If you’re planning on starting a building project, whether that’s adding an extension or building a new home from scratch, your builder will become your right-hand person for the foreseeable future. Finding the right builder whose trustworthy and reliable can be a long, drawn-out process. Once you find someone, you’ll want to get started as quickly as possible. However, it’s important to consider the legalities before any work starts to protect your investment.
Construction legal services in the UK have seen various builder disputes occurring because no contract has been put in place before the work commences. In this article, we explore this topic to see if you need a contract in place for your renovation.
Why Do You Need a Contract with Your Builder?
The simple answer to this question is that you don’t, but you may live to regret it if you choose not to protect yourself legally. In many cases, people will have several meetings with their builder before the job begins. This will often make the customer feel that they have created a bond or relationship with their builder and, have maybe even become friends. As such, they may either decide that a contract isn’t necessary – or, in more sinister cases, they may be persuaded that this is the case by the builder. While you don’t legally need a contract in order to hire somebody to work for you, not doing so leaves you wide open to expensive issues with, quite literally, no comeback.
A contract (which should be drawn up or approved by a solicitor) lays out the terms of the project, including:
- The cost of the project
- The timeframe of the project, including the start date
- Detailed description of the works
- Key responsibilities
- Who will be performing the work
- What kind of communication will be provided, and how often
- Purchase of materials and additional costs
- The quality of work expected
As you can already see just from this short list, there are a lot of factors involved during a building project and just as many things that can go wrong. For example, what will happen if your builder is incapacitated or, there if there is another national crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic whereby construction work is not permitted.
How to Approach Your Builder with a Contract
To begin with, it’s a good idea to have an open and frank conversation with your builder about the points mentioned above and to come to a loose agreement on each of the points. Once this has been done, it’s time to inform the builder that you intend to have a contract drawn up to cover both of your interests. If the builder offers to supply the contract, this is fine but, you should always ask a solicitor to take a look at this before committing to anything. If your builder expresses reluctance to engage in a contract, red flags may be raised.
Ask them to explain their objections and if reasonable, you should be able to resolve these together; if not, it’s time to walk away and find somebody else. A contract is, essentially, a promise between two people of what they intend or expect to do. Any honest builder will be more than happy to sign such a document.
When Should You Draw Up Your Contract with Your Builder?
While there are no hard fast rules as to when the contract should be produced, there are a few good rules of thumb which will help to make sure that you are covered:
Drawing up a contract for your builder may seem presumptuous if done too soon – ideally, this should be done after the following have been achieved:
- Availability – The builder has confirmed that he or she is available for the timeframe needed for your project
- Terms agreed – Yourself and your builder have come to a mutual agreement regarding the bare bones of the project. I.e price, timescale and staffing
- Legitimacy – You’ve checked out the builder’s credentials and, also, have been shown evidence of his or her insurance coverage
- Work begins – Your contract should be in place before the builder and / or their team steps onto your site. The aim of your contract is to ensure that your interests are covered throughout the building project, which means from the very start. Don’t be fobbed off if your builder turns up to work having ‘forgotten’ to bring the signed contract. if it’s not locked down by contract, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on, as the old saying goes.
- Materials – You should make it clear to your builder that you do not agree to any materials being purchased for your project until the contract is signed.
Contracts are there to protect both parties…
However friendly you may be with your builder; your relationship is a business transaction and should be treated as such. A construction solicitor will be able to help you to draw up a watertight contract which will protect your interests in the event of an issue such as damage caused to your house during the work, or the work not being completed or being completed late. Without a contract, should an issue arise, you may well find that you will need to enter into a lengthy (and usually costly) legal battle in order to either recoup costs or force the builder to make good on the work that has been promised.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a legal professional if you’re seeking advice about setting up a contract with your builder. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.