Building claims: How to challenge shoddy building work
Having work done of your home is an exciting time but it can also be incredibly disruptive – from surviving without a bathroom for a couple of weeks to living on microwave meals whilst the kitchen is transformed. Nevertheless it is an inconvenience that we put up with, safe in the knowledge it is only for a short time. But what happens if it isn’t short lived? What happens if the building work is below par, substandard or just downright shoddy? Here are your rights and how you can resolve any poor building work.
Consumer Rights Act
When you have building work done, you are protected under either the Consumer Rights Act or the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, depending on when the work was undertaken. Under this act any building or decorating work should:
- Be completed with sufficient care and skill
- Be completed within a reasonable time or within an agreed time
- Use materials which are ‘fit for purpose’
- Use materials which have been described/agreed (i.e. specific makes/models with all promised features).
If a builder (or any other tradesman including plumbers and electricians) breaches these terms you are legally entitled to have any issues put right free of charge. This includes having any products repaired or replaced.
If the building work is substandard, you have the right to have:Faulty items repaired or replaced (builder’s choice) Any poor workmanship put right Any consequential damage to your property repaired.
How to claim
1. Contact the tradesman
In the first instance you have to give the builder or tradesman the opportunity to put right any damages. You cannot simply get a new contractor in to repair the situation and then claim back the cost.
As soon as you are aware of a problem, you need to contact the builder and explain the situation. Any conversations re the issue should also be documented in a follow up letter which:
- Confirms the problem
- Agrees the course of action
- Set timelines.
Builders may try and fob you off with their busy diary. However because they have breached their contract any remedial work they carry out for you should be a priority.
Other builders may look to blame time restraints for the poor workmanship. This is not a valid excuse; a tradesman should not agree to a timeframe if they are unable to carry out the work to an adequate standard.
2. Agree terms and fix deadlines
If the builder agrees to fix the problem, confirm what this will entail, when the work will start and when it will be completed.
If they fail to show up on the agreed date, contact them again and restate the agreement, making it clear that if they fail to turn up again or meet the agreed deadline you will employ another contractor and be claiming back the cost from them. Include quotes and estimates from other builders.
Remember to document everything that is said and agreed and warn the builder you will take them to court if necessary.
3. Consumer Ombudsman and Small Claims Court
If a builder fails to respond or doesn’t complete the repairs on time or to a satisfactory standard for a second time, then it is time to contact the Consumer Ombudsman.
The Consumer Ombudsman deals with consumer complaints which do not have its own specific ombudsman scheme, focusing predominantly on retail, home improvements and maintenance, installation and car repairs.
The Ombudsman will then try to help facilitate a resolution to the problem. If the builder is willing to work with the Ombudsman, the aim is to reach an agreed solution within 10 days. If they do not comply you will be advised what to do next. This typically involves taking your case to the Small Claims Court.
The Small Claims Court deals with claims worth less than £10,000. If your case is worth more than this you will need to seek legal advice.
For cases involving inadequate building work there are a number of pieces of evidence you may wish to collate prior to going to court including:
- Photographs of the poor workmanship
- A professional third party report reviewing the work
- Quotes and receipts for any subsequent work carried out by another builder
- Any correspondence between you and the original builder re job details/deadlines etc.
If, after all this, the builder is still uncooperative, you will need to start court proceedings.