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Dispute with builder and possible small claims court(4 Posts)
We are in the middle of a fairly large extension project. We have just fired our builder and hired someone new. The old builder had originally quoted 16-20 weeks to do the job, but we are 11 months in and he has only finished about half of it. We repeatedly asked him to speed up, but he would spend maybe 10 hours a week here at best. A few weeks ago, we sat down and planned out the next 2 weeks with him, hoping to get him back on track. We told him we were prepared to find another builder if he did not speed up. We have the details of this on an email record. He did not stick to the plan, so we waited another 2 weeks to give him a bit of extra time. Again, he didn't finish so we decided enough was enough and found another builder.
After we fired him, we had a meeting with him and the building inspector, who pointed out several issues with the roof and other things that needed fixing. Some of these had already been pointed out in February when the building inspector was last here, and some are new. We have a copy of the building inspector's report from both visits.
The old builder wants to fix the issues that the building inspector brought up, but we decided to just move on and have the new builder do it as there are too many problems and the old builder works too slowly. It will cost us more, but we are wondering if we can claim some of those costs back from the old builder? At the same time, the old builder wants us to pay him money for the roof.
I guess my question is, do we have enough evidence to legally claim money back from him, or at least avoid having to pay him anything further. We have:
1. Given him a chance to get the work done. In fact, in January we asked him to be finished by mid-March. Then mid-March we worked out the two-week plan with him. In addition he hasn't fixed all the issues that the building inspector brought up in February.
2. Got the building inspector's report and taken photos of everything that needs fixing.
3. However we haven't got quotes from new builders for the fixes. Our new builder is doing the fixes on a day rate. Once those are done, he is completing the rest of the job on a quote basis. Will invoices from the new builder for the fixes be sufficient evidence. Do we need quotes from additional builders?
Of course, ensure everything is evidenced, photos, emails, make a written record of conversations.
Did you have a contract with him? RICS standard contract? what was originally agreed ? and how was it amended? The construction industry is governed by a number of acts including the Construction Act 2009, even if your contract was oral. I would suggest you contact a surveyor to resolve your dispute, as it is not really a straightforward small claim. I am not a construction lawyer so can't give guidance. Using a surveyor would be cheaper than going to a construction contract lawyer I imagine, and is standard.
Just try to be reasonable about everything - repairs, costs, time etc. You should give him a chance to make good the defects, before hiring anyone else, and to ensure the correct repair prices maybe get three quotes.
Legally he is entitled to be paid for his work. On a practical basis everyone withholds payment to cover defects. Maybe someone with a bit more experience of construction disputes can advise?
Do you know if he has large company or not? otherwise he may close the company and you will not be able to obtain any money or repairs. Unfortunately this happens frequently...
Thanks for your advice. We did have a written contract with him, with the overall cost which was broken down into stage payments (eg. stage 1 - finish foundations - £5000 etc). In the contract, the build was expected to take 16-20 weeks.
We have given him time to correct most of the defects, as most were identified in January by the building inspector, and we did not fire him until a couple of weeks ago. As I said, we gave him a clear timeline in March. Additional defects have come to light since we fired him, but now we have a new builder we can't give him the chance to do anymore work.
He has costed what he thinks we owe him for the roof, as we have not yet paid for that stage. However, there are so many remedial works to do on the roof and other areas already paid for, that we can't agree with him on the final amount yet. But he has said he will come and take back his materials (ie. take down the roof) if we do not pay him. Presumably he can't do that?
His company is not registered - I think he is just an individual trader. I did a bit of detective work and found he lives in social housing so doubt he has much money or assets.
He's obviously talking bollocks about taking your roof down . He's not going to do this. The Sale of Goods Act is usually interpreted to mean the goods , once delivered to the customer, now belong to the customer, and any redress must be sought legally, not by physical repossession.
This threat says two things: firstly, he's upset. Not your problem, he's upset you too. Secondly, he's prepared to try a bit of threat, rather than a more sensible approach. Could be this is his default emotional reaction, could be he can't see any more sensible legal course is open to him.
The more unreasonable he is, the more likely you are to win in court. Document everything. Assume that everything you write/say to him will get read out in court.
But as you say, in the end ,going to court may not gain you anything.
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