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Have you had an extension built that ended up costing far more than the original quote you were given? Or have you been victim to the proverbial ‘cowboy builders from hell’?

Sadly, such scenarios are common among people making domestic improvements but there is an easy solution – to use a formal construction contract. There are several models available and at Lawson-West Commercial we recommend those produced by the Joint Contracts Tribunal.

The fundamental point of these contracts is to identify an individual to administrate and supervise the ongoing building works. This ensures that if your builder has made a mistake with the quote and there’s no fault or change of specification from you then you shouldn’t be required to pay for this mistake as an ‘extra’. Likewise, if you fail to properly explain what’s required from the outset, the builder should be protected against extra cost.

The person appointed to supervise the works is usually an architect or engineer who is impartial so that both parties can turn to them if needed. This makes such agreements more attractive for your builder to enter into. The contracts also allow for alternative dispute resolution outside of the court system should it be needed. The benefit of this is that it’s much cheaper and easier than going to court.

If you ask a builder to enter into a JCT contract with you and they decline, this should give you an indication that difficulties may lie ahead. And, although getting a reputable contractor may appear to cost more on quotation, in actual fact you could save many hundreds of pounds further down the line by avoiding costly disputes, hidden “extras” and mistakes that need to be rectified.

Other obvious things to look for include the stability of the business you engage to carry out your building work e.g. is the business in fact just sole trader Mr Fred Bloggs trading as 'Fred’s Builders' or is it a Limited Company? It is well worth checking, and also worth finding out where their registered office is and how long they have been trading. As solicitors, Lawson-West Commercial can do all this for you and we would also dig deeper to investigate the assets of the business.
The important thing to remember is that if your chosen builder either fails to finish the job or gets it wrong you are not going to be able to remedy the problem if all you know is that his name is Fred and he drives a blue van! We can help you set up a home-owner building contract, establish the identity of the business you intend to engage and advise on their suitability to avoid costly disputes later on.
For more information please contact Richard Tomlinson, Sarah Hickey or Jasdeep Rai at Lawson-West on 0116 212 1000.