Author: Algarve Tradesmen

What to do if your tradesperson goes out of business

If you’re halfway through a big home improvement project, you expect the tradesperson you hired to see it through to the end. While this is usually the case, in rare instances the person or company you hired can go bust during your job, potentially leaving you high and dry.

This guide breaks down what you can do if your tradesperson goes out of business before your project is finished.

If the tradesperson goes bust mid-project

When you discover that your tradesperson is no longer operating and work on your job has stopped, it is important to take stock of where your job is at and what the financial implications are.

If you have just paid your deposit and work has not yet started or only just begun, you will want to take steps to reclaim your money.

Similarly, if you paid money to the tradesperson for them to purchase materials which were never delivered, you will want to get either the materials you paid for or a refund.

If you are midway through a project and have been making staged payments, then you may have received a fair level of work for what you have paid so far – in which case, you may just want to find another tradesperson to continue the work.

If the tradesperson is a sole trader

Many tradespeople are sole traders, meaning they are the sole owner of their business and bear its liabilities.

It is useful to establish if the tradesperson has actually gone bust – in some rare situations, an unscrupulous tradesperson could use this as an excuse to try and avoid their obligations.

If the tradesperson has a limited company

Some tradespeople operate limited companies, a structure that makes the business its own legal entity, separate to its owners (shareholders) and managers (directors) – even if the tradesperson is the only shareholder and director involved in the business.

If they are in administration, then as with sole traders, you can apply to the administrators to be made a creditor and hope that the money will be returned to you in this way.

Other ways to reclaim money

If you paid via credit card for any of the work you may be able make a claim, which can get your money refunded to you.

If you paid by debit card you could also try to make use of the Chargeback scheme, a consumer protection operated by card providers. You generally have 120 days to make a claim, which can be for any amount.

What to do if your job is left unfinished

Most home improvement projects run smoothly, leaving you with exactly what you wanted. But occasionally things don’t go to plan, and while work starts on schedule, for one reason or another it isn’t finished as it should be.

This guide looks at what you can do if you find yourself in the situation where work is left unfinished by the tradesperson you hired.

What has happened?

While the outcome – the job isn’t finished – is the same, there are several different ways in which a customer and tradesperson can end up in this situation. Some typical examples are:

  • The job is mostly finished aside from a few “snagging” or finishing jobs to sort out, but now the tradesperson is unavailable.
  • You had a disagreement over something, such as the tradesperson’s conduct or how the work was progressing, and the tradesperson has left the project.
  • The tradesperson claims the job is finished, but you believe there is still work to be done.
  • Your tradesperson has said they will come back but is making lots of excuses for why they’re not working on your project, and you’re concerned they won’t come back.
  • The tradesperson hasn’t given any reason for not finishing the work but now won’t respond to any attempts to contact them.



Key questions

Working out how to proceed when work has been left unfinished depends on two main factors:

Was there a clear agreement in place, either in the form of a written quote or a contract, about what work was to be done?
How much money have you already paid the tradesperson?

If you have a detailed quote that sets out exactly what the scope of work should be, there should be no doubt over whether a job is finished or not. If the tradesperson has clearly failed to fulfil what is in the quote, it is evidence that you can use later if you wish to make a claim against them.

Read our guide to quotes and contracts to get the most out of them.

How much you have paid for the job up to this point is also important. If you haven’t paid anything in advance, or have only paid a small deposit, then you may be better off simply finding another tradesperson to complete the job. While inconvenient, you will not necessarily have suffered financially from the original tradesperson abandoning the job, making it difficult to make a claim against them.

If you have already paid a significant amount, either because you paid upfront or were paying in stages, you may have been left out of pocket, which can be a starting point to take action against the tradesperson.

If you have only paid a deposit and work has not yet begun, read our dedicated article on deposits.

Attempt to contact the tradesperson

The simplest and best outcome is that the tradesperson returns and finishes the work to a standard you are happy with, so make an effort to contact the tradesperson and ask them to put the matter right.

