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Disputes with builders are best avoided – due diligence and forward planning can help

31st December 2018

Dispute resolution solicitors regularly receive enquiries from clients who have found themselves in dispute with a builder they have engaged to undertake works on their property. Such disputes can be complex, with problems often arising because the parties did not make clear from the outset what it was they were agreeing.

In a perfect world, a formal contract that reflects or incorporates an agreed specification of works will go at least some way to ensuring certainty. However, some people enter into an agreement based on the briefest of quotes, often leaving unaddressed such issues as whether the price agreed is inclusive or exclusive of Value Added Tax, whether it is an estimate that is subject to revision as the works progress or a fixed quote, whether or not instalments will be required and if so when and how often, whether there will be a retention against snagging, and so on. Other opportunities for confrontation include the thorny issue of completion – is there an agreement that the works should be completed by a specified date for example, or perhaps a sanction will be imposed for failure to finish on time? All of these issues, and potentially many more, can often be avoided if careful thought is given to the final agreement in advance. Getting a surveyor or an architect involved on your behalf at the outset might initially seem an unnecessary expense, but it could avoid a great deal of heartache later on.

It is also a good idea to carry out some due diligence to learn as much as possible about your chosen builder. Make sure you know whether you are dealing with a limited company, a sole trader or a partnership. Check whether they are on one of the many quality mark sites, and ask to see examples of their work – if possible, speak to a few of their happy customers. If your preferred builder is reluctant to put you in touch, exercise caution.

For all but the smallest of jobs, you are well-advised to involve a surveyor or an architect from the beginning. If things do start to go wrong, consult a solicitor urgently – the costs of a dispute with a builder can be very substantial but a good lawyer can help you keep these to a minimum.

For expert advice on a wide range of contractual issues and specialist dispute resolution support, contact the George Ide team on 01243 786668 or email us at info@georgeide.co.uk.

Ian Oliver. Partner. Dispute Resolution.

Business, General, George Ide, News
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