Spring has well and truly sprung and it’s the time of year again when many homeowners seek help from professionals to refurbish their properties.

However, unlike most professionals (and James Bond), a builder does not need a licence to build. Knowing your legal rights will help safeguard yourself against the common pitfalls experienced in this unmonitored profession:

Poor workmanship and materials
The law implies in all service contracts that workmanship must be provided with reasonable care and skill. In addition, the materials supplied must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and match their description. Therefore, you should:-

• Inspect the work and materials; if they fall short of those standards, the workman may be in breach of contract
• Invite them to return to remedy the issue, which he/she should do at no further cost
• When issues arise there is a tendency to withhold payment, however in doing so you may be in breach of contract. A workman is entitled to be paid a reasonable sum. If you want to withhold payment, reserve a sum which covers the remedial cost, and write to the workman explaining why you are doing this. Alternatively, ask for a discount.
Taking too long
Unless you have agreed a completion date, the law implies that the workmanship must be provided within a reasonable time.

A common cause of delay is the British weather. Your workman should advise of any delay and ask for more time. However, if he/she is not on site when expected, write to them with a reminder of the agreed completion date, or set a new one, and if that is not met, advise them you will terminate the contract.

If you ask the workman to carry out additional work, ask how long it will take and agree a new completion date.

Deposits and Payment
It is common for a workman to ask for a deposit, often for materials. On large projects the law entitles a workman to be paid on a stage by stage basis.

However, requests for large sums of money before work is carried out is an early warning sign of a workman in financial difficulty, or worse, out to pocket your cash. Always obtain a costs breakdown, avoid paying in cash and request receipts.

If you enter into a contract in your home you have the right to cancel within 14 days and get your deposit back.

For more information on construction issues please contact Michelle Dixon, Associate Solicitor at Humphries Kirk LLP on 01202 725400 or by email m.dixon@hklaw.eu