In some cases, the tradesperson will have stopped work because the company has gone bust – if that is the case, take a look at our dedicated article on what to do if this happens during your job.

However, if you believe your relationship has broken down completely and you have been left out of pocket, a civil action may be your only option.


Document everything

Even if you do not have a written quote or contract to work off, document everything that has happened so far with the project, including any texts or emails between you and the tradesperson, and take photographs of the work that has been done so far.

Make a record of any phone calls you have, or attempts to call them, along with notes of what was discussed.

If the work left unfinished is such that you need to hire another tradesperson to put it right, make a record of all the costs incurred as this will form part of your claim.

Making a claim

Making a civil claim should be the last resort if you have been unable to settle a financial dispute in any other way.

Before starting your claim, you should send the tradesperson what is known as a letter before claim or letter before action, a formal notice that lays out your claim and what you want in return, giving them a chance to respond before you initiate action.

What to do if your job isn’t up to standard

When you hire a tradesperson to do a job, you expect the work they do to be good quality. While most home improvement jobs result in a finish everyone is happy with, sometimes people are left with something that doesn’t meet their expectations.

Establishing exactly when work doesn’t meet standards can be difficult, but sometimes the cases are clear cut – for example, if the work is obviously faulty, or a project can’t be signed off by a building regulations inspector.

This guide breaks down what you can do if you’re concerned with the quality of your tradesperson’s work.

Typical situations

How you proceed with a case where work isn’t up to scratch depends on exactly what the issue is. There are a few different situations people can find themselves in, including:

  • The finished job isn’t what you expected it to be – whether it looks different from what you imagined, or isn’t quite what you asked for.
  • The work appeared fine at the time but now you have a problem with it that has made you question the quality (for example you’ve noticed a leak).
  • You’ve realised that the tradesperson used different or inferior materials to the ones you asked for or were promised.
  • You weren’t issued with a certificate for work that you should get with certain jobs (such as installing new electrical circuits).
  • Building Control didn’t inspect the project at the correct points and wasn’t able to sign off the work.


Is it just a matter of opinion?

Ask any two experienced builders to do the same job, and the chances are they will do it in two completely different ways.

While there are some strict requirements for certain jobs – especially when it comes to safety – some methods and techniques are simply best practice or convention. Often there is no “right” answer, and their approaches are a matter of preference and habit.

This means that when it comes to assessing work standards, it can be difficult to pin down exactly when work isn’t up to scratch, as a second opinion from another tradesperson can be just that – an opinion.

The key is determining if there are specific faults that mean the work isn’t substandard, and if those faults are down to poor workmanship.

Do you have a written quote?

If you’re unhappy with the finished result, having a detailed written quote for the work can help you reach an agreement with the tradesperson.

Our guide to quotes and contracts will show you how to get the most from them.

Detailed quotes should cover things like the specific materials that should be used, meaning you can ask the tradesperson to make the work right according to the quote if it seems that corners have been cut.

If the work is not how you expected, but nothing in the quote covers the issue, you can ask the tradesperson to make changes, but they may want to charge more if it involves redoing work or carrying out additional work.

If you’ve noticed a specific fault with the work, then you should raise it with the tradesperson – many will offer guarantees on their work and will be keen to rectify issues, especially if they know you intend to leave feedback about their work. Read our article on insurance and guarantees to see if this can help you.


What if work doesn’t meet regulations?

For bigger jobs, such as extensions or loft conversions which alter the structure of your home, the work will need to be inspected and signed off by the Building Control department of your local authority or an approved inspector, to ensure that it meets standards for safety and energy efficiency.

Similarly, jobs such as electrical work will need certification, which can be issued by the tradesperson who carries out the work as long as they are registered with a Competent Person Scheme.

If you are not given the correct certification, or if Building Control doesn’t approve the work, you should contact your tradesperson and insist that they make the work right.

In the case of missing certification, contact the scheme that your tradesperson belongs to, as their membership will depend on them abiding by their rules on conduct.


