Can I sue my builder if I am unhappy with the work carried out?
When you instruct a builder to carry out improvements or additions to your property you enter into a binding contract with them which sets out certain terms and conditions with which you should both comply. The terms and conditions relate to such things as what work is to be carried out, what type of materials will be used and where they will be sourced from, when the work will be completed by, the terms of payment (i.e. the amount and when payment should be made), and any other important details relating to the specific project. If your builder breaches a term, or terms, of the contract you may be entitled to sue them.
Reasons to sue your builder
There are many scenarios which may result in you wishing to sue your builder. These include work not being carried out either at all or not within the time limit specified in the contract, work being carried out inadequately leading to damage to other parts of your property, damage being caused to your furniture or structural damage, incorrect materials being used in the building work, and work being carried out to a lesser standard than expected or agreed.
The work wasn’t what you agreed on
If you explained the work you expected to be done clearly and the builder’s finished work wasn’t what you agreed on, they have probably broken their contract with you. An example of this sort of situation may be asking a builder to leave a valuable feature, such as an old window or fireplace, untouched, but they significantly alter it in the course of their work.
Note that you shouldn’t have to pay for extra work the builder has completed that you didn’t agree on first. You should be able to get the builder to revert things to the state you agreed on initially at no extra cost.
If the contract has been broken, you can take further steps such as asking the builder to complete the work again at no extra cost. Before taking further steps, it’s important to note that this isn’t something to take on lightly. Be certain that you communicated what you wanted the builder to do clearly and effectively, and be certain that there wasn’t merely an innocent and understandable misunderstanding. If either of these situations is the case, you will probably have to negotiate with them instead of suing or demanding the work to be re-done.
In some cases, misunderstandings can be resolved easily. In others, they can be quite complex and depend on different interpretations of the same words between laypeople and tradespeople.
To establish whether a misunderstanding was reasonable on behalf of a builder, it can be worth getting in touch with other builders and builder’s trade organisations to see if they might have misunderstood your requests in the same way. As far as possible use the same wording and context as the original requests.
If you have kept paperwork or emails that discuss the work to be agreed on, this can help establish whether a misunderstanding was reasonable and clarify what your original intentions were, as well as what you agreed on.
Poor quality work
The law states that a trader must use a reasonable standard of care and skill in the course of their trade. This naturally extends to builders, meaning that in the case of poor quality work that is unreasonable, you should take steps to put the work right as soon as possible.
As soon as possible, you should get in touch with the trader and let them know what has happened and ask for the work to be put right. For example, if their work has caused a significant leak that, you should let them know once you spot the leak, and not wait for significant damage to occur to your property before you take action. Waiting can, in some circumstances, make it seem like you’ve accepted poor quality work, and may impact your ability to claim compensation. When asking for the work to be put right, make sure that you are as specific as possible about the work you want corrected and the dates you want the work to be corrected by. Keep a note or other record of what they have said to you, and when they said it.
If you choose to pay in full, make it clear in writing that you are not happy with the work, and that you expect it to be finished properly. If you do not choose to pay in full, you may yourself be taken to court by the builder, so be careful.
Establishing negligence against your builder
In order to pursue a successful claim against your builder you must be able to show that they have been negligent. You should be able to point to a particular term, or terms, in your contract and show how those terms have been breached by your builder.
Establishing negligence is not something that you will need to take on yourself. A solicitor who specialises in claims like this will help to manage your expectations, handle your case, and inform you what may be required of you.
Claiming compensation from your builder
The prospect of taking your builder to court should be considered a last resort, after exploring all other options and using your best endeavours to try and sort the matter out between you. Make sure that you have a face to face discussion with your builder and ensure that you both fully understand where the problem lies. If your attempts to resolve the situation fail you may wish to take legal action against your builder to obtain damages.
Finding out if you have a claim
If you think you may have reason to sue your builder, contact our expert Loyalty Law solicitors who are here to answer your questions and advise you on your chances of pursuing a successful claim. Call us today on 0800 142 2775 to find out whether you may have a claim, or fill out our free claims enquiry form.