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, the first stage is to prove that there was a contract between you and the builder. This contract may have been made orally, but it is much easier to show with a written contract. You will also need to be able to show the terms of the contract. Again, this is much easier to present if you had a written contract.

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 fairly straightforward, and 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;
  • Ensuring that the sourced materials are adequate; and
  • Adhering to and properly obtaining building consents.

Breach of contract and/or duty

Once you have established that a contract and/or duty existed, the next step is to show that the contract has been breached, or that the builder’s performance of that duty has fallen below the reasonably expected standard. This becomes slightly more difficult to show 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.
  • Where the proper building consents were not obtained.
  • Where unreasonable delays have caused a consumer loss.

Have you suffered a loss?

The final hurdle is to show that, as a result of the builder’s breach of contract and/or negligence, you have suffered reasonably foreseeable loss. Importantly, this loss must be more than ‘mere inconvenience’ and you must have suffered actual loss. This loss can take various forms. However, examples include where a consumer has had 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 imperative that if you are considering pursuing your builder in negligence and/or breach of contract you do so as soon as possible. This is because there are strict deadlines which apply to these cases, which if missed, could mean that you may not be able to bring your claim. These time scales are called ‘limitation’.

Limitation is a complex area. However, 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. Similarly, if you want to bring a professional negligence claim, you have six years from the date of the negligence to bring a claim.

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, an exception applies meaning 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.