What if I can’t make contact or they refuse to put the work right?

If you are confident that the work is substandard and the tradesperson is unwilling to make it right or has broken off contact, then you may want to pursue a claim against them.

Any documentation you have will be helpful in the process of making a claim, particularly written quotes and contracts with your original tradesperson.

Retain any written correspondence such as emails and text messages, and make notes about what you discussed in phone calls and face to face conversations.

If the rectification work is such that you need to hire another tradesperson to put it right, make a record of all the costs incurred as this will form part of your claim.

If you hired your tradesperson through MyBuilder, our experienced customer service team can provide impartial advice on the options you can take to help you reach a satisfactory solution with your tradesperson.

You could also check if they are a member of any trade bodies that may also provide mediation services.

If you are unsuccessful, you may want to go forwards with a claim.

Making a claim

Making a civil claim should be the last resort if you have been unable to settle a financial dispute in any other way.

Before you start your claim, you should send the tradesperson what is known as a letter before claim or letter before action, a formal notice that lays out your claim and what you want in return, giving them a chance to respond before you initiate action.

For more details on writing a letter before action and making a claim, read our guide on deposits.

Insurance and home improvements

Many people assume that work carried out on their home will be covered by some kind of insurance if anything goes wrong – whether that insurance is their own, or that of their tradesperson.

Unfortunately, as many people find out too late, home improvement works are rarely covered by any insurance policy you or your tradesperson might have. This means that if work is done poorly, or you end up out of pocket following a dispute, you won’t be protected.

This article looks at common types of insurance and how they might be relevant to your home improvement project.


Buildings insurance

Typically, buildings insurance is designed to protect you in the case of damage that you couldn’t predict or prevent, such as fires, floods and storms, a vehicle crashing into your home, and other dramatic scenarios.

It is very unlikely that your policy will cover building work and any damage that happens as a result of this work.

Although buildings insurance will typically not cover your building work, you should still contact your provider ahead of any significant work to update your existing policy. Making any changes to your home without first informing your insurance provider may invalidate your current policy or prevent you from making a claim.

Contents insurance

While buildings insurance is designed to cover the fabric of your home in case of disaster, contents insurance is designed to cover the things in your home – everything from your carpets and curtains to your electronic gadgets and jewellery.

If you have contents insurance with accidental damage coverage, you may be able to make a claim if the tradesperson damages your covered possessions during the course of the work – for example, they knock over your TV, or irreparably stain your carpet. The tradesperson could also claim on their own public liability insurance for the damage and make it right with you.

If the tradesperson damages materials needed for the job, for example a new bathroom suite being installed, this obviously won’t be covered by your contents insurance, but the tradesperson could claim under their public liability insurance.

In most cases, it is generally most beneficial to come to an agreement with the tradesperson rather than make a claim on your contents insurance policy and risk raising your future premiums.


Public liability insurance

All tradespeople should have public liability insurance, though there are many misconceptions about what it covers.

This insurance covers accidents that cause injuries or damage to a property or a third party as a result of their work – for example, if they spilled paint on your carpet or dropped a tool while working on a roof, which hurt a passerby or damaged a parked car.

Public liability insurance is also designed to cover a business’ legal costs or compensation claims that may be made against them as a result of their work.

While it protects a business from claims where there has been an accident or injury, it does not cover poor workmanship or other disputes.


Professional indemnity insurance

Similar to public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance is a type of insurance that is designed to cover businesses if they make a mistake in their work that causes their client a financial or reputational loss.

Companies or sole traders who might make use of professional indemnity insurance include those who provide architectural plans and structural reports.

If a building firm provided you with plans which proved to be inaccurate and led to damage to your home, they might make use of this insurance to cover their costs if you made a claim against them.

Tradesperson guarantees

Some tradespeople offer guarantees on their work. Unfortunately however, many are worthless. A tradesperson’s own guarantee might claim to cover workmanship and materials but would only be valid if they are still trading, at best.

