Category Archives: Domestic building matters

When things go wrong-house owners and builders be aware

I am often called in to provide advice and help when things have gone badly wrong. For example domestic building projects are a constant rich source of dispute between house owners and their builders.

You would be surprised just how much money people are prepared to handover to a builder on the basis of no written contract, scant drawings and little or no specification.The  same is true of builders who are prepared to start all manner of works committing serious amounts of time and materials without proper agreements and  contractual paperwork.

Naivity is often evident of both parties. The House owner assumes all builders are fine upstanding fellows or lasses and who know what they are doing and are honest trustworthy and can be simply allowed to get on with the job with no contract: a act of blind faith which is not very often in my experience justified.

On the opposite side there are some good builders who share similar faith in House owners to be reasonable honest people and who will pay on time. Wrong. There are sadly lying coniving and downright untrustworthy houseowners out there who seek to instruct all manner of works, get all sort of extras done and then refuse to pay. The grounds for none payment …’oh the works are rubbish or I expected something else’

Litigation is expensive. Solicitors and Lawyers ( and other experts and I include surveyors) can make a nice living  sorting out these disputes. But why get youselves into such a mess?

What to do? Take professional advice. Engage a building professional to prepare a decent set of drawings and written specification. Draw up a simple contract and include in it everything each party expects the other to do ie name the parties to the contract; describe the works and refer to drawings and any written specification-ie what is to be included and what is not included?; make time the essence ie when are the works to be finished by? Agree the cost of the works .Is this a fixed total sum or can it be varied by some agreed method of valuing changes omissions and additions. Agree a method of resolving any dispute by referral to 3rd party mediator.Agree for works to inspected by 3rd party expert before final payment.

There are some very good published short plain english Small Domestic Works contracts which you can buy or even download for free. Just make a Google enquiry.

What about professional input. People often consider that paying for professional advice is a waste of money. But if you as a House owner have no knowledge of building how can you be sure the works are up to standard and warrant payment? At the very least have the finished works inspected by an expert before you part with those monies. He or she will draw up a list of defects  (‘snags’) and these can then be put right by your builder. Do not assume the Building Control Officer will provide you with any supervisory imput. This is not their job and whilest the majority are helpful they are only interested in Statutory matters of compliance. Sometimes Builders never contact them or not as frequently as they should for staged inspections and they works simply trundle on with little or no 3rd party scrutiny.

Research and enquiry as to competence of selected builder. (Get 3 references from previous satisfied customers) : commission proper drawings and specification; draw up or complete a published contract or written agreement; take professional advice and have periodic and final inspections.- the recipe for avoiding costly building disputes.

Cowboy builders usually run a million miles from any form of written contract or agreement!!

Builders heed my advice and ensure you act similarly to protect your interests to regulate your agreement with the House owner. An independent inspection can protect you as well from bogus claims of poor work and excuse for none payment.

I have got several such cases on at the moment. They all wish they had contacted me at the outset. Shame really

A free downloadable contract can be had from:

If you are in dispute and need help you can contact me.