How to Avoid a Dispute With Your Builder

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Whether you are renovating your own home or you are undertaking a property development project for business, managing the variety of tradespeople you employ can be challenging.

Whilst your property is a building site and money is flowing out of your bank account like water, the last thing you need is a dispute with your builder. This is, therefore, something that you should pay close attention to before you award the work to the builder of your choice.

The reason disputes can, unfortunately, become common place is because not all homeowners understand the terms being discussed or the exact nature of the work to be carried out. Therefore we have put together this checklist for you to give you the best chance of avoiding any painful disputes with your builder…

1. Get a variety of quotations – in writing

Even if you have used the same builder before we would always recommend getting at least three quotes for your consideration. Get these in writing and signed for your records.

2. Don’t buy solely on price

Cheapest can be cheapest for a reason and also you want to make sure that you aren’t being overcharged. Getting a variety of quotes is the first step but it’s also worth asking each builder what they plan to do, what the deadline is for each part of the job and get an itemised price list for materials and labour.

It may be that your preferred builder is going to take too long to complete the job so always get the full picture before making your decision. It is worth noting however that a lot of the best builders are very busy, so being busy can be a good sign. Give the builders plenty of notice where possible to widen your options.

3. Negotiate fixed prices, don’t pay by the hour

Don’t give the builder an incentive to take longer on the job. However, you do then have an obligation as the customer to stick to the specification. If you keep changing your mind the builder may wish to vary the cost, which would be well within their rights.

4. Ask to see examples of their previous work

A reliable builder should be pleased to show you their previous craftsmanship and they should have lots of previous clients who are willing to testify to the quality of their work.

5. Get an agreement signed

At this stage all the cowboy builders will have lost interest as they know you are not a customer they can take for a ride. Draw up an agreement based on what you have discussed and have them sign it before they begin. Be sure to include all the aspects you have agreed between stages 1 and 4 here.

6. Check their liability insurance cover before they begin

They should have this ready to show you at your request.

7. Avoid upfront costs

The most reputable builders won’t ask for large sums upfront so be wary if your builder does. They may however ask for you to contribute to some of the costs for materials if they need to spend a lot of money themselves upfront. Labour costs should never be paid for in advance.

8. Avoid cash transactions unless absolutely necessary

Protect your investment further by paying by card or by bank transfer.

9. Be present

When the work begins, be on site for a short period every day to begin with if you can. You want to make sure the builder is progressing as agreed. They will also know that you will be keeping an eye on progress throughout. Once you have built up some further trust it probably won’t be necessary to be on site every day — unless you want to be.

10. If you have an issue address it, quickly.

If disputes are left unsettled they can become very painful, distressing and expensive very quickly, so if anything happens that you aren’t happy with speak to the builder to voice your concern. This can be in a friendly manner and most of the time it should be resolved between you amicably.

11. If you have a dispute that you cannot resolve speak to an expert

Our resident expert Alison Rowley would be happy to take your call and outline your options for you. Again, it is best to do deal with any disputes quickly before any problems escalate.

It has to be said that most builders are honest, hard working and very reputable and if you follow the steps detailed here you should have no problems whatsoever. However, should you have any questions or concerns, rest assured that the DRN team are here to help you in your time of need. You can call Alison Rowley on 01282 433 241