Top tips for handling building disputes

Top tips for handling building disputes

We know. We don’t need to tell you that, as a busy construction firm, you work hard to give your best. You want to make sure your clients get the best service and you want to provide the safest working environment for your employees and subcontractors. And you want to do all of this in the smoothest, lowest hassle way possible.  But we also don’t need to tell you that life has a way of throwing a curveball into the field.

Although prior to carrying out the work, some form of contract should have been drawn up and negotiated with your customer… and you’ll most likely have contracts that you use for both employees and subcontractors, as well as any suppliers… sometimes, no matter how hard you try, every now and again you might well find yourself facing a legal dispute and wondering which way to turn.

It is essential that you are given the right guidance and advice when faced with claims and disputes. A lawyer can help scrutinise the construction or supply contract… or planning application… or any other agreements, proposals and plans… and guide you on the next steps. You don’t need to stand alone, when it comes to building disputes.

The range of construction disputes you might face are wide-ranging but the most common disputes are likely to involve:

  • REFUSAL TO PAY AND DEBT RECOVERY - Probably the most common dispute in the building trade… It might be a simple case of being owed money by the customer for completed work or it could be that what you did isn’t what the customer wanted or claims they asked for.  Or perhaps the boot is on the other foot and you don’t feel you should have to pay a subcontractor or supplier. Perhaps you’re owed money by someone that has subcontracted you onto a job. Whatever the situation, getting the right professional help can make all the difference here.
  • SUPPLIERS - Where do we start? The build may have been held up by a delay in receiving materials, or the materials that received were sub-standard. Perhaps the supplier refused to take accountability and you had to source it from elsewhere at a higher cost. Perhaps the original supplier still demanded payment and all this has led to delays in the project, which the customer is now moaning about… Sounds like you’d benefit from some expert legal advice to pick this one apart.
  • COMPLETION DATE EXTENSION - Although this could be down to unavoidable circumstances such as illness or weather, your customer will have had a completion date in mind, based on initial consultations. Sometimes, no matter how transparent communication has been, they might still be disgruntled and want you to cover costs, write off a bill, or do some extra work to compensate.
  • EXPENSES INCURRED - If the customer had to pay rent on another property, ended up temporarily homeless or couldn’t launch their business as the premises weren't ready on the proposed date.
  • FAULTY WORK - Things go wrong. But in your customer’s eyes, if they feel it wasn’t what they asked for, to the agreed standard or quality and you refuse to fix it (or you fixed it but they were still unhappy with the finished product) you could be facing a legal battle.
  • PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE - This is a major area of dispute and requires real expertise to pick claims apart. If the customer has been injured by an unsafe piece of work or believes your work has damaged another part of their property… Perhaps an employee has an accident at work (such as a fall from faulty scaffolding) and it can be proved that it could have been avoided. In cases like this you may well need some legal advice and support.
  • BANKRUPTCY - If your customer or supplier becomes bankrupt during or after completion and now can’t pay, you may have some work to do getting access to funds through the liquidation process.
  • SUBCONTRACTORS - You’ve just found out the plumber did a rookie job leaving your customer’s tenants without water. You have chased this up to no avail and have had no choice but to find a replacement plumber. You have tried to settle this amicably but your original plumber is refusing to accept they are at fault… and wants paying. Once again, sounds like you’d benefit from some expert legal advice.
  • PLANNING DISPUTES - You bought a plot of land, only to discover that you have been duped and certain information withheld.The whole build is hindered and nobody is taking responsibility for it. Planning is another really specialist area that you need to get proper, expert help with. Not only can it reduce the stress of handling disputes like this, it will make sure you’re working within the very strict and detailed guidelines and processes involved in planning.

And, of course there are the 101 other things that can crop up on a building project… we know… we don’t need to tell you about that! But we hope we’ve explained some of the ways finding the right lawyer should be next on your to-do list.

Ravenna can help with our extensive bank of knowledge and specialist lawyers at our fingertips. Book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our advisors by clicking here. We’ll talk through the options and suggest at least two law firms that we think are a good fit for your business. We aren’t paid any commission and you won’t be under any pressure to work with any law firms we put forward.