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Please help me with this issue with our builders - are we being unreasonable?

(10 Posts)
Plumsauces Fri 28-Mar-14 21:15:34

I'm at a loss on how to proceed and would like some calm and reasonable advice please as I fear my pregnancy hormones are taking over!

I am 8 months pregnant and we are about to move into a new leasehold flat. There is a strict freehold company who request permissions and licences be obtained via their solicitors before any structural work is done.

The directors of the freehold company live on site.

We wanted to replace a 30 year old boiler before moving in, and made arrangements for a reputable local firm to do the work. We made it clear to them they must utilise the existing hole in the wall for the 'flue', and not alter the external wall of the building in any way or else we would need a licence to carry out the works. So far so good, we agreed this with the managing agents and gave the local firm access to the property.

They arrived to do the work - sent someone who had not been there when they quoted the job. And set about making a big hole in the wall for a new 'flue', just a few inches away from the original one!

The directors of the freehold company arrived on site, and we then received notification via our solicitor that we will be incurring the costs of obtaining a licence and will need to pay for a surveyor to inspect the work.

Our plumbers did not call us to tell us any of this had happened. They agreed with the directors on site that they would repair the brickwork to their satisfaction.

We called the plumbers, completely confused as to why they have made another hole in the wall. They lie and tell us the directors of the freehold company told them they had to place the flue in this new position ....

Rather than get into a dispute we agree with the plumbers that they will complete the job, payment on completion as per our original agreement, and they will also contribute just 15% towards the large legal fee of we now have to pay. We're not happy with this contribution but for the sake of moving forward agreed to it.

The following day the plumbers contact us to say we have made it very difficult for them to work with us! and they will only complete the job, if we pay upfront.

They have already proved to be dishonest and we are very reluctant to pay up front because trust has been broken.

They are still holding the keys to our property though. And we are without a boiler and still have 2 holes in the wall. They have done the pipe work however.

Do they have a right to insist we pay upfront?
Can they re enter our property without our consent?

What can we do to move forward? We want them to complete the job but under the terms we agreed - payment on completion.

Any advice would be very much appreciated.

Collaborate Sat 29-Mar-14 02:29:43

Sounds dodgy. If I were you I'd stick to your guns. Send them an email outlining your original agreement, together with your instructions re the hole in the walk which they breached and which has cost you money. Set out the subsequent agreement that they pay 15% of the added cost, and that you're willing to continue as per the original agreement but if they're not, you'll deem them to be in breach of contract and will get another contractor round to finish the job, and recover any additional cost from them.

Have you paid anything upfront?

mercibucket Sat 29-Mar-14 02:38:46

afaik the hole for the flue is usually not in exactly the same place. they should have explained to you that it might not have been possible.

Plumsauces Sat 29-Mar-14 08:52:13

We paid nothing upfront. I did offer a deposit but they said no, payment on completion was fine.

We only commenced the work not he understanding that the flue would be in exactly the same place. They were fully aware of the implications if they tampered with an external wall of the building.

I am minded to say we stick with the original agreement, which they did agree to in writing. However I think they will withhold the keys if we say this. I think they will withhold the keys unless we pay for the work done so far.

However they have actually cost us money now. We are now liable for legal fees and we also have to reinstall the hole in the wall with bricks etc. This I imagine will be costly.

mercibucket Sat 29-Mar-14 10:35:21

witholding keys is not a big deal. as the legal owners i am sure you can get a locksmith round to change locks if necessary. but what a pain!! the hole is usually filled with the cut out bricks from the new hole. are you sure it counts as a structural change as well?

Plumsauces Sat 29-Mar-14 11:22:33

Yes, the managing agent and freehold company deem a new flue structural change.

We will change the locks if they withhold the keys. They do still hold keys to the communal area however. It's a complete pain.

Plumsauces Sat 29-Mar-14 15:19:09

We have just spoken to them. They are refusing to complete the work and are leaving us with 2 holes in the wall and no boiler. They have agreed to let us have keys on Monday and are not charging for half days work done so far.

We are still left with £2000 in legal costs because they didn't follow our instructions.

Do we have any recourse?

mercibucket Sat 29-Mar-14 16:46:25

poor you sad

if you have legal cover through work or home insurance, maybe give them a call if noone posts on here with a legal option to chase them for recompense. i guess they also have insurance, maybe ask for details to try to claim against it?

Kudzugirl Sat 29-Mar-14 16:54:41

They cannot withhold your keys as part of a dispute. You need to send them a letter demanding the keys back within a time frame.

I'd inform them that they wouldn't have a leg to stand on if anything went missing from your home or anything was damaged or tampered with seeing as they retain access to the home.

The Freeholders can pursue them for the keys to the communal area too.

Nappaholic Sat 29-Mar-14 22:42:10

Crikey, what a mess. I don't want to add to your woes, but I suggest you get some formal legal advice, about the plumbers AND the freeholders' charges .... £2k in legal costs sounds outrageous for what was, essentially, a fairly trivial mistake. I'm not a civil law expert, but the plumbers have breached the contract and you have suffered consequential losses. As a previous poster suggested, check out any home or other insurance that might include legal advice or legal expenses insurance to see if you can claim for legal costs.

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