Ideally, any guarantee should be backed by an insurance policy which would pay out in the event that the tradesperson ceases trading for any reason.

At the very least, you should always ask for details in writing. A written guarantee might be useful if you find yourself in dispute down the line.

Product warranties

Manufacturer’s warranties cover specific items such as roofing materials or damp proofing products. If the product is faulty or broken they are obliged to offer a refund or replace it – though you may have to pay for the installation again, depending on the tradesperson.

If the item is installed incorrectly, it will likely void any warranties, leaving you stuck with the cost.

Dealing with deposits

When you take on a home improvement project, especially a larger job, some tradespeople will ask for a deposit before the work starts.

Handing over money before any work takes place can make many homeowners uneasy and, while in the vast majority of cases the work proceeds as planned, there can be rare occasions where money is handed over but the work never materialises.

This guide talks you through how the problem can arise and what you can do about it.

Why tradespeople ask for deposits

Not all tradespeople ask for deposits, but for larger projects, such as extensions or loft conversions that will take several weeks to carry out, it is fairly common to pay some money up front.

Sometimes, this is just a token amount of a few hundred pounds, but in other instances, you may be asked to pay a larger deposit that forms a sizable chunk of the overall value of the job.

The main reason tradespeople give for charging deposits is that it allows them to purchase materials up front.

The other common reason is that it provides a small amount of cover for the tradesperson if you decide to pull out of the job – since they have blocked out the time for your project and may be unable to take on other work for that period, the deposit guarantees them some income for that time.

How much should a deposit be?

There is no industry standard for deposits, and different tradespeople will charge different amounts if they even ask for one at all. Anything from 10% to 30% of the total value of the job is fairly common – deposits that are significantly above that could be a red flag.

Tradespeople should be happy to explain the purpose of the deposit and provide you with a receipt when you’ve paid. On larger projects, a deposit is commonly the first payment in a series of staged payments that are made throughout the job on the completion of certain milestones.

A contract that details when payments should be made is an invaluable thing to have when working with tradespeople, especially on bigger jobs – find out more about quotes and contracts in our dedicated guide.


You’ve paid a deposit, but something is wrong

All cases are different, but there are a few scenarios in which homeowners can find themselves, for example:

  • You’ve handed over the deposit, but can no longer make any contact with the tradesperson – they don’t answer their phone, or don’t reply to messages.
  • The tradesperson is still in contact but keeps making excuses for why work hasn’t started, and you’re becoming suspicious that the work won’t ever take place.
  • After handing over the deposit, the tradesperson has begun asking for more money before they start work, which can raise concerns that they don’t intend to start at all.

If you find yourself in any of these situations, you may not want to continue working with your current tradesperson, and instead get your deposit back.


Keep a record of everything

Ideally, you will have kept some kind of proof that the deposit was paid, even if it was in cash, with the tradesperson having given you a written receipt to show they have taken the money. This will help if you need to take further action later on.

Regardless of how you paid, and whether or not you have a written quote or contract in place, from this point on you should keep records of all your attempts to contact the tradesperson and any responses they make to you.

Even if you speak on the phone, write down the times of the call with notes of what was discussed.

Reclaiming the money

In some instances, you may be able to reclaim your money through your bank or credit card provider.

If you have paid by bank transfer, you may be able to ask your bank if they can recall the money – however, this will depend on the recipient agreeing to it with their bank.

If you paid by credit card, you may be able to make a claim and get your money refunded.

You can’t reclaim the money – what else can you try?

If the tradesperson belongs to any trade bodies, you could contact them, as many will have mediation services that could help you settle the matter.

If you hired your tradesperson through MyBuilder, our experienced customer service team can provide impartial advice on the options you can take to help you reach a satisfactory solution with your tradesperson.

However, if your relationship has broken down completely, or you are unable to get in contact with them at all, your only option may be to pursue a claim against them.

Before you make a claim

Although the process of making a claim has been relatively streamlined in recent years, it is still a fairly involved process that requires compiling evidence and potentially attending hearings.

