How to Handle Disputes with Builders


For most of us, our home is our most precious possession. So, when you invite a builder to work on your property, it is not unusual to feel a little trepidation.

In the majority of cases, a builder delivers what you pay for, but for an unlucky minority, bad workmanship can result in unwanted stress and additional costs.

When you are left with low-quality building work it is easy to feel like there is little you can do but this is not the case. If handled properly, disputes with builders can be resolved amicably and do not have to take over your life. 

In any dispute, the aim should always be to avoid court action, which is why we are going to share simple steps you can take to try and resolve any issues quickly.

For cases where court action appears inevitable, ensure you speak to an experienced solicitor as soon as possible.

1. Give Them a Chance to Put Things Right

In dispute resolution, communication is always key to avoiding a lengthy and costly court case for both parties. So, while it can feel awkward, the first step in handling any dispute with a builder is to raise the issue and give them a chance to put it right.

In many cases, the dispute can be resolved there and then. However, even if court proceedings are looking likely, this offer of redemption is still important.

When taking a claim to court, the conduct of both parties can come into play. Therefore, if you can demonstrate you attempted to reach an amicable resolution early, you are more likely to stay on the court’s good side.

Do not shy away from asking your builder to put things right. When you do so, ensure you put a strict but reasonable deadline on when the work should be completed by and make sure it is in writing, such as an email or letter.

Finally, if you have any push back from your builder about substandard work and have a contract, remind them that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, contracted traders must perform their service with reasonable skill and care.

2. Speak to Another Expert


In the event that your builder is incapable or unwilling to resolve the issue they created, it is time to start preparing for a possible future claim for damages.

It goes without saying that in order to claim, you need an idea of what it will cost to make the necessary fixes. Therefore, speak to another expert so they can assess the damage caused and give you a quote for what it would cost to resolve.

Not only will this help you determine the validity and extent of your claim, but it will also highlight what you need to do to avoid further damage or risks to safety. 

If there are steps you need to take to avoid further damage, make sure you do so quickly. At this point, you will have a ‘duty to mitigate’ meaning you need to make reasonable steps to limit the resulting harm.

For example, if you had a hole in your kitchen wall, you could not expect to leave your units exposed to the weather for months and then claim for the resulting damage to them. You would need to take reasonable steps to fill the hole.

3. Document Everything

When using any builder, it is always wise to document the progress of their work in case of a future dispute. Doing so will ensure you have a wealth of evidence to strengthen your claim.

Of course, the first piece of documented evidence you are likely to have is a contract. In the event that you do not have a contract, look for any documentation that describes the terms on which the work was agreed.

Aside from a contract, there are a variety of other forms of evidence you can gather. These include:

  • Photographs of the work provided
  • Emails, letters, texts and any other communication you have had with your builder
  • Notes of any conversations you have had

4. Make an Official Complaint


If you have given your builder a chance to make things right, sought a second opinion, have evidence of the damage and still not reached a resolution, it is time to make an official complaint.

Depending on the size of the company you used, it is possible they may have their own complaints procedure. If this is the case, you should begin by lodging a complaint with them.

If your builder’s company does not have a complaints process, try to identify whether they are a member of a trade association. If they are, there may be a dispute resolution scheme you can use via the trade association.

In the event that you can not lodge a complaint via the company or the trade association, it is time to speak to a solicitor and draft a letter. Unlike any communication you may have sent previously, this letter will describe the basis of your claim, the damages you have incurred and the legal steps you will take if the dispute is not handled.

Sending a letter will showcase how serious you are, but it is key that everything you include is accurate, which is why you should always seek the help of a solicitor.

5. Consider How You Paid

Before we go on to look at how you can handle a dispute with builders in court, it is worth pointing out that how you paid could play a role.

If you paid your builder via PayPal or with a credit card, you may be able to recover some or all of the money. In the case of credit cards, the recovery is made using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Likewise, if the building work was insured you may be able to claim from your insurance company. You can also check your home insurance to see if you have any legal cover for building disputes, in which case you should speak to a lawyer.

6. Go to Court


If you have been unable to come to an agreement with your builder or dispute resolution has failed, it is likely that the matter will need to be settled in court. At this point, it is important to speak to a solicitor to get a clear understanding of what you need to do to give you the best chance of success.

The size of the claim you are making will determine which track your claim will take through the county court. For claims of less than £10,000 (or £1,000 or less if the claim is for personal injury or housing disrepair), the case will be allocated to the small claims track. Claims of £10,000 to £25,000 are typically dealt with the fast track, while larger more complex claims are dealt with on the multi-track.

While every dispute will need its own unique strategy, below is a rough idea of what to expect from the court process:

  • Your solicitor will issue proceedings to the court. This involves putting together a summary of your case, including the legal basis for your claim and how much you are claiming.
  • A copy will be sent to the defendant and they will be given 14 days to respond to the proceedings. They will either submit an admission, meaning they accept the claim, a defence, meaning they dispute all or part of the claim, or an acknowledgement, meaning they intend to defend all or part of the claim (in which case they get an additional 14 days to submit a defence).
  • In some cases, the defendant will not provide a response, in which case you can apply to the court for a default judgement.
  • If the claim is defended, a date will be set for the court to rule on the claim.

When it comes to handling builder disputes in court, every case is different and should not be pursued without the help of a solicitor.

Have a Dispute with a Builder?

Where you think a dispute with a builder can not be resolved amicably, your first step should be to speak to an experienced solicitor. 

Without one, you may struggle to build a strong case. After all, you do not want to lose your money because, for example, you did not collect the right evidence or submitted court documents incorrectly.

So, if you have received work from a builder that has fallen well below the standard agreed or expected, speak to Nayyars Solicitors to find out how we can help you.

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