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Building disputes: Dealing with cowboy builders and legal lassos

04 April 2024

Home improvement projects are becoming more popular due to the rise in hybrid working, causing the potential for more building disputes.

With more of us benefiting from hybrid and home working, we are increasingly looking to create new spaces or improve our current ones. This could be anything from simple decorative works to outbuildings and significant extensions.

Unfortunately, with the rise in the amount of domestic building projects comes an increase in the number of disputes. But what can you do to avoid the common pitfalls in your building project?

Getting a project right is always less costly than resolving issues later. Most project issues can be resolved by:

  • a detailed scope of works or design (ideally professionally prepared)
  • a contract setting out the agreement between the parties and both parties’ expectations and obligations
  • a clear timeline for the works
  • having an agreed budget. Are there any penalties if things go wrong/are delayed?
  • appointing a professional contract manager
  • agreeing any variations in writing.

However, even with the most detailed preparations, things do occasionally go wrong.

The first step if you have an issue with your builder – whether in relation to the speed, extent or quality of their work – is to review your agreement. What specific issues are you having and are they provided within the agreement or any other document?

Once you have considered this you would then need to consider any statutory protections you may have, such as under the Consumer Rights Act.

These can both be complex items to consider, and it’s vital that you understand your legal position before you proceed with any dispute.
When you have established your legal position, you would then typically seek to discuss your concerns with your builder. This may be done by a meeting on site, a facilitated meeting with the third-party intermediary, or sometimes a more formal mediator.

If at the outcome of that matter you still cannot find a way forward, you would then need to consider whether you can terminate your agreement, find an alternative builder and bring a claim for any losses you have suffered.

We appreciate that all of the above is complex and stressful in circumstances where you are dealing with your home, and with one of your most substantial assets. At Willans, we have years of experience in dealing with such disputes, helping you to find the best way forward and giving you pragmatic commercial advice.

Contact us

Our Legal 500 and Chambers-rated litigation & dispute resolution team help private and commercial clients to resolve a wide range of disputes, including those related to building projects.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
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James Melvin-Bath LLB (Hons)
Senior associate, solicitor-advocate
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