Construction disputes between a home owner and a builder can quickly escalate, resulting in a situation where neither party is willing to backdown. This kind of impasse often seems impossible to resolve. However, as the homeowner where there is a residential building dispute there are a number of actions you can take to settle the matter – and this does not necessarily have to involve court proceedings.
Resolving Residential Building Disputes
Construction disputes are unfortunately a frequent occurrence in residential builds. Arguments commonly relate to issues such as:
- The quality of workmanship
- The amount of time spent on a project
- The costs involved
- Payment and debt recovery
- Professional negligence
Whichever side of the dispute you are on, we appreciate that a construction dispute is never a pleasant experience. It can cause delays, financial losses and a significant amount of stress. Ultimately, you will just want to resolve the dispute quickly and effectively, allowing you to move on. Yet you might not see a way around the roadblock. Both you and the other party believe that you are in the right – so how can you possibly proceed?
Get Expert Legal Advice On Building Disputes
The first thing is to get expert legal advice at the earliest available opportunity. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to take the matter straight to court. But there are other avenues to explore first, almost all of which are faster and less expensive than court proceedings. A solicitor who specialises in residential building disputes can advise you on the best strategy in your particular case. It is important to speak to a specialist in this area as your contract may state a particular form of dispute resolution is required and some trades bodies require their members to ensure alternative approaches to court are pursued. This can include negotiation, mediation, arbitration, adjudication, or a combination of approaches.
Speak To Our Building Disputes Team
There are, therefore, many ways in which you can resolve a construction dispute. Our Building Disputes Solicitors can consider your case before recommending the right strategy. What works for one person will not work for the next. It takes a professional to know precisely how to resolve a construction dispute quickly and effectively. We are here to protect your best interests, and promise to work towards an outcome that is favourable for you.
For a confidential discussion with our specialists in residential construction disputes, please contact us today at Altion Law. Call us on 01908 414990 or make a free online enquiry and we will get back to you.
What Documents Will I Need In Order To Speak To A Solicitor About My Residential Building Dispute?
If you have a dispute with your builder, it is important that you gather together all documents relating to the agreement, including any emails, text messages and Whatsapp messages setting out what was agreed, what went wrong, and what the current position is. This takes time to collect especially if the dispute or build is long running or complex but will be needed as part of any discussion with a building dispute solicitor. The most common documents and information that we will require or will ask questions about as part of any dispute between a home owner and a builder on a residential house build will be:
- Is there a written contract?
- Who the parties are (sole traders or limited companies)
- Were there any quotes or specifications of works?
- What is the total cost of the project?
- What sums have been paid to date and what sums are outstanding or are in dispute?
- Do you have invoices evidencing this (or evidence of payments from bank accounts)
- Were there any Building Control letters or formal correspondence?
Taking the time to set out a summary of the problems and a timeline alongside these, will help clarify the dispute between you and the other party.
If you’ve not been able to resolve the Residential Building Dispute and you are intending taking legal action, you need to be incredibly clear on what was agreed, what has been done so far, what changes were agreed throughout and what the problems are now.
Below are important points to take into account when gathering information for a building dispute:
Clarify what works were agreed to be carried out
The first step is clearly understand what exactly you asked the builder to do. For this you should need the contract for works clearly setting out what was agreed between the parties, along with any changes that were made along the way. This may be one document such as a contract, or it could be an estimate of costs, or a series of emails/text messages discussing what works you want done and what the estimated cost will be.
If the agreement was made verbally, try and set out in writing exactly was agreed between the parties as that will be a useful starting point.
Clearly clarify what is wrong
It is important that you are clear on what the problem is with the contract so that the position can clearly be understood from the start. Below are main problems which we often hear when clients come to us with building disputes.
i) The works are of a poor quality
If you feel that there is a problem with the quality of the works then you will need to show evidence of this. This may be as simple as taking photographs, or you may need to get an estimate from another builder/third-party setting out what is wrong and what they estimate to put it right (where possible). If there are serious issues you may require an experts report, however there may be an option for both parties to obtain a joint report in order to save costs.
ii) The project is taking too long/ there have been unacceptable delays
Check the agreement to see if there are any specifications clearly clarifying a timeframe for works to be completed in. You should also be mindful that if additional works have been discussed, or if unexpected problems have been found along the way, the project could justifiably take longer than expected.
Many contracts don’t clearly specify a timeframe for the project to be completed, and in these circumstances the works are to be completed within a reasonable period of time. This definition can be open to interpretation however, and different parties can have different views on what this can mean. If it is important that the project is completed within a set period of time then try and make that clear from the start. If this hasn’t been made clear, raise the time frame with the builder now.
iii) The builder will not return to site
If you have an agreement for works to be carried out, then the builder is required to carry those works out in accordance with your agreement. There may however be various issues along the way which may result in a scenario where the builder will not return to site.
Try and understand why the builder is refusing to return to site. This situation often arises where the builder feels that they haven’t been paid, so make sure you’re clear on what the issue is.
Try and liaise with the builder in the first instance.
It is always beneficial to see if you can speak to the builder directly about any concerns that you have, either face-to-face or over the phone. Seeking legal advice can be expensive and time-consuming so it is beneficial to see if there are any opportunities to rectify the matter in the first instance.
Do you have legal expenses cover?
Many insurance policies provide an option for legal expenses cover. You should check all your home insurance policies such as buildings insurance, contents insurance, car insurance etc to see if you have any legal expenses cover which could deal with this dispute on your behalf. Each policy is different, you will need to read your policy or contact your insurer to understand if you are covered.
If after following these steps you have still not been able to resolve the matter, then seek advice at the earliest opportunity. At Altion Law we focus on opening the lines of communication as early as possible to give every possible opportunity to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. We are very conscious that any delay in building works may have an impact on your health, cash flow, general living which will only frustrate matters more
You might be surprised at how many building disputes can be resolved through the art of negotiation. This can be difficult to achieve on your own, as you are too involved in the argument for a meaningful discussion to take place. A solicitor can liaise with the other side on your behalf, working towards a mutually agreeable solution. These discussions can take place on a ‘without prejudice basis’, meaning the information cannot later be used in court.
Sometimes, little negotiation is actually needed. This is particularly true in cases where the other side is clearly in the wrong. For example, the terms of the contract may have been explicitly breached. If so, a letter from a solicitor might be all it takes to get things back on track. This is known as a ‘letter before action’. Other times, it is necessary to open a channel of communication and discuss a viable route forward.
For a confidential discussion with our specialists in residential construction building disputes, please contact us today at Altion Law. Call us on 01908 414990 or make a free online enquiry and we will get back to you.