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Tradesmen left house unsecure

(16 Posts)
jinglestheelf Mon 09-Jan-17 22:15:06

Without going into too much detail....

We had tradesmen in our house doing a large job. We moved out for several months due to the amount of work that needed doing. They were given a key to get in and out. Unbeknownst to us, they had been leaving the key outside under a brick to allow the other workers to easily get in and out. Somebody found the key and entered our property and stole a number of high value items totaling around £2000.

The main builder is denying all responsibility as he is not covered under his insurance for theft. The police have been involved and have recovered approx £100 worth of stuff but there are no more leads and the case is no longer being worked on.

My question is, can I take the main builder to the small claims court to recover the cost of the remaining stolen items? What sort of process would I need to follow?

The matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that it is our local council who is paying for the work via an interest free loan. They also chose the builder and have signed off the work despite my not agreeing that the builder had done everything on the jobs list to my satisfaction. They are now saying that the contract was between ourselves and the builder and are wiping their hands of the situation. Would they be jointly liable here or not?

Thanks for any advice

DustyBustle Mon 09-Jan-17 22:18:44

I think the buck stops with you, you should have provision in your insurance for works being carried out whilst the property was not being lived in, because a property is likely to be not secured during that time.

jinglestheelf Mon 09-Jan-17 22:21:57

Do you have legal experience Dusty or is that an opinion?

I've never been over to his board before so have no idea who the legal bods are.

DustyBustle Mon 09-Jan-17 22:26:19

Experience actually, - renovating a bungalow for my parents we had to have special insurance accounting for no residents at the time and many workmen on site,

GertrudeBelle Mon 09-Jan-17 22:30:59

I think you'd have a claim against the builder for negligence. You'd argue that they owe a duty of care to you and this was breached.

The council might also have been negligent if they were reckless in the recommendation of this builder - e.g. If they knew they were dodgy or incompetent but chose them anyway. But it doesn't sound as though you have evidence of this.

TheCraicDealer Mon 09-Jan-17 22:55:17

I think the Council would be hard pressed to avoid this entirely as presumably the works contract is with them, not you. Did you get a copy of the contract? If so, the 'employer' should be named on it. And if you don't have a contract it certainly doesn't support their position that it's between you and the builder, does it? If they're appointing contractors on behalf of Clients with no alternative then it's up to them to make sure they have the correct insurances in place before they give them a new project. Anything else is grossly negligent.

Sounds like this was a big job and so The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 will almost certainly apply. Under the CDM Regs the Principal Contractor is required to prevent access to the site by unauthorised persons. So clearly they have failed to do that. They should have a Contractors All Risks Policy in place, which is the type of cover that was alluded to above. I can't imagine any reputable builder not having this type of policy in place. You handed over full control of the site to the contractor at the outset of the project and so this is his lookout. Get thee to small claims- I wouldn't go to a solicitor as their costs are rarely covered in SCC even if judgement is found in your favour. It's structured to allow people to represent themselves; anyone I know who's done it has found it relatively straightforward.

Caveat- IANAL (hahaha)

TheCraicDealer Mon 09-Jan-17 23:04:03

NB- CAR polices are supposed to be jointly taken out between the Principal Contractor and the Employer, so you do need to get to the bottom of the contract thing.

That being said, it was the builder's negligence that led to the break-in. Even if you were the Employer, the insurance position shouldn't preclude you taking further action against them. It just means the builder would have to pay from his own pocket.

TheCraicDealer Mon 09-Jan-17 23:09:30

Sorry, that should read "Even if you were the Employer ^and had failed to arrange cover^" .

Think it's time for bed now.

prh47bridge Tue 10-Jan-17 08:09:06

I think the buck stops with you, you should have provision in your insurance for works being carried out whilst the property was not being lived in, because a property is likely to be not secured during that time

Insurance is not some kind of magic wand that makes liability go away. If the builder has been negligent it makes no difference whether or not the OP was insured - the builder is still liable. All insurance would mean is that the OP's insurer would be looking to recover their money from the builder rather than the OP doing it herself.

In Stansbie v Truman a decorator left the house he was working on to get some wallpaper. He left the door unlocked despite the householder having told him to lock the door if he left the house. A thief took jewellery and other property while the decorator was away. The courts decided that the decorator was liable due to his negligence.

There are other cases where defendants have been held not liable for losses due to criminal acts so it is not clear that the courts would hold the builder liable in this case but it is certainly possible they would.

I am unclear as to the role of the council in this. If they stipulated which builder you had to use and you then engaged the builder and paid for the work I would agree that the contract is between you and the builder. I doubt the courts would hold the council liable. If the council engaged the builder themselves they may be liable.

If you want to proceed you need to send the builder (and the council if you are including them) a letter setting out your claim, giving a reasonable deadline for paying and stating that you will take legal action if they fail to pay. If they do not respond you can start your claim at If the claim is around £2,000 there will be a fee of £105 to start your claim. You can claim this fee and any other court fees from the builder.

jinglestheelf Tue 10-Jan-17 17:16:48

Thanks everyone much appreciated, lots to think about. I am loathe to let this go so will do some digging regarding the contract and go from there, probably to the small claims court.

jinglestheelf Tue 10-Jan-17 17:20:37

prh47bridge the council provided the funds via an interest free loan. They sent the work out for tender, they chose the builder, they agreed the start date with the builder and they decided when the job was completed and sent the payment. Their position is that despite all this, the contract was solely between us and the builder

Ginorchoc Tue 10-Jan-17 17:31:06

I'm not a lawyer but a project manager for commercial fit outs and my contractors insist on three sets of keys. They then allocate them to whichever professional is in that day and they are signed for and accounted for. This is standard practice. If we don't have extra sets they get extra sets cut, with permission and return all sets. They'd never work with leaving keys insecure! I'd be furious!

prh47bridge Tue 10-Jan-17 18:22:10

the council provided the funds via an interest free loan

This is probably the critical point. If you paid for the work the council is right that the contract is between you and the builder. The fact they provided the funds is irrelevant since that was a loan. However, the council has played a pretty big role here. There is nothing to stop you taking action against both the builder and the council. You won't have to pay the council's costs if the court decides they are not liable.

prh47bridge Tue 10-Jan-17 18:42:31

Posted too soon!

As I say, you won't have to pay the council's costs if the court decides they are not liable. But, since you paid for the work, albeit with a loan from the council, my view would be that they are probably not liable. Personally I would stick to pursuing the builder.

Misplacedcell Tue 10-Jan-17 19:28:24

prh4 is on track. Claim against both. You will win. The builders have no firm ground to stand on. Councils always squirm longer but take them to court for the reckless part they played.

jinglestheelf Sat 14-Jan-17 11:10:27

Thanks everyone for the advice, I really appreciate it.

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