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Snagging and withholding final installment

(7 Posts)
MummytoMog Mon 03-Mar-14 20:28:20

So I gave my builders my snagging list for our overdue and over budget build. They agreed it, and have been slowly working through it. I got an email this morning saying they thought they would finish today but they might need to do some final site clearance tomorrow and attaching their final invoice. I didn't respond, but thought I would check it over tonight then pay (with no great hope it would actually be finished). Anyway, it's very unfinished, we still have all their tools and equipment, no waste pipes on the first floor, no window sills at all, and a few things aren't done to the standard that I would expect.

So the builders danced all over my ceiling joists, and put their foot through a couple of ceilings, so we had a couple of big holes and lots of cracks/popped sections in the plaster. They've filled the big holes but not done anything about the smaller bits at the edges where small chunks of the surface plaster are hanging down. Not to mention I'm still slightly unconvinced that the ceilings are stable at all, because they look wonky given they're cracked along every board join. I had assumed they would resecure the boards and then skim. Similarly they've bodged the opening finishing in between the new extension and the living room, and tried to sand it smooth. It's not smooth. It looks crap. I could do a better job. I had kind of assumed that I would be stuck dealing with all the wall cracks, but the ceilings really were their fault and I'm not happy with the finish, if of course they are finished.

Then there's the render. We agreed a flat white render. I have a flat render, but it's not painted. It doesn't say explicitly in the contract that it will be painted, so I suspect we're going to get screwed on that. But we specifically agreed a flat white render rather than pebble dash and that's bloody annoying.

The scaffolders have left a load of their crap in our garden too, which needs to go.

Anyway, what out of this am I reasonable to withhold money for? I think the actual unfinished stuff is fair enough, but I'm a bit worried about the stuff not done to appropriate standard. The final payment would be more than enough to get this all done, so should I pay them a bit, say £3k and withold the other £3k until finished? I don't want to screw over the sub-contractors, and they have generally done (small) extra bits without needing extra money but I'm worried that now they are on another job, I'm just going to get ignored if I raise problems. And I really need some bloody wastes in my first floor bathrooms. And my downstairs loo.

MoonlightandRoses Mon 03-Mar-14 22:51:35

If it were me, from the sounds of it I'd be withholding everything until properly finished (i.e. work done to appropriate standard).

The other option, particularly if you feel they've lost interest, is to stall them for a few days (if they don't 'stall' themselves) and get someone else in to price up what's left. Then, assuming there's not too much shortfall between that quote and the remaining amount, get the current builders to agree they can finish now, and you will use the snag amount to pay someone else.

We used the latter tactic quite successfully in similar circumstances (although with an individual tradesman we'd hired, rather than our builder). He was happy to be able to walk away, and the outstanding cash mostly covered someone who did it properly.

oscarwilde Tue 04-Mar-14 15:13:10

I would withhold what is a reasonable sum to get someone else in to fix what has not been completed. �3k would not get all the work you have outlined done, not here in London anyway.

They may be attaching an invoice as it is close to their year end, and hoping you will pay by then. All the more reason to quickly have a conversation about finished standards. One trick is to play dumb and ask when they are going to sort out the ceilings because they look so bad. Most people wouldn't have the neck to claim that they have already done it under those circs.

MummytoMog Tue 04-Mar-14 15:40:43

Well he's been in touch today and will be coming tomorrow. He's still trying to wriggle out of some bits (moving incorrectly placed basin pipes) by insisting that they're fine and won't be a problem (they will), but is clearly keen to be paid. I'm leaving DH with a list of what I think is left to do, along with emails where we agreed a painted render on the extension, for tomorrow. I think I might actually snap if I talk to him again. They've overrun by weeks, mostly because they've started another job and just left us with their muppet apprentice, who is bodging everything he puts his hands on. I didn't spend the best part of �130k to get a bodged finish by an amiable but unskilled twenty year old at the last minute. I've made plenty of compromises to make things easier for them, and I've had enough now. I just want it finished and them gone, never, ever to return or get any kind of recommendation from me.

oscarwilde Tue 04-Mar-14 17:02:22

I think I might actually snap if I talk to him again
If DH is likely to be persuaded to pay them or to accept a bodge then I would stick around for the chat. If they can see that you are both on the same page, it will be resolved much more quickly. Ultimately he now has bills due so it's in his interests to pull people back off the other job and sort it. �6k is less than 5% of the job which is a normal amount to hold back for snagging so it's tough. I wouldn't give them a penny until it is all done to your satisfaction.
Broken record - keep repeating it. Put a constraint on it two - now X weeks overdue, will call in Y competitor to quote to repair within ten working days.

From a negotiation perspective, if you have been the main talker up to now then I would put together a list of what's needed (your snagging list), supporting evidence (email re render), agree with DH what you two can concede and then let DH do the talking. Stay in the room, listen and write down what he says; then play it back to him in summary. "So we've agreed that a team will be on site on Saturday morning for two full days to complete tasks X&Y". Don't let him blether and then leave without firm commitments being made.
Make sure DH visibly "flinches" at the suggestion that you might make a payment before they complete the work. It's a tactic called "the professional flinch" - use phrases such as "pull the other one" to soften this message but it makes it clear to the builder that your DH is in no way going to entertain paying in advance.

Sometimes unfortunately, builders will just respond better to a bloke angry but if you have been hassling them for ages, they will actually lose less face by agreeing to sort it with your DH than you. It's called the "New Face" tactic. Often used in political negotiations. smile
Trade your concessions "If you/providing you can do a,b,c,d by this date, we will make an overnight transfer to your account"

Good luck - deep breathing - this will all be a bad dream soon hopefully.

oscarwilde Tue 04-Mar-14 17:07:28

Also - check your contract and quote it back to him.

LadyGardenersQuestionTime Tue 04-Mar-14 17:18:44

I'd give them the choice of doing it to an acceptable standard by xxx for the full amount or walking away as is for yyy amount and getting a snagger in. If they choose option a agree a penalty if not done. Be prepared not to win on everything, it's all part of the joy of building.

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