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Advice needed please - building nightmare, possible Small Claims process(6 Posts)
Hello. I’m hoping that someone with knowledge of the legalities around the small claims process might be able to give me some advice.
In as much of a nutshell as I can manage, DH and I appointed a builder to do a garage conversion for us – he started in April this year, but since about June the appearance of his men has been patchy at best and we’ve had numerous “discussions” with him which have always resulted in him apologising, assuring us of his best intentions but essentially doing nothing apart from sending someone on the odd day to do a bit of work then disappear again. Eventually, we lost patience when we discovered he had lied to us and last week wrote to him saying that we would be pursuing a claim against him in the small claims court. His payment terms were such that we’ve already paid him the majority of money for the job (I know, I know, but it seemed like a good arrangement at the time).
He clearly doesn’t want to go to court and has suggested that we try to settle ourselves. This would probably suit us as long as we get a reasonable amount of money back. We’ve had quotes for completing the job and for putting right the elements which are wrong (the roof, for instance, will not be signed off by Building Control, so needs to be taken off and redone) and I emailed him this weekend to say that we were looking for just over £8000 back from him. He is now saying that he will appoint an independent builder to quote – which, frankly, we won’t allow. If we need to get second quotes we will decide who to get them from, not let him ask some mate to quote low but that’s almost by the by.
Where we are now is that it’s looking very possible that we will go to the Small Claims Court but this could take time and we are heading into the winter months with an unfinished conversion which is open to the elements at the back. My big fear is that he will pay us something, but not the whole cost or, in the worst case, that he will declare himself bankrupt and not pay us anything. Both these scenarios mean that the longer we delay with completing the conversion, the more costs we are liable to open ourselves to. Already his roof has leaked – if it does so again and affects the interior, we could end up paying a lot more than £8K to put it right.
So my question is: is there any reason why we shouldn’t get two quotes (for the court) but go ahead and complete the work as soon as possible, claiming money back from him at the same time or retrospectively? Would the court think this was reasonable or would it be frowned on?
I apologise for the length of this but this situation has been dragging on for so long and has been so stressful for us that we just want to get it sorted in the quickest way that doesn’t leave us hugely out of pocket. Any advice would be massively appreciated.
Hi, I think if you're looking at small claims, then 8K is more than allowed. From memory, it's 5K max.
If you can afford to get it fixed, do so as soon as possible - it seems like a sensible solution. Get three quotes if you can.
The fact that you have lost confidence and done everything reasonable to deal with your builder won't hurt you. You can still take him to court under the Consumer Act 1982.
Read this site for more info.
If a judge finds that your quotes are unreasonable or inflated, or you have unreasonably broken the contract, then it'll affect your award. It's not like you won't get an award though - as clearly your building isn't finished.
Usually builders of his ilk go bust though...
I went through similar but on a bigger scale as it was a big extension. I also paid far too much up front, mainly for materials which then failed to arrive. He then failed to turn up at all. We were way out of the league of small claims as we were on the hook for probably about 80K if had to get someone else to complete given that he had taken money for a kitchen, windows etc and then the money has disappeared. We went to a solicitor, thankfully one we had connections with so we did get a discount. He then got a solicitor too. He had not a leg to stand but I was petrified he would go bankrupt and we would lose everything.
Our solicitor made it clear that we had to mitigate our losses which meant giving him the opportunity to complete the job. In the end (after huge letter writing tooing and froing) he came back with his tail between his legs and finished. It was torture having him and his men here but it was the best thing in the end. A 6 month job took 2 years in total though. It also cost us about thousands in legal fees because he did everything he could to try and make out we were in the wrong in some way so there were loads of letters. The only consolation was that it would have cost him even more.
I think in your case that small claims only go up to 5k and you do have to give him the opportunity to complete the job. So I think he needs a least a letter from a solicitor threatening him with legal action unless he completes. Would he really go bankrupt rather than return?
The upper limit for small claims in England is £10,000- you may find the goc.uk page useful.
Thanks everyone for your replies. The limit for small claims in £10K as TheCraic says so we're OK on that front. We're going to go ahead and get the work finished ourselves - having got three quotes to do everything and with large numbers of photos, emails from Building Control and a five page chronology of the builder's failure to deliver. Mabel, massive sympathies for what you went through. We've got proof that he's lied to us on more than one occasion, so I think we can justify not wanting to continue with him, especially as we've given him several chances to pull himself together. WWK, thanks for your support, especially as I know from your other threads that you've got your own stuff going on. I think you're right and that we'll end up getting little or nothing out of him, which makes the fact that I'm spending all my time trying to get quotes together a bit frustrating. Still, there's always wine.....
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