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.


On matter of Terminal Dilapidations Claim ( Landlord’s handy cash injection). Avoiding Dilapidations Claim

Reviewed an overstated Landlord’s claim today for terminal dilapidations (wants of repair and decoration) at end of commercial lease on industrial premises. My client ,the former tenant, is naturally worried by the staggering amount claimed. ( A third the capital value of the premises)

Moral of tale 

1.Take professional advice from experienced Building Surveyor before Lease on the condition of premises and  by commissioning and attaching a schedule of condition  to the Lease. 

Limit liability to yield up  the premises in no better or worse condition than evidenced by the Schedule

Too late you didn’t do this?

2. Put your house ( or rather the premises ) in order whilest you are still in occupation. Listen to your Surveyor and act on his advice with regard to reducing your potential exposure to eye watering claim

Too late you didn’t do this?

3. Come and see me and I will see what I can do to reduce the scope and amount of claim ,but be prepared to contribute to your former landlord’s bank balance to greater extent than would have been necessary.

Next time do not be a fool and blind to your potential liabilities.

Obtain the best solicitor’s and surveyor’s advice and guidance you can afford before signing that Lease.

I think in the current case I can help and negotiate the claim down. There are certainly some aspects of the claim not covered by the lease covenants and others are clearly overstated and exaggerated.

WOW( words of wisdom)

As you know prevention is always better than a cure.

A begining…….

Welcome to my blog. I am a practising Chartered Building Surveyor here in the North West of England (Preston)

I hope over time to give the benefit of some of my experiences and advice on a whole range of matters relating to the built environment ( buildings and stuff) whether you are home  or business owner. We all need buildings to shelter us and house our activities. Occasionally we  need advice and guidance  whether its when we are thinking of buying or renting somewhere to live or carry on our business . Sometimes things go wrong with our buildings and we need to know what to do.

I have  spent over 30 years variously inspecting ,surveying ,probing and reporting on all types of buildings and giving advice. I have been there, seen it ,done it and got the t-shirt. I am aways learning and there are still surprises.

Some entries will be factual ,some anecdotal and some of passing interest and even vaguely amusing.

Surveying students may occasionally find the content useful and learn things text books or your lecturers will never tell you.

The ice is broken. I have jumped in. I think therefore I blog.

Dilapidations Lancashire, Dilapidations Northwest, Dilapidation Survey,Building Surveying Consultancy, building surveyor, condition schedule, Dilapidations Report, Dilapidations claim, Dilapidations defence, Dilapidations expert, Dilapidations surveyor, Expert Witness, Schedule of condition ,Dilapidation Report