn't be on site progressing the build. It's a complete joke.

The invoice we've received is an interim payment for works completed to date, with the balance to be paid in full once building regs have signed off the work.

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 21:52:20

The alternative might be to look at the costings again with the builder, agree to some amendment if it seems fair/reasonable, on the condition that you sign a contract that specifies the cost of the works and the timescale.

JCT and RIBA do some good homeowner contracts, will post a link when I locate them online.... that was you can at least hope to progress with some confidence....

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 21:53:05

Are they still hoping to complete within the (originally) agreed time?

Linskibinski Mon 24-Nov-14 21:56:43

A contract is a contract is a contract. The original cost is the only price you should pay. If you accept a new contract you have effectively killed the old contract and begun a new one. So don't! Get legal advice from anyone who specialises in contract law. Good luck thanks

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 22:02:55

No, sadly. They anticipated it all taking 6 weeks, with completion at the start of December. It's looking like mid to late Jan now. I don't know if I'm more angry or upset. I hate how I can't cook all the lovely food I want to for my family, and how there's no escape from it. Home is not a pleasant place to be - it's barely habitable.

One example of their cockups is with the structural engineer. We explained what we wanted to the pm, who said it would all be fine and doable. We also provided our own detailed scale drawings - DH is an engineer. They explained it to structural engineer, but didn't show our drawings and explained it incorrectly. The structural engineer's drawings were therefore wrong and had to be amended. This meant 2 weeks delay and an increased bill from the structural engineer, which has been passed on to us in the invoice. Argh argh ARGH. I'm. Not. Paying.

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 22:05:52

It's like we have each other over a barrel, which is an odd situation to be in.

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 22:23:29

here is the jct contract.... but as Linskibinski says, a contract is a contract, but I'm just not sure what come back you have for their delay and all the rest of it.....

orangina Mon 24-Nov-14 22:25:38

In terms of payment, you want to tread that fine line between making sure you don't pay more than the works are worth, but making sure their cashflow is healthy enough so that they will be able to finish in January and it doesn't drag on into spring....

I do think that investing in a a professional to represent you and get these works completed might be worthwhile....

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 22:32:50

Thank you so much, that link is very useful and the comments are reassuring. I will look into a separate project manager, or I may do it myself. I'm a teacher so being in charge comes naturally wink

natwebb79 Mon 24-Nov-14 22:36:35

My DH is director of a construction company and he says don't pay them. if they take you to court you have thr emails. He said have you checked they've even applied for building regs? He also said this scenario is not uncommon unfortunately. I hope you get it sorted.

mindthegap79 Mon 24-Nov-14 22:44:39

Thanks natweb's DH They have applied for building regs and the 3rd inspection will be this week. It's going to be an interesting meeting confused

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