You will also be charged fees to make a claim which will not be returned if you are unsuccessful.

If you do win your case, there is still a chance you will not get your money back if the tradesperson is unable to pay. If the tradesperson has gone out of business or is personally bankrupt, it will make matters more difficult.

Sending a letter before you take action

If you want to go ahead with legal action to reclaim your money, the first action should be to send a letter which outlines your claim, giving them a chance to respond – this is known as a letter before claim or letter before action.

This formal letter must comply with Pre-Action Protocol, and include certain details, such as the result you want, how you calculated your claim, and any documents you will be using to support your case.

You should also state that you are willing to try mediation if you have not already pursued it.

Your letter should also give a clear and reasonable deadline for them to respond – usually 14 to 28 days.

Utility emergencies

We’re always impressed when homeowners have the confidence to do some jobs themselves and thanks to the internet there’s no shortage of places to find out how to tackle home repairs and improvements. But how many homeowners know what to do when things go badly wrong?

Gas, water and electricity

Sometimes a job that seems as simple as putting up a picture or nailing down the floorboards can lead to disaster. And often the most expensive and dangerous examples involve the live services supplying our homes: gas, water and electricity.

The reason for that is simple – unsightly pipes and wires are often hidden away under the floors or behind walls so they’re not always easy to spot.

Do you know the basics?

According to a survey, homeowners could be putting their lives in danger and risk causing thousands of euros worth of damage because they don’t know what action to take if they accidentally interfere with these live services.

Forewarned is forearmed, so we’ve compiled a helpful advice guide explaining where to find them and what to do.



Turning off the water

If you have accidentally broken a pipe, dripping water can quickly damage your floor, walls or possessions, so you need to stop the water flowing straight away. To do so, you’ll need to find your stopcock, a valve between two pipes that can be turned to stop the flow of water in your home.

External stopcocks

Homes typically have two stopcocks, inside the home and outside. The external one is usually found just in front of your house under a metal cover marked ‘água’.

Turning it will usually need a stopcock key – a metal T-shaped bar that can reach into the hole to turn the valve. Turning it will turn off water to the entire building – worth bearing in mind if you live in a block of apartments.

Internal stopcocks

Your home should also have a stopcock inside, that isolates the water in your property. It can be in a variety of places, often under the kitchen sink, bathroom, or in a cupboard under the stairs.

They can also crop up in odd places like cupboards, or even boxed in under the floorboards near the front door. If you’re not sure, try asking the previous owners or tenants, or the neighbours if their property is similar.

Turn and test

When you find it, turn it by hand or using pliers clockwise until the water stops coming out of the taps. You can use a lubricant like WD40 if it’s stiff to move, but be careful not to make it too slippery to turn. It’s a good idea to test it every few months to keep it operable.

Any plumber will need to know where your stopcock is so they can get to work.


Isolating the gas

Drilling into a gas pipe is thankfully a rare occurrence as most of the time they tend not to be in the places where we want to drill.

However, whether you suspect a leak or you’re tackling a job inside your home or outside at the front where gas enters the property, it is possible to disturb the gas supply – and when that happens, it’s crucial that you know what to do.

If you’re unlucky enough to have drilled into a gas pipe inside you will quickly notice the strong smell plus a noise similar to when you turn on the gas hob.

It’s at this point that knowing how to turn off the gas supply to your home is vital.

Where to find it

In newer houses, the isolation valve is normally outside next to the gas meter, housed in the same meter box or close by. If it’s not there, it could be under the stairs, beneath the kitchen sink or in the garage.

If you live in an apartment you should have your own secondary gas ECV (shut off valve) where the pipe enters the property and this should be clearly marked.

Often the valve will be within the plastic casing that houses the meter so make sure you have a meter box key for fast access.

As soon as you suspect that you have pierced a gas pipe you need to turn the handle of the isolation valve so the lever is at 90 degrees to the gas pipe to stop gas from entering the property. They should, in accordance with regulation, have yellow tape on the pipe indicating how to turn the valve off.

