Home owners across the country spend large sums on home improvements every year.  In the current housing market, many homeowners choose to refurbish their properties rather than move. This means that complex refurbishments and extensions to existing properties are as popular as ever. Before instructing a builder it is important to know what you will expect from each other.  Otherwise matters can spiral into a costly builder dispute. We have set out some tips below to assist you with the process.

Make a plan

Depending on the size of your building project it’s important to have a clear plan of what you want to do. Both parties should agree the plan and set out in writing the costs and deadlines associated with the works.  Ideally, this should be set out in a written contract.  If there are any issues about the works or payment the parties can refer to the contract. Any changes to the contract should agreed by both parties and documented.


Parties who maintain meaningful communication, dealing with issues as and when they arise, are far more likely to avoid a dispute than parties who don’t address matters. Left unresolved, even minor issues can lead to parties falling out. Again, it is useful to record details of the discussions in writing or by email. Quite often a breakdown in communication is precisely what leads to a dispute, as the parties have a different understanding as to what the other is expecting of them.

Agreeing payment terms

Parties should agree from the outset in the contract the terms of payment for the contractor. Agreed stage payments (with a review prior to each payment of the works carried out to date) allow the parties from time to time to review if the standard of works completed so far is acceptable or not. It is an implied term to the contract that the contractor will perform his tasks with reasonable care and skill. If this is not the case, it is important to let the builder know what your concerns are and why you are not happy. Be wary of making payments for works which are sub-standard, as by making payment you can be deemed as having accepted the sub-standard works.

Keep records

It is important to keep records throughout the works of what the builder has done and what you have paid for. Photographs can be digitally time-stamped, so that you can evidence the position if need be.


When the works have been completed a builder may seek more money than was originally agreed for the works.  If the parties have agreed to the variations in the contract then this should be straightforward.  If not, a reasonable price will need to be negotiated between the parties.

Get advice

There will often be disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties. At this stage it is wise to seek legal advice as to where you take matters next. If remedial works are required, collect as much photographic evidence as you can before getting the work done, and add these photos to your records.  This evidence will help you if you need to issue court proceedings in order to resolve the matter.

If you would like assistance with a builder dispute, our professional negligence department can help. Call us today on 0800 988 7756. (FREEPHONE)


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