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Property Litigation Q&A: Residential construction disputes

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Property Litigation Q&A February 2022: Residential construction disputes

Property Litigation specialist lawyer, Anna Curtis, provides advice on residential construction disputes, why they arise, and what to do about them.

How do construction disputes arise?

With property prices rising year on year and people spending more time at home during the pandemic, home renovations and construction work has seen a sharp increase.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for works to start off well but encounter issues mid-way through a build or towards completion.

This can lead to acrimonious disputes regarding snagging and remedial works and unpaid invoices for contractors.

The vast majority of enquiries of this nature result from the home-owner being unhappy at the standard of the construction works they have received, and therefore withholding stage payments to the contractor, resulting in a counter-claim dispute.

I contracted a building company to undertake renovation and extension works at my property – the works are not to the required standard and need fixing, what can I do?

This is very common in home renovation works.

For large scale jobs, such as property renovations or extension work, it is expected that there will be some minor issues due to the size and complexity of the works required.

This would usually be dealt with by the contractor at the end of the works – often referred to as snagging, with both parties happy with the end result.

What to do when you're unhappy with a contractor’s work?

We are experiencing an increasing number of enquiries regarding substantial disputes between the home-owner and the contractors regarding the quality of the works.

This may result in an independent surveyor being instructed so that they can assess the works for themselves and make recommendations as to how to resolve them and who should bear the cost in doing so.

If this is not productive, Court proceedings are often needed for the Court to determine how to resolve the matter.

If you believe that you cannot settle a dispute regarding remedial works with your contractor, we suggest that you seek immediate legal advice before the issue escalates and one party breaks the contract.

How to resolve construction disputes

If you’ve fallen out with your contractor and you do not want them to continue with the work, you may wish to hire someone else to finish it instead.

There is always a risk in instructing an alternative company to complete or rectify works that the original contractors were contracted to do.

It may be seen as a breach of contract by the Court if you instruct an alternative company.

So, can I instruct someone else?

We would recommend that the original parties exhaust all viable options and seek independent legal advice before instructing any third parties.

This is because there could potentially be issues during the Court process in respect of causation and not being afforded an opportunity to perform the contractual obligations agreed upon at the outset.

How much does a construction dispute cost?

This will depend on how cooperative both parties are. If early resolution can be reached, legal costs should be relatively low.

However, in the event that the instruction of an expert surveyor is needed and resulting Court proceedings are commenced, legal fees will almost certainly be in the tens of thousands.

Therefore, costs need to be carefully considered before commencing a claim, especially if the disputed works are minor in size and importance.

How to avoid construction disputes

We recommend that anyone contemplating property construction works enters into a written contract at the outset with clear breakdowns of the required works and how much each stage will cost.

We further recommend that both parties keep copies of all correspondence throughout the duration of the works, along with regular photographs of progress and any issues/damage that occurs, should it be needed for proceedings.

Specialist Property Litigation Solicitors

If you feel that you would benefit from advice on construction disputes, or any other Property Litigation matter, please feel free to contact the team here at Frettens.

You can call us on 01202 499255 or fill in this form.

We offer a free initial appointment for all new clients.

We will be able to advise you on the appropriate way of proceeding, as well as represent you throughout negotiations and Court proceedings if necessary.

Anna Curtis would be happy to assist with enquiries of this nature.

The content of this article, blog or video is not intended as specific legal advice. For tailored assistance, please contact a member of our team.