How to resolve conflicts with your builder - Grand Designs Magazine

How to resolve conflicts with your builder

How to come to a conclusion with your builder over outstanding work

By Becca Green |

Whether you’re experiencing project delays, unfinished work or poor workmanship, these practical tips advise on how to tackle issues with your builder.

Whether you’re renovating a property, creating an extension or building your own home, the course of a construction project rarely runs smooth. However, some of the most challenging issues to tackle are those with your builders, especially where a project manager isn’t employed in the process.

Your issues may be related to poor workmanship or that they simply haven’t finished the work, but arming yourself with the knowledge of how to proceed where these issues to occur will help keep you in control of the situation. Here is some expert guidance provided by CLPM Construction Project Consultancy.

Pull together contracts and agreements

First things first, gather together a file with all of the relevant emails, estimates, quotes and contracts, all the way through from your initial conversations to the present day. ‘It’s important that you check through your paperwork and make sure you are clear on what was agreed, but also how things have evolved,’ explains CLPM, including delivery issues or adverse weather.

Summarise these documents for easy reference, which may also help in building a picture if delays and issues may be considered fair and reasonable. Be sure to check your specifications and drawings too. Does your finished project match up with what was initially agreed?

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Photo: Charles Deluvio

Communicate effectively

Before escalating the situation, talk to your builder and explain your concerns. Whether or not you have a formal building contract in place, you have legal rights in place from when you instructed the builder to commence with work, so ensure that they know you understand what you’re entitled to.

In the case of unfinished work where you are struggling to contact your builder, write a letter to them, outlining what work is outstanding and offering a realistic but firm date for completion of the work.

When it’s an issue involving sub-contractors, whether it’s an issue of work owed or sub-par quality, voice any concerns to your builder. They should be managing this, so avoid being drawn in unnecessarily.

Consider employing a new builder

If your builder has left unfinished work which you cannot come to an agreement on by communicating with them effectively then you are well within your rights to tell your builder that you don’t want them to carry on with the work. Put this in writing to make sure you have a record of it.

You will need to examine the value of works completed and either compensate the builder for this, or come to an agreement on a refund if you’ve paid money up front beyond this value.

For issues of poor workmanship, you need to have offered your builder the opportunity to put the work right within a reasonable amount of time: ‘If necessary, quote The Consumer Rights Act 2015. This act says that goods must be correctly installed, if installing them was part of the contract. The builder must be offered the opportunity to put the poor workmanship right before you start talking to a different company to take over the works,’ explains CLPM. If you don’t, you risk having to pay them for the work regardless.

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Photo: Guilherme Cunha

Getting your build back on track

Keep calm and focus on getting your build back on track. This is achieved either by re-briefing the existing builder as above and managing them closely, or appointing and organising a completely new build team. If the project is significant, you may also want to look at employing a dedicated project manager.

The process should now look like this – prioritising drawing up a new schedule of works, agreeing on a new programme and a new completion date, agreeing and drawing up a new contract. Avoid the same issues by ensuring your new team are visiting the site to check on progress, dealing with and resolving any queries or issues and making sure to manage the snagging, defects and final accounts of the project for you.

For more information on dealing with conflict with builders on a project, consult the CLPM Construction Project Consultancy website.