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What To Do When Home Improvements Go Wrong

There is always a possibility that home improvements will go wrong, leaving you worse off than when you started. Samira Cakali explains what recourse you have under the law to get things fixed. 

How to choose the builder?

As practical advice, before instructing a builder to carry out works at your property, it is important to carry out research in order to establish whether the builder is reputable.

Once you have chosen a builder, it is advisable to agree a course of action to ensure that the project is carried out in accordance with your request and to agree the costs of each stage of the work.

Ideally, a written contract should be drawn up between the parties. Should any changes to the contract occur, it is advisable that those changes and any consequential variation to costs be agreed in writing. 

What should I do to reduce any potential issues?

Both parties must communicate openly whilst the works are being carried out. This enables any issues that arise to be dealt with immediately.

It can be useful for stage payments to be agreed between the parties once certain steps have been completed. This should be included in the written contract. This provides both parties with the opportunity to review the work at specific stages and any issues can be dealt with immediately.

Once the works are completed, any snagging issues should be drawn up and discussed/agreed between the parties. Once the snagging has been addressed, final payments can be made. You should also ensure that all necessary certificates are obtained from the builder.

What happens when there are issues with the building works?

Disputes usually arise where works are substandard, incomplete, delayed or more expensive than agreed.

Where there is a written (ideally) or verbal contract, the client is protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as every contract to supply a service will include a term that the builder must perform said service with reasonable skill and care. Please note that difficulties can arise in proving a verbal contract existed and a written contract is strongly advised.

In circumstances where the builder has failed to carry out the agreed works or within the agreed time frame or within the agreed costs budget, the builder may be found to have breached the contract.

What steps should be taken to resolve the dispute?

You should attempt to discuss any disputes with the builder and establish a time frame for them to carry out any remedial works or establish a route for the issues to be discussed openly.

In circumstances where you cannot resolve the issues with the builder, there are numerous options available to you. 

Making a complaint

If, for whatever reason, you have a problem with the standard of home improvements you have paid for someone to carry out, the first step will be to contact the builder and give them the chance to fix things.

Do this as soon as possible, as if you ignore an obvious problem for a long time it can be argued that you thought the standard of work was acceptable.

Construction mediation

If you have registered a complaint and not received a satisfactory response, you may wish to try mediation, a form of what is known as “alternative dispute resolution”.

Mediation is an option for those on either side of a building dispute. It can help the two parties work towards a resolution, with a trained mediator acting as an intermediary and facilitating dialogue between the two sides.

Using mediation as an alternative dispute resolution can save much time and money if it spares from needing to go to court. Discussing the issue in a less formal environment is likely to put the people involved more at ease than they would be in a court room and may allow a more nuanced agreement to be reached. 

Another clear advantage of mediation over court action is the cost – court fees can be immense, and it is best to avoid them if at all possible. Mediation, compared to using the courts, is quick to arrange and should not take too long.

Possible outcomes of construction mediation are:

  • A refund
  • A compensation payment
  • An explanation
  • An apology
  • A replacement of goods and services

Proceeding to court action

Of course, going through mediation does not prevent the case from going to court, and this can still be done if the mediation proves unsuccessful. The mediation process may still have partially resolved the issue, making a court case more expedient.

If you need help and advice regarding home improvements, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0113 350 4030 or at samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and litigation practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide. Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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