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I'm doing a refurbishment and would like to make a contract between myself and the builder. Can anyone advise me if I can download a template and if it would be legally binding.
In my experience the contract will not be worth the paper it's written on. I had a contract that had a completion date, if they didn't complete at that time they would have to pay me £1,500 each month, this was their standard contract, not mine. The project manger from the company was truly useless and i started to see problems 4 months into the renovation.After 4 months of struggling with him to carry out the work on time and properly, i tried to fire him but the director of the company persuaded me to to remain with them and gave me another project manager, at this time he had viewed my house and he agreed and admitted they were doing a bad job. 3 months later, things were slightly better, they had fixed some stuff admittedly but it was still not good enough, i was still struggling, the work was still shoddy and they were still late on everything, i finally came to the end of my patience and i fired the company. At the time i fired them we were 3 months behind the completion date on the contract, meaning they should pay me £4,500, they still had some works to finish and much of the work was shoddy. I had emails, messages, photos, receipts from other builders who fixed their work basically lots of proof of their negligence, i could prove everything i just said above.
Unbelievably the company sent me the final bill of £10,000, i refused to pay for 2 reasons, first i have spent about £7,000 fixing and finishing their work (and it's not over yet), i have all the receipts for this, secondly they were late and each month in their contract is £1,500. Unbelievably again, they took me to court for the money.
Even with all the emails, photos, phone messages, friends as witness, receipts proving i have spent more money, the contract we both signed, I was advised to settle out of court by my lawyer, it cost me another £5,000 plus what i had paid to the lawyer.
I think renovation companies and builders know that they can pretty much get away with anything due to the system been inadequate in serving justice. I still think its a good idea to get a contract, but i see them now as only deterrents, if you have any serious problems, i doubt they will help, but best to have one. I have zero tolerance with contractors now, they better do what they say, on time and do it well, or they are out, and i wont pay them too much in advance either.
lawyers will always try and get you to settle irrespective of the strengths of the case.
your friends are not independent witnesses!
I wouldnt pay anything up front in advance.
there are all sorts of defences that can be raised to a damages clause.
Every builder needs something upfront, its perfectly normal to have a staggered payment agreement, with an initial payment as work starts. This is what we had and why i still owed them 10k at the end.
Maybe i was failed by the lawyer, the case went on for nearly a year and a half, and only on the day of court did he advise me to settle, maybe he was happy to take my money up until then or maybe he had new info, i don't know, but this had gone on so long, i just could not risk going in there and losing. Some of my friends say i won, i did not pay all the full 10k, and i stood on my principles and 'showed them'. But i paid the lawyer plenty, and i'm still paying to fix their work, i don't feel like i won or that I 'showed them' anything, i just caused a lot of necessary stress for myself. With hindsight, i should have just paid the 10k and threw my principles out of the window. Lesson learned.
To answer the original question, is that in my case the contract was worthless, others may have different experiences but I could prove their negligence, with photos, email conversations, new invoices fixing their work, etc. yet it was still worthless, and you hit the nail on the head as to why - because there can be many defenses.
So IMO the contract is worthless. sure get one, it might help keep them on track, or help to minimize problems, but if it doesn't, fire the builder as soon as you can, do what you can to minimize the cost and wipe your ass with the contract.
Thank you both for the insight! All round a worrying time wether you have a contract or not! Just hope I choose good builders!
I am sure not all experiences are like mine, but happy to share if my experience can help others..
For a contract to be any use it needs to be properly written, legally enforceable and linked to drawings and specifications that state exactly what is expected.
For example, a specification for floor finishes could outline method of laying, materials, colour, how flat the floor should be by describing what kind of deviations are allowed under a 2m straight edge, both in terms of gentle deviation or stepped deviations. Sounds anal and boring, and the chances are no-one will read it, but if something doesn't meet your expectation and you don't have this kind of quantifiable specification that your builder contractually agreed to, you're left with your opinion vs theirs on what is acceptable, with no easy way to rule on who is in the right - an ugly and emotive dispute will surely follow.
Everything can be specified, either by 'performance' (i.e. what the end result should achieve: i.e. Contractor is to install a hot water system capable of delivering minimum of X litres of hot water to all outlets at a minimum flow rate of Y in any 12 hour period using a gas powered boiler with a minimum CoP of Z. All elements of system to be installed to manufactures guidance) or implicitly (i.e. Boiler to be Worchester Bosch model XXX installed to manufactures guidance, pipe and fittings to be 15mm PEX by Y, ....).
Of course you need to know what you're talking about to ensure you're creating a specification that is realistically achievable. There are many British Standards that cover tolerances etc.
Writing specifications is certainly tedious, and professional software is available that has pre-defined spec's to industry standards, such as NBS Building, that have a huge library of specs that can be used to generate specifications. I doubt it's cost effective or user friendly enough for a 'uninformed' home owner to be using though, which is one of the arguments for using a good Architect; their drawings and specifications should include all this information, and when referenced in a meaningful contract (i.e. JCT Homeowner) gives a great set of tools that lay out requirements to the benefit and clarity of everyone (builder and client).
http://www.smartbuild.uk.com | Structural Engineer