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10 Top Tips for Businesses on Handling a Dispute with Your Builder

10 Top Tips for Businesses on Handling a Dispute with Your Builder

Building projects can be exciting but expensive, so you want to get it right. It is therefore important to consider these recommended steps to avoid a dispute with your builder.

No business wants to invest time and money into a building project that turns out to be a nightmare. But how can you minimize disputes with your builder and what should you do if you can’t overcome a dispute?

Sometimes, getting money back or coming to an agreement with a builder is impossible. As a worst case-scenario, a dispute with your builder can lead to court proceedings with a contract law solicitor working on your businesses’ behalf to come to an agreement. However, as mentioned, this is the worst-case scenario, and there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of this happening so you can come to an amicable agreement with your builder.

Here, we’ve put together ten tips to help your business minimize the chances of a dispute arising. This way, you can avoid spending more time and money on enlisting the help of a contract law solicitor, and put more effort into getting your office space perfect. Take a look.

Do your Research

Researching multiple contractors and gaining quotes and advice from more than one source will help you to benchmark builders against one another. This way, you can identify any issues before you have signed anything.

For example, if one contractor is way above or below the other quotes or states they will take much longer or much less time than the average, it would be wise to steer clear of them.

You should ask for examples of previous work, similar to what you would like to carry out. Also, look at review sites and social media to see if there are any reviews that are a cause for concern.

If you can get a recommendation from a business who has had similar work done, risks might be minimized.

Check for Trade Association Membership

If the builders you are considering are part of a trade association, request details of them, their business, and previous work. See if they can offer you any assurances about the builder’s work to minimize the risk of things going wrong.

Ensure Appropriate Insurance Cover Is in Place

You need to make sure that the builder you have chosen has appropriate insurance in place. As a minimum, they should have public liability insurance which covers legal and compensation costs if someone is hurt or killed, or if property is damaged as a result of the builder’s work. The right insurance will mean that you can make a claim on their insurance if damage to your property occurs.

Make Sure You Have Everything in Writing

In some cases, to make a claim you need to be able to prove things that were said by your builder. Estimates are just that, so it is not uncommon that pricings or timings can change due to unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, if you have a detailed quote which lists out how much each part costs and how long it will take, you can see if changes were already accounted for, so you are not forced to pay twice.

In addition to this, get the work you are having done drawn up too. This will help you to visualize what the changes are going to look like, and you and your builder can discuss any alterations before the work starts to save you both time and money.

Also, make sure you are communicating regularly throughout the process so you can voice any issues as they arise.

Have a Written Contract

A written contract should cover when the agreed payment dates are, the agreed time scales, and what you are expecting to help avoid any nasty surprises.

When discussing time scales in your contract, ensure that the company is aware of your expectations and why you are working towards deadlines. This might not overcome any issues due to unforeseen circumstances, but it will help build your case if it comes down to it.

A payment plan in your contract will state the agreed dates that parts should be paid for. It is not advisable to pay the full amount before the work is carried out. Therefore, you should stagger payments once you are happy with parts of the project, and keep 10 to 20 percent back as a contingency if anything goes wrong before the project is complete.

Ask for Evidence of Qualifications and Certifications

You should ensure that the tradesmen you choose to carry out the work have the right qualifications for the job. You probably wouldn’t want someone without a law degree representing you in court, so you shouldn’t hire unqualified builders to carry out work for you.

What’s more, make sure to ask for evidence of said qualifications so you can ensure that they aren’t fabricated or expired.

Regularly Document the Project

Whether it’s photo or video, or both, regularly document the progress of the project. This means you will have evidence if you ever need to make a claim. If you can add a date to each photograph/video, this will also help your case.

Comprehensive records of letters, email and other correspondence are also a good idea including dates, times and the names of people present.

Give Your Builders an Opportunity to Put Things Right

A reputable builder will not want to leave work unfinished or things on a sour note. So, give them the opportunity to resolve any issues and redo any work you aren’t happy with. Unless it transpires that the builders are not qualified to fulfill the work, or the work is so below par that it is dangerous, enlist the help of someone else.

Get a Second Opinion

If you believe the work is not up to standard, enlist the help of another building professional to assess the work. This will also help for evidence if the case goes to court.

Make a Complaint Claim against Them

If you have exhausted all other options, including giving them a chance to make things right, and you have adequate evidence of the damage caused, it is time to make an official complaint.

You can begin by lodging a complaint with the company, if they are large enough, followed by a complaint with the trade association they are part of. You can also report a trader with trading standards. If this does not resolve the issues, it is time to talk to a contract law solicitor to see if communication via solicitors can resolve the issue.

Still Need to Raise a Dispute Against a Builder?

Sometimes, you can follow all of the right steps and still need to raise a dispute against a builder. It is vital to remain calm and identify what you want to get out of raising a dispute.

If a dispute arises and you want to bring a case against a builder because they have not taken reasonable care and skill with the work, you must make it clear that you are rejecting the work. Do so promptly in order to receive the best outcome in court.

Has your business had to deal with a dispute with a builder? Let us know how you resolved it in the comments below.


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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.