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Are there any PROPERTY LAWYERS out there?

10 replies

PavlovtheForgetfulCat · 21/09/2009 09:04

I want to pick your brains. You may or may not know the headache I have had with builders/Structural engineers etc.

Well, we realise we will get not a penny from the builder, who is broke, regardless of whether we sue him or not.

However, I want to check a point with the SE. If he has proper indemnity insurance can I put a claim in against his insurance for the following:

Claim for the cost of the floor to be replaced - this was damaged by the builder and not returned to its proper state when we needed to have the floor lowered as it was not correct according to plans. We said since the beginning that this floor was wrong, and at the time the Building Inspector came to visit the site, the floor was not laid. There were some concerns, which we did not know the details of, and which were addressed to the satisfaction of the building inspector, however the Structural Engineer was consulted, and at this point he was informed the floor was too high, and he did nothing about it, and did not inform us. The floor was subsequently laid, and the error with the floor being incorrect was highlighted by us much later on. At this point the SE told us he already knew the floor was wrong. If he told us this at the time he knew, the floor would not have been laid. Is he liable as he knew all along and did nothing?

Claim for cost of moving lobby - which was incorrectly placed as a result of the stairs being wrong, as a result of the floor being wrong. Again, if the error as above was mentioned to us, and addressed correctly with the builder at the time it was known, the lobby at the top of the stairs would not have been put in wrong.

We feel that the structural engineer deceived us, as did the builder by deliberatly not informing us of deviations to the plans at the time he knew that would be to our detriment, nor challenging the builder at the correct time to rectify this mistake.

The cost of this has been significant as the builder is now no longer working for us and we need to pay additionally for the cost of the remedial work.

Thanks in advance for any input.

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CMOTdibbler · 21/09/2009 15:47

I asked DH about this (he has been involved with prof liability insurance claims for properties), and he said the following:

It really depends on your contract with the SE - was it in writing that he would oversee etc ?

You need to get an independant surveyor in now, to write a full report take photos etc before any remedial work is done.

Then get a good lawyer - it could take some time to take this case through

Is there a reason for not claiming on builders prof liability insurance too ?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat · 21/09/2009 16:09

CMOTDibbler - oh thanks for that! I had not even considered the builders insurance, I think he has been such a cowboy, and we did not have a contract as such that I did not think we would get anywhere and I suspected he has lapsed with his insurance as he ran out of money.

Nothing in writing to say he would oversee the project I don't think. The invoice is for the plans, but I will need to go check this out. Was only verbal that he act as agent I think. This is our first ever project and we did not really consider that he would make a mistake for which he could be liable. Stupid eh?

Independent surveyor - how much will that cost? oh god, this is not going to be easy to rectify, I am guessing that it won't be done before the baby arrives!

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PavlovtheForgetfulCat · 21/09/2009 16:11

I am hoping that, if we have a case, we would ask him to pay for the repairs to some of it now. I think, if we had a case, we would have one for considerably more money than we would be asking for - some of the remedial work, like moving stairs, skylights, wall to bedroom that all occured as a result of the floor being wrong, we were going to not change as it will take a long time to do, and we do not have the cash up front to rectify it all. So we were just going to try to get him to pay for the bits we need doing the lobby as it makes the room too small, and the floor as it is a state.

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CMOTdibbler · 21/09/2009 16:19

Trouble is, the PL insurers won't pay up if there is no contractual proof that he was responsible for that aspect. Do you have an email stating any intent to do the overseeing perhaps ?

Did you have sight of the builders insurance cert ? As those are often paid for in a lump sum, may be still valid. And if you even have a quote, that would prob do as a contract of sorts. DH says much easier to persue the builder in this case

PavlovtheForgetfulCat · 21/09/2009 16:26

We had a proper quote, and we also saw copies of his liability insurances, which were valid. I asked to take a copy and he said no as it had private info on it. SE said that the fact that he had conversations with the building inspector and that he knew he was working would also demonstrate a contract?

I will look again at the plans, as there was written stuff with it, so will see if I can find anything that might get him!

