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Building disputes - what can a consumer do?

Are you a consumer who's in dispute with a builder regarding work done at your property?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, where a consumer has engaged a builder to perform services, those services must be carried out with reasonable care and skill and within a reasonable time (if a timeframe has not been agreed in advance).

If this has not happened, you may be entitled to claim damages against the builder.

The starting point will always be to consider if you have an enforceable contract with the builder. This will involve considering all the communications, whether written or verbal, between you and the builder before the work began. The more formal the arrangement, the easier it is to establish that a contract exists. However, even if there is no formal written agreement, a verbal contract can still apply but, in this situation, there is likely to be a dispute about whether a contract exists and what the terms of the contract are.

Often the dispute relates to whether full payment or any payment is due under the contract due to unsatisfactory workmanship.  You may have decided to withhold payment due to unsatisfactory workmanship, or you may have made full payment but you are not satisfied with the work.

Another common situation is that payment has been made for a portion of the work, but the builder has failed to complete the work.

In any of the above situations, the issue is whether you can establish a breach of contract by the builder and pursue the builder for damages or alternatively defend any claim made by the builder for non-payment by you and potentially make a counterclaim against the builder.

If you have a good claim for damages, this could take various forms. Your claim may be for a full or partial refund of sums already paid to the builder.

You may also have incurred expenses relating to the works being completed by an alternative builder and associated additional costs, eg for an independent survey.

All claims for damages have to be supported by evidence and so the better your record-keeping is, the more chance you will have of recovering the expense, as long as it is reasonably incurred and can be proved to be directly related to the breach of contract by the builder.

Be aware that if you terminate your contract with a builder, they may then seek damages from you.  Seek legal advice from a solicitor in advance if you are considering termination.

If you wish to take legal action in relation to a building dispute, always take into consideration if the builder is likely to have the financial means to pay you if you succeed in obtaining a judgment for damages in your favour.

Article provided by  Summerfield Browne Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Summerfield Browne Solicitors directly.

Published on 25th July 2019
(Last updated 31st July 2019)

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