/ Home & Energy

Builder disputes – how to repair the damage

Angry builder

A decent builder or decorator is like gold dust – as the millions of people who’ve had disputes with traders will well know. So why do so few people know their rights and end up getting stung by a bad service?

Our latest research shows that at least 2.5 million people have had a dispute with a builder or decorator in the last three years.

And a quarter were forced to take formal action – so it’s hardly surprising that this is an area we get lots of calls about on Which? Legal Service.

How not to employ a trader

When there’s so much information available these days, it takes me by surprise when I talk to people who don’t understand their rights. Many employ trades people they’ve never used before, pay up front and have no written contract.

Why do they do this? Usually because they simply don’t realise that they can ask for these things and can agree terms, payment schedules and even retain some money until after the works are completed.

Although it’s a different type of service, recently I had a heavy argument with a large telecoms provider about who was responsible for my satellite dish and receiver, so I totally understand why most consumers believe what they’re being told. In my case, forcing the issue and dealing with a manager led to a free repair.

You should never feel bullied into paying for work that you’re not happy with. It amazes me how many times, when things go wrong, people have been misled as to who is responsible.

What to do when quality suffers

When you instruct a trader, generally the contract is governed by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 that says work should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, using materials of a satisfactory quality, and completing the work within a reasonable period of time.

And yet our survey found that the most common disagreement people have with builders and decorators is over the quality of their work, with other major gripes including traders not turning up when agreed, delays over completion, and properties being left untidy.

In many of these cases they could be in breach of contract and you may be able to get a third party to complete the works. But if you have to take court action, ensure you know who you are suing (i.e. sole trader, limited company) and be aware that there could be problems enforcing a court judgement.

Many of the problems that people experience could be avoided if they took a few simple steps – although nothing can guarantee total protection. Do you have any failsafe methods to make sure you find a decent trader – or are you one of the many who has had a bad experience?

Have you ever tried to solve a builder dispute?

No (50%, 59 Votes)

Yes and it wasn't resolved (40%, 47 Votes)

Yes and it was resolved (9%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 117

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If it was my home ihopehewould repair the damage