When you instruct a builder, you are relying upon their expertise; to advise and to carry out the agreed works, in accordance with your instructions. Generally, people instruct builders to carry out specialist works. It is therefore unsurprising that legal protections exist to give you the right to pursue construction professionals when things do not go quite as expected. You may be able to sue your builder for breach of contract and/or professional negligence.
So can you sue your builder, roofer, carpenter or other construction professional? Let’s look at what you would need to show for a successful claim.
| The contract
For a claim for breach of contract, you would need to begin by establishing that there was a contract between you and the builder and/or the construction professional. A contract may have been made orally between parties and this may be established in certain circumstances. It is much easier to show with a written contract, as this will set out the specific relationship held between the parties and what obligations were in place.
| Duty of care
In a claim for professional negligence, you must be able to show that a duty of care existed between you and the builder. This should be straightforward, especially when a written contract is in place which would set this out. If a duty was clear, most builders would readily accept that they owed a duty to their consumer client.
Examples of duties that a builder may owe their client include:
- Completing building works with reasonable care, skill and diligence;
- Completing the building works within the agreed, or a reasonable timeframe;
- Ensuring that sourced materials are as described/agreed and importantly, that they are of reasonable quality; and
- Adhering to and properly obtaining building consents.
| Breach of contract and/or duty
When the above has been established, the next step is to show that the contract has then been breached, or that the builder’s performance of that duty has fallen below the ‘reasonably expected’ standard.
This may be slightly more difficult to prove, and you may find it useful to instruct a specialist solicitor. A solicitor will advise you on whether your builder has breached their contract, or negligently performed their duties.
Examples of how a builder may have breached their contract and /or negligently performed their duties include:
- Building works have not been completed to a reasonable standard.
- Damage has been caused to a property, by a builder, whilst completing the building works.
| Have you suffered a loss?
Finally, it must be shown that as a result of the builder’s breach of contract and/or negligence that you have suffered reasonably foreseeable loss.
The loss must be more than ‘mere inconvenience’ and you must be able to show that you have suffered actual loss. This loss can take various forms.
Examples can include:
- When you have to pay another builder to carry out rectification works; or
- Where owing to unjust delays, a consumer has had to instruct a separate builder to complete the works.
| Time scales for bringing a claim against your builder
It is key that if you are considering pursuing your builder in negligence and/or breach of contract you do so as soon as possible or seek advice confirming if you can as soon as possible. There are strict deadlines which apply to these cases, and if you miss the date, you won’t necessarily be able to bring a claim. The time scales are called ‘limitation’.
Limitation is a complex area. As a rule, if you want to sue your builder for breach of contract, you have six years from the date of the breach to bring a claim. If you want to bring a professional negligence claim, you have six years from the date of the negligence to bring a claim. These calculations are very important and so it is essential that if you are unsure, you seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Quite often with building disputes it is clear upon completion, or sooner, that the works have not been carried out properly. However, it is also common, particularly, where larger building works are carried out, that the defect only becomes apparent after the six-year limitation deadline has expired. In such cases, exceptions may apply which would mean that you would have three years from the date on which you became aware of the negligence.
Our professional negligence team has many years of experience in bringing claims against builders who are in breach of contract and/or who acted negligently. We can help you sue your builder and recover damages to compensate for your loss. Call us today on 0800 988 7756 to speak to a specialist.