HOW TO RESOLVE A DISPUTE WITH YOUR BUILDER
It’s a sad fact of life that builder disputes are very common. Nearly every
building job will involve some form of disputed situation at some stage during the works on site and there is good
reason for this.
Most home extension building works are a complicated set procedures that will be disruptive and expose
unforeseen elements that need resolving. Many homeowners do not appreciate the amount of mess and disruption that
will happen around them while they effectively live on a building site.
Even when a homeowner moves out of the extended property, there will be challenges along the way and the home
owner simply needs the appreciate some of these issues that your builder will be dealing with.
A good builder will be pro-active and warn you of any issues or short comings that could affect progress,
materials, costs or your use of the property.
Scheduled below are some of the of the most common areas of potential disputes:-
1 - Excessive extra costs. This is usually the big one and is often attributed to defective or deficient
building design information within the plans or specification by the house extension building designer. The
documents prepared by any home extension designer is simply a ‘shopping list’ of work instructions and materials to
be used. This is what your builder uses to price the works. He is also placed into a competitive arena with other
builders so even if he spots some deficiencies knowing that certain works will be required, he is unlikely to add
these in for fear of being higher priced than the competition. Therefore should extra costs start arising the home
extension owner needs to assess carefully the validity of such claims for extra costs. Most extra costs claims are
actually quite genuine but should you have any doubts the homeowner is advised to consult with their original home
extension designer for a view.
2 - Delays to the building schedule. There is a rule of thumb that says no matter
what schedule or timeline the builder presents, it will always take longer. Usually by weeks rather than days. A
lot of the delays are often attributed to poor project planning by the main contractor. However, there are a whole
host of possible problems that is often outside of the main contractors control such as poor weather, long lead in
times for materials & being let down by some of the trades especially on the second fixes. No one wants
building delays especially the builder as he too has ‘on costs’ for preliminaries and admin etc. that he is unable
to claim back form the home extension owner which is also eating into his margins.
If the home owner has been monitoring the works and kept records of weather, men on site etc. then you should
have a good idea whether or not the delays are genuine. Many home extension clients try to capitalise on building
delays by claiming costs from the builder which often only leads to animosity & entrenchment of viewpoints. The
home owner should always be aware that the quality of the finished job is far more important than having it rushed
& poorly finished at any cost for some dinner party. Unless terms for dealing with delays have been agreed as
part of the original contract, then it can be difficult in claiming back costs from your house extension
3 - Quality of work. Final finishes are particularly acute for the homeowner as this is what they will
finally see. A ‘rough’ builder who has simply ‘thrown up’ the shell can get away with murder if his final fishes
are good (joinery, plastering, decorating etc.). However, the poor detailing of the main structure that is then
hidden by the final finishes can cause latent defects several years into the building life. (eg - damp, leaks,
movement etc.). Therefore the homeowner often misses the real deficiencies when it is far too late to correct.
Utilising your home extension designer for the contract administration duties during the works can often help
4 - Variations during the works. This can come from both sides and is actually quite normal &
expected. It is how they are handled is what matters. Poorly managed variations will cause problems and lack of
trust. Builders variations usually occur on material selection from that specified, alternative construction
methods from that shown etc. Most of the time this is for quite genuine reasons due to short supplies or adapting
the works to suite specific on site exposed conditions. Provided the builder has been transparent & explained
these issues to the client before implementation then disputes are often avoided.
Similarly, client induced variations for changing the works after elements have been installed can cause much
friction. Many homeowners are unable to visualise drawings so it is only when the building starts to form in 3D so
to speak are they able to assess its workability. Most builders do understand this which is perhaps their
equivalent of the schedule overruns.
Should the homeowner change any elements of the buildings works once installed the builder will claim legitimate
extra costs. However, if the homeowner can be proactive, involved and catch any possible alterations to the
approved scheme design prior to installation then extra costs can often be avoided.