Q&A - Can I refuse to let contractor re-do driveway not fit for purpose and withhold payment?

Q:    I instructed a contractor to re-surface my drive. I requested the same surface as one down the road and he assured me that’s what I would get. The neighbouring drive is a solid surface with embedded aggregate. When my drive was finished the aggregate remained loose and within weeks had largely ground to dust, the rest being pushed to the edges by family cars going over it.

When I complained the contractor begrudgingly agreed to re-do it but admitted it wouldn’t be the same as the neighbouring drive unless I want to pay double. My concern is that the finish isn’t fit for purpose so re-doing it would be pointless and I cannot afford to pay double for a different specification. Despite asking for one, he never provided a specification. What should I do?

A:    First point to make is that you did provide a specification: you stipulated that you required your drive to be the same as next door.

As a consumer you are also protected by three statutory terms, even if you have nothing in writing. They are (1) Reasonable care and skill; (2) Reasonable time taken; (3) Reasonable cost.

If you are unhappy with the finished job you must make it clear you are not accepting it, otherwise you may have to pay all or a portion of the price agreed in the contract. If you do not want to give the contractor the opportunity to put the work right you can cite breach of contract due to an absence of reasonable care and skill and inform him that you are rejecting the work.

Collect photographic evidence of the poor workmanship, together with a print out of all communications with him from the time he was asked to quote. You should then seek immediate advice from a solicitor about how best to put your case together.