Call the hotline

The next thing to do is call the free 24 hour National Emergency number which is 112.

In the meantime, get everyone outside the property, don’t smoke or light matches, don’t turn electrical switches on or off and open the doors and windows to allow air to circulate.

The emergency advisor will dispatch emergency engineers whose priority is to keep you and your home safe by stopping the flow of gas; you will then need a Gas Safe registered engineer to repair the leak and test it before turning the gas back on.


Finding the fusebox

Just like a stopcock can control water coming into your home, your consumer unit or fuse box can control the electricity coming from the mains.

Like stopcocks, your consumer unit should be easily accessible, but they can be tucked away – sometimes in understairs cupboards, or in a cabinet near the front door.

A modern consumer unit will be fitted with Residual Current Devices (RCDs) and circuit breakers, that will trip or switch off in case of a fault, stopping the electricity flow to a particular circuit.

This is a safety feature to prevent accidents like power surges that can cause wiring to overheat, causing fires, and protecting devices that are plugged into your sockets.

Time for a replacement?

Older models will use fuses which contain a length of wire which melts when it overheats and needs rewiring – if so, this is a sign your unit is out of date and is due a replacement.

Consumer units will also have a main switch that controls all the power to your home, and can be turned off to stop the electricity entirely.

Electricians will need to access your consumer unit so they can work on your electrics safely, so it’s important that you know where it is.

Prevention is better than cure

If you are tackling home improvement work, then you’ll want to make sure you reduce the chances of disturbing your utilities as much as possible.

If you have architectural plans of your home, refer to them as they may give valuable insight into the location of wires and pipes.

If you don’t have plans, before carrying out any drilling, hammering or putting screws into a wall or floor check what’s behind it with a pipe, cable and stud detector If you are in any doubt, post your job for a vetted local tradesperson who will have a good understanding of where cables and pipes could be – plus they’ll also have professional tools that help them locate them.

How to hire a skip

A skip is a great way to get rid of a high volume of waste over a period of a couple of weeks and it makes sense to organise a clearout at the same time as tackling an improvement job like a bathroom refit or landscaping.

If you’re having substantial work done, your contractor will probably be happy to organise a skip and they’ll likely know where to get one for a reasonable price, but it’s not unusual for homeowners to organise waste disposal themselves.

Before hiring a skip, there are a number of important things to consider first, so we’ve addressed the most common questions below.

Where can I place my skip?

Make sure you have somewhere suitable to put it. Ideally, it will go on a driveway or front garden, but while skip lorry drivers are highly skilled, front walls and narrow entrances can mean that’s not always possible.

If you can get the skip on a driveway, avoid damage to tarmac or block paving by putting down planks or a large piece of plywood to sit underneath the skip and even out the load. Make sure you’re around to coordinate the drop off so you get the skip exactly where you want it.



How long can I have a skip for?

The standard hire period tends to be two weeks but the collection date can usually be flexible. If you need a skip for longer, ask when you book. They may charge extra or they may agree to extend the hire for no additional cost.

What can I put in my skip?

There are two types of skip for domestic waste – those for inert waste which is material like rubble or soil, sand and cement, and those for mixed waste which can be anything from builders’ waste to certain appliances, furniture, carpet, garden waste and other household junk. Mixed waste skips tend to be more expensive than skips for inert material as the process of separating, recycling and disposing of the waste is more complicated.

Remember, some items can’t go in skips and must be disposed of in other ways, usually at your local household waste centre or ‘tip’; these include liquid waste like paint, gas bottles, mattresses batteries, fridges and freezers, TVs and computer screens, fluorescent tubes and clinical waste. If in doubt, check with the skip hire company first.



What size skip should I get?

The smallest skips you can hire are generally two cubic yards, which will contain around 15-20 bins bags; they go up in size to 12 yards which is over 100 bags and around 8 tonnes in weight. It’s hard to know the right size to get but if you have any doubts, go one size up – there’s always more waste than you think and it’s better to have more room left than hiring another skip later.

