Complaints about builders are commonplace. When you engage a builder there are obvious pitfalls: the scope for things going wrong is considerable; your project may often involve large sums of money and the issues are often very emotive and close to your heart – especially if your home is involved. When dealing with difficult builders, these are my top tips.
  • Prevention is much better than cure so always bear in mind the following: (1) Get a recommendation (2) Ask to see references (3) Ask for a proper contract (4) Involve an architect or structural surveyor if the project is sizeable – if necessary to project manage to works (5) Be very clear about who you are contracting with and what the role of any subcontractor will be.
  • Subject to the precise terms and specifications of your contract your builder should carry out the work with reasonable skill and care, within a reasonable time at reasonable cost. Be very wary of paying too much money in advance.
  • If you can, pay for the work with a credit card as this may give you an extra avenue of recourse if the project goes horribly wrong or if the builder becomes bankrupt or insolvent – as sadly happens in too many cases.
  • If things do go wrong, the first thing you should do is collect together all relevant documents including any guarantees or credit agreements.
  • If someone has been injured or if you thing a criminal offence may have been committed contact Consumer Direct on 0845-404-0506 and speak to the Buildings Regulations Department at your local authority.
  • If you cannot resolve the issue easily and the builder is a member of a trade association and see if they will assist with mediation, conciliation or arbitration.
  • You may well need to bring into play your own independent expert to assess the problems and resolve the issues of cost and repair.
  • Once you are clear about where you stand you should write a very formal letter to the builder setting out the problems and your required remedy. It may be that at this point your may settle the dispute amicably but if not you will need to sue and in most cases of any complexity you will need a solicitor.
  • Organisations that assist with complaints about builders include the Architects Registration Board (www.arb.org.uk); the Royal Institute of British Architects (www.architecture.com); the Federation of Master Builders (www.fmb.org.uk) the latter of which offers a warranty