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Suing the builders for cost to put right their work


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The builders demanded payment from a vulnerable member of the family who paid the final payment in full. There were problems with the build from before the time the final payment was made, but we were not aware of the real nature of the problems until after payment. From the time the bills were paid in full, the builders work has been very poor.

 

In summary, the builders have not stuck to the contract or the plans. Building control have a long list of outstanding issues including the roof and floors being inadequately supported.

 

We have a solicitor who said the first step was to get an idea of the costing. Reputable builders shy away from this sort of work. One reputable firm said they would do a quote for £250. Would we be best with this for now or should we be looking at getting a surveyor in?

 

Also, we were asked to pay the electrician direct when extra electrical work was added. We were planning to take this to a small claim court separately but the solicitor advises keeping it all as one claim for now. The electrician met us at the house, started work on the additional sockets the same day and sent us an invoice for half the cost of all the electrical work that night. He damaged our bathroom fittings and will not pay for their repair. He wants to come back and do bits of the remaining work despite walking out on us last year. We don't want him to come back. Would there be any reason to let him complete any more work at this stage?

 

Also, I am torn between getting the work completed as I am fed up of living in an unsafe building site and preserving the damage they have done for a future surveyor to assess. What do you suggest is best?

 

Also, we have no legal expenses cover. The likely costs of the case are very high. I am going to try to do as much as I can by myself. Where do I start?

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Thread moved to the appropriate forum.

 

Regards

 

Andy

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These cases are not legally difficult. The law is pretty simple - builders must comply with the contract (hopefully you have the contract terms in writing) and they must exercise reasonable skill and care. If they don't then they are liable to put it right.

 

The problem is evidential ... how you go about proving what they have done wrong, what they should do to put it right and how much it will cost. If the amount is over 10k this will not be a small claim and hence the loser will have to pay the winner's legal costs. Obtaining a formal surveyor's report - which should be CPR compliant - is advisable. A quote to fix the work generally will not be enough as the quote will not provide detail about what has gone wrong or who is responsible. There should be many surveyors who are used to providing reports like this for use in litigation.

 

If you just want to sue the electrician, I see no issue suing the builder in one claim and the electrician in another claim. But you can't split your claims against the builder as the courts do expect you to bring forward all your claims against a single defendant relating to the same set of circumstances in the same claim ... trying to split different bits into different claims is seen as an abuse of process.

 

The best place to start is getting your evidence together and organising it properly in a folder. This will include photographs about what has gone wrong, quotes if available and researching potential people to provide expert reports.

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Would we be advised to allow the electrician to complete some work if he offers to? Would we still be able to claim for any outstanding work if we allowed him to complete some work? We would rather he not carry on working as he is part of the team the builder uses and there is a lot of bad feeling. Also, when the electrician caused damage he would not own up to it so we can not trust him in our house.

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You'll have to make a judgment call whether the electrician's conduct was bad enough to constitute a "fundamental" breach of contract. If it was that bad, then you are entitled to terminate the contract. You have to notify him that you are terminating the contract (or words to that effect, e.g. telling him he is not allowed back in). I'm no builder or electrician, but if he damaged your fittings I'd say he shouldn't be allowed back in, though obviously you'll have to sort out how the work gets done.

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