Most skips have ‘Level Loads only’ written on the side and you should avoid overfilling if you don’t want to risk being asked to take items out or face extra charges. To pack your skip efficiently, place large and flat pieces of wood like doors or furniture along the sides of your skip and flat heavy items at the bottom. Avoid air pockets as that’s dead space, and if you plan to put garden waste in, save that for the end. It’s amazing how much room bushes and foliage can take up.

Get started on your project today

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Where does my waste end up?

The best skip companies recycle most of the rubbish collected and if they don’t operate their own, will take your waste to a waste transfer station where it is sorted. The material will either be recycled, sent to a waste to energy facility, taken to a landfill site or a combination of all three. If, like us, you care about the environment, ask the skip company about how much material is recycled; this is where cheaper companies might not be best and it’s worth paying a bit extra to know your waste isn’t mainly going into landfill.

Building noise

If you’re having major work done to your home – or if you’re living on a street where someone else is having major work done to their home – building noise can have a big impact on your life. The sounds of drills, hammers, and other tools can all be loud and disruptive, which is why there are laws around building noise and when it can take place.

The specifics of when building noise (which is defined as noise that can be heard at the boundary of a building site, for example, by the people living next door to a building site) can occur are set by local authorities, in line with the Control of Pollution Act 1974. However, the standard times are usually:

  • Mondays to Fridays: 8am to 6pm
  • Saturdays: 8am to 1pm
  • Sundays and Bank Holidays: No work which can cause noise allowed

For some local authorities, these times can be slightly different, so it is worth checking with your own council to see exactly what the regulations in your area are.

There are cases where these rules can be changed in light of particular circumstances. In some instances, when planning permission is needed for a project, the permissions may include specific guidelines on when work can take place, for example, if it will disrupt local businesses.

It benefits all parties to try and head off noise issues before they arise. The simplest way is to make clear to neighbours the times that work will be happening, and if possible to outline the planned schedule of the project so neighbours can be aware of when the most noise and disruption will take place.

If you are concerned that building noise is taking place at anti-social hours, you can alert your local authority which should have a dedicated team to investigate complaints.

Dealing with disputes

Help and advice about what to do if things go wrong with your job

Home improvement projects are often complex and mistakes can be made on both sides. In the unfortunate event of a dispute, we first recommend that you discuss any problems with your tradesperson directly and try to work out a solution that suits both parties.

If you have kept a written log of the project, offer evidence and examples to support your claims. It may also help to refer back to relevant points in the contract, if one was drawn up.

Be fair and allow your builder to respond to your points and fix any faults. Most tradespeople want customers to be happy with their work and will be keen to resolve any issues amicably and to their customer’s satisfaction.

If you are unable to resolve an issue directly with your tradesperson, you might want to seek further help or advice.


Trade associations

Check if your tradesperson belongs to a trade association or professional body. In many cases, these organisations will have an established complaints process in case of any problems. Contact the appropriate organisation to confirm the tradesperson’s membership and to ask for guidance.

Independent mediation

You may be able to resolve your dispute through independent mediation. Mediation would give you and your tradesperson the chance to find a solution to your problem with the help of an independent third party. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for more details about how to find a local mediator.

If you are still unable to reach a satisfactory resolution, you might want to consider starting legal proceedings. Legal action can be a costly and time-consuming process, and should only be used as a last resort.

Quotes and contracts

Have you ever been halfway through a project when you suddenly realise that you should have had a contract with your builder?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

All too often work gets started with only an estimate or a verbal agreement in place, and this can make it hard to distinguish what should have happened and where the problem lies.

What’s the difference between an estimate and a quote, and is a verbal agreement not enough?

An estimate is essentially a “best guess” at what your job might cost. It’s a fairly loose way of setting out the scope of work and what you may expect to pay for it but there’s no definitive commitment to do anything for a set price so costs can escalate over time.