How about, another, seperate point - if he fails to make a plan for supporting a structure, such as how a beam might be supported, and then the builder does not support it, and it needs to be rectified later when it is pointed out it is wrong - if this is the fault of the SE - would his insurance cover that? This has happened, SE insists the beam is not supporting, building inspector says it is, they are meeting to discuss. I think he will accept liability for this if this is the case and he is responsible, as there is nothing in his plans relating to the beam but worth knowing.

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CMOTdibbler · 21/09/2009 16:36

Any idea at all on the insurers name on the cert ?

You really need to get some legal help on this who has sight of all the documents you have.

Do you have legal cover on your household insurance ?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat · 21/09/2009 19:14

Yes, I am going to have a chat with them, but wanted to see where the land lies before going down that route.

I think in reality we might just have to let it go, as we have a time schedule, cannot hang on for insurers, and I cannot cope with the stress. It is going to be so much hassle, stress, time and means us living in a building site I am not sure I can manage it, with a baby due in 7 weeks or so, a toddler to look after, and if it might all be for nothing, as in find out we cannot prove xyz well enough.

Especially as we sacked the builder

Can't remember the name, but would if I saw it again. It was Blue!!!! But, not a 'normal' brand name co if that makes sense, as I would expect it wouldn't be, would be specialist?

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cassell · 21/09/2009 19:43

Very difficult to give an opinion without seeing any correspondence/plans/discussing the conversations you had with him in detail but I would say that this is going to be a hard case to prove against the structural engineer, it would be an unusual situation where the se had responsibility for overseeing/correct installation etc, his responsibility is usually limited to design/loading requirements etc rather than actual construction. In respect of him knowing that the floor was being built incorrectly and not telling you - again this is a difficult one, as you didn't have a written contract with him then unless it was specifically agreed (either in correspondence or orally) that he was responsible for informing you of any errors etc then you would be relying on implied terms (which are generally difficult to prove).

Did he at any stage (after he knew that the floor was being built wrong) actually tell you that it was correct? If so then you may have a case against him for misrepresentation (you don't need a contract for that) but from what you've said here and what I recall reading on one of your other threads I think it would be a very difficult case to prove and would likely be your word against his.

You would have a much more straightforward case against the builder but obv no point if he has no money/insurance.

Did you have an architect or any other professional involved?

Also just to clarify - if you did bring a claim against the SE then your claim would be against him/his company (whoever you contracted with) and it would then be up to him to see if his insurers would cover it. You wouldn't bring a claim directly against his insurers therefore doesn't matter if you don't know who his insurers are.

It may be worth your while to go and see a lawyer (esp if you have legal cover on your household insurance as CMOT mentioned), get hm/her to write a letter before action to the SE setting out your potential claim and then seeing if you can do a deal with the SE but from what I've seen here that would be the best you could hope for. I don't think this would be worth taking to court as it would be v costly & time consuming for you with a considerable risk that you would lose and then be liable for the SE's legal costs as well as your own.

If you do consult a lawyer then I'd recommend you look for one with specific experience in construction litigation.

HouseHunting · 21/09/2009 22:31

Hi pavlov - I have been following your other thread & you have said the SE has a good reputation. I wonder if he is worried about you tarnishing his good repuation & accordingly will be more willing to help put matters right? I really hope you can sort this out before the baby arrives. Good luck hun

PavlovtheForgetfulCat · 23/09/2009 16:33

Househunting - that is what we are banking on - I am going to talk to him about liability and see what he says, given his reputation. Might get him to at least pay for the floor which is going to cost £500, to level the floor and put chipboard down That would make a difference, and we should not have had to have it done again.

cassel - no, he did not say it was correct after it was noticed by him. He just said he had sorted things with the building inspector in relation to the specific issues they had (which I was not height of floor related). Once we pointed it out to him (rather than builder) he said he was aware the builder had put the floor in too high. And he came out, and once he spoke to the builder, the builder said it was wrong, he knew it, and he would correct it. He just corrected it very badly as he gave up an enthusiasm for it. I guess it was not up to the SE to tell him he also needed to move the stairs x distance back/take off rung and all additional lengths on it and the lobby needs making smaller accordingly.

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