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How to settle a dispute with a builder

When an issue arises with a property build or renovation, it can cause costly delays and stress. But how can you settle a dispute with a builder without exacerbating the situation? Whether it’s in relation to your home or a commercial property, we explore recommended ways to approach a building dispute.

Before you commit to any type of property build, extension or renovation, you will need to agree to a contract with the builder. If a disagreement then occurs in relation to the contract or if there are workmanship issues, this can lead to a dispute. Without professional dispute resolution advice, this can become a costly and time-consuming process. We recommend checking your contract at the start of the project to ensure terms and definitions are clear.

Construction industry challenges

At the time of writing, the construction industry has been plagued with material shortages, which has had a direct impact on building quality. According to the Construction Products Association (CPA), due to scarcity, material and component prices have skyrocketed by an average of 42%. In June 2022, the price of cement was 58% higher than the previous year.

The rise in material costs is due to supply-chain issues arising from the pandemic, inflation and the Ukraine-Russian conflict. Numerous construction materials are sourced in Ukraine. Many building contractors on fixed-price contracts have borne the brunt of these costs, and some firms have gone into administration. Despite the building “bubble” during the pandemic, Creditsafe recorded a 60% increase in construction administrations since 2020.

Whether it’s to do with the build quality, delays or material shortages, many legal firms are reporting an increase in the number of building disputes. So, where does this leave you if you’re in dispute over a construction issue? This will depend on the nature of your dispute.

Common types of building dispute

The following are the most common types of building dispute:

  • Poor workmanship – this could include a new build property not matching the show home or a commercial build not reflecting the project specifications.

  • Incorrect or poor-quality materials - this could be the use of different coloured bricks, weak timber or another type of substandard construction material.

  • Building regulations – especially if the property is unsafe and you have to move out or relocate your business in order for work to be done to rectify the problem.

  • Breach of contract – this could include costly project delays, not following the plans correctly, or increasing material costs despite agreeing to a fixed-price contract.

In some instances, you might have a case to make a claim for professional negligence. It’s worth noting there is a limited window of opportunity on breaches of contract, due to the statute of limitations. In professional negligence cases, you will need to identify whether the cause of the dispute is due to your main building contractor or subcontractors. Our dispute resolution team can explain this to you - we will talk you through the entire process.

For more information on contractual disputes, read our previous blog, How to resolve a contractual dispute.

How to resolve a building dispute

The first step is to encourage open communication with your builder. Talk through your concerns and try to come to an agreement that allows the builder to rectify the problem. Depending on the level of work required, you will need to agree a reasonable timescale with your builder. If the work is not completed in this time frame, you will need to take action and provide evidence of the issue(s) in case you need to settle the dispute later on in court.

Keep a written record of all your concerns and contact between you and your builder. This should include the contract, every receipt and all correspondence. You should also keep photographic evidence of any construction issues.

If the matter isn’t dealt with, then write to your builder listing your concerns. If your builder still does not rectify the issue(s) in a reasonable specified time period, then you would need to seek legal advice.

Our specialist dispute resolution team will help you to resolve a disagreement with your builder. Whether the dispute is over a new build, home renovation or a commercial property, it’s important to manage any contractual disputes carefully. By engaging an experienced dispute resolution solicitor, you will benefit from professional advice, which could settle the matter out of court. Our team will offer you expert guidance to help you resolve your dispute.

If you need advice on a dispute with a builder, get in touch or email: to arrange a face-to-face or telephone appointment.


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