/ Home & Energy

Legal advice: shoddy building work

Ever had a company not carry out the service you paid for? Here’s how we helped a member when she had no choice but to take a company to court.

Back in October 2015, Which? Legal member Christine asked Ultimate Windows (NE) Ltd to supply and install a new front door, double-glazed windows and a set of French doors.

She paid £6,400 for the work, but several issues became apparent once it was completed – from the standard of the painting to the installation of the door frames.

Christine complained to Ultimate Windows, but was left with no choice other than to go elsewhere and get the work fixed herself.

Christine took her case to the Consumer Ombudsman, which ruled in her favour. However, Ultimate Windows still failed to comply, leaving Christine no choice but to take the company to court.

Small claims court

We advised Christine of her rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and what her next steps should be during the court process.

In this case, Ultimate Windows was in breach of contract as the service provided was not done with reasonable care and skill, and the supplied products were not of satisfactory quality.

Christine was able to prove this after getting two independent surveys to assess Ultimate Windows’ work.

We advised Christine on how to escalate her claim through the small claims track of her local county court and how to prepare for the hearing.

Damages and fees

Three years and eight months after the start of the works, the court found in favour of Christine, awarding her £7,133.75 in damages, plus £810 in court fees.

The independent surveys likely strengthened Christine’s case. The reports helped evidence on how the service was done poorly and to what extent the materials were below standard.

Christine was also able to justify the value of her claim with clear quotes. This combination of evidence was crucial in getting a county court judgement against Ultimate Windows.

We didn’t receive a response from Ultimate Windows.

Have you ever been let down by the quality of building work? Would you be confident taking an issue to the small claims court?


Did Ultimate Windows pay up?

It is quite wrong that such cases take nearly 4 years to be resolved. It only took a week to decide the prorogued parliament issue. Presumably nothing could be done to rectify the defective installation until, at the very least, expert reports had been prepared. In this case Christine seems fortunate that she could pay for remedial work while the court case was in progress. What about someone without the money?

It would be interesting to know what work Christine had done in the meantime to mitigate the effect of the substandard installation and what it cost.

Thomas, thanks. It is a shame that court may be the only answer for some. I assume there is a quicker mediation route that should be binding on both parties. Is it normally successful? e.g. https://www.lawontheweb.co.uk/personal/building-mediation

Which? Trusted Traders appear to have to abide by an alternative dispute resolution scheme “– If things go wrong
An extra benefit of using Which? Trusted Traders is that we have an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution service, the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, on hand should something go wrong. This problem solving service provides peace of mind for both consumers and traders.

Hari Sivasubramaniam says:
13 January 2020

Hi Thomas

I have been let down by my previous builder and have followed a number of protocols. What do I need to do, to get assistance from Which? Legal

When looking for people in the building trade or making a case against them, it is always worth having a very good look at the photographs they display on their websites.

We invited one builder to give us a quote for roofing as his website said all the right things, supported by photographs that gave the impression of a team of professionals working safely.

When the builder came round, he shows us an old photo album that gave you the impression of a cowboy outfit from the middle of last century!!!

I searched his website photos on the internet as they were presented and also flipped them horizontally. I discovered they were stock photos and nothing to do with his business. The search also showed many other firms were using the same fake photos to promote their businesses.