The work is half done – where do we go from here?

Contracts for Work and Materials often involve the incorporation of goods into other goods, property or land. Therefore you cannot simply get your money back and be put back into the same position you were in before the work started. The question is, is the contract severable? It very much depends on what you are having done and what payment plan you have agreed. Upon presentation of the finished item, can you simply say that you are not going to pay for it and you are not going to give them the opportunity to make it good? This may be a little unreasonable, but if you plan to cite a breach in contract due to an absence of reasonable care and skill, you must make it clear that you are rejecting the finished item. If you have accepted it, you may have to pay all or a portion of the price agreed in the contract.

What about work is taking place in phases? Let’s say you are having a conservatory built which involves the payment of four instalments. If after the second instalment it is clear that the work is substandard you can sever the contract at that point and ask them not to return. You can then pursue damages for monies paid and additional sums if any consequential losses have been incurred (the cost of putting right the poor workmanship). If however the builder offers to redo the work, then the reasonable response would be agree, as long as it can be done ‘in reasonable time’. But what if you have lost complete faith in the builders and do not want them back at all? This is also a reasonable response, although you would have to have good grounds to claim a loss of faith. For this reason, it is always advisable to take photos and keep a diary when having any long term building work done, so you have evidence should it ever become a dispute. Many trade bodies representing firms such as builders will offer a dispute resolution service – which is always cheaper and quicker than litigation! Therefore always choose a builder or tradesman who is accredited by a trade body, association or guild which can offer this service.

Common Complaints:

What about contracts for services?