Rather than just giving an estimate, a tradesperson might give you a verbal commitment to do your job at a specific price. If you have some record of this then it may be enough to bind them to their word but it’s very difficult to prove “mutual assent” without anything in writing.

A written quote is probably preferable for most work because once it’s accepted it becomes a binding agreement and gives both parties something to rely on to create a mutual understanding of what’s expected.

A quote can take many forms and there’s no universal template for what you should expect. What you need to be on the lookout for with a good quote is that it will explain:

  • Exactly what work will be carried out
  • The total, final price of the job
  • Who is responsible for providing the materials
  • When the work should be completed

Your builder may have their own way of issuing a quote.

What are the benefits of getting a written quote?

Everyone hopes there won’t be any problems with their job but sometimes things don’t go to plan and a written quote creates accountability on both sides.

If issues arise a quote will help you prove the commitment your builder made to you, and it also gives the tradesperson something to rely on to show they’ve done what they said they would.

Crucially, an accepted quote locks in both the work to be completed and the final price. This means your builder will be committed to completing your job for that price even if they have to do more work than initially thought, with no nasty surprises for you further down the track.

Even if you’re just having a small job done, a written quote lets everyone know where they stand and can go a long way to heading off any arguments that may arise.


When should you have a full written contract?

In a perfect world, any agreement you make with a tradesperson would be outlined in a detailed document which is signed and dated, but sometimes this just isn’t practical.

There can also be a social taboo around asking for a formal agreement because it could imply a lack of trust, particularly for quite straightforward jobs.

But even for these small jobs, it’s important to make sure everyone’s expectations are the same.

While a verbal arrangement or a quote on its own can constitute a formal agreement, you may want to consider whether your project warrants a written contract on top of this.

Written contracts start to become more important when a job is complex, has staged payments, or is of significant cost.

Your quote will form the basis of this but the contract will set out terms a bit more broadly. These can include things like:

  • The specific description of works. For example, if you’re agreeing to a mixer tap being replaced in your quote but don’t specify a brand in the contract then your tradesperson could be within their rights to replace the mixer taps with any model they choose.
  • The cost. This will be set out in the quote and means there can be no dispute as to what’s being paid for.
  • The payment terms. Will materials be paid for up front? When and how will the final bill be paid? Does the tradesperson require a deposit? Are payments staged and, if so, how? Agree how much is to be paid and when payment is due to avoid disputes later on.
  • The tradesperson’s responsibilities. Do you need the tradesperson to clear up at the end of the job? Is it important that tools are stowed away? Agreeing details like these will help both you and the tradesperson understand what’s expected before work starts.
  • Your responsibilities. Responsibilities are a two way street, so what’s expected of you? Do you need to grant access to the property at certain times? Do you need to provide certain facilities? If heavy objects need moving before the job, is this your responsibility or the tradesperson’s? Agreeing on your responsibilities from the off can avoid any sticky disputes later on.
  • Alterations. If things have to change from the original quote, make sure to confirm this in writing and get signatures if you can. By keeping a copy of the agreed amendments along with the original contract you have something to refer back to if any disputes arise.
  • Defects. Tradespeople will often offer guarantees on their work and/or materials. If they don’t, you should consider confirming which potential defects they’d return to fix and if there’s going to be any cost for this. You should also agree on an appropriate length of time for this offer to stand.


What is ‘Mutual Assent’?

Mutual Assent is a formal way of saying that both of you agree to the same thing. Mutual Assent should contain both of the following:

  • An ‘Offer’ (for example, a plumber may ‘offer’ to replace and refit your mixer taps).
  • An ‘Acceptance’ (you agree to pay for the works detailed and you both agree to the terms).

Mutual assent can be created verbally but if you have evidence of this via a quote or contract it makes it much easier to prove what was agreed on if needed.

Working with your builder

Having a solid contract is important, but it doesn’t replace the need for a good working relationship with your builder.

Even with a contract in place, there can still be miscommunications and misunderstandings.

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