Q: We have just had plans drawn up for a large extension on the back of our house that we are hoping to start next Spring. We have a builder lined up, but we don’t really know anything about him so we wondering whether we should get a solicitor to look over the contract before we sign anything?
A: It is not a legal requirement for a builder to provide a written contract, but in these times of uncertainty it is in the interests of the homeowner client to request one, particularly in the case of a large or complex building project. That said, a verbal agreement can be as binding as a written agreement - though if anything goes wrong it is considerably more difficult to prove what was agreed.
A formal written contract provides protection for the builder as well as the consumer. It should cover things such as payment terms, anticipated length of build period, and information about health and safety and insurance. You will want to know, for example, who is responsible for insurance if there should be an incident on site, when payments are required, what happens if the project over-runs, and what the process is if there should be any disputes.
There is strict legislation requiring builders to set out information about prices. However, due to the current economic crisis which is causing heavy increases and fluctuations in both material prices/availability and the labour market, you can expect clauses in your contract that allow for a contingency price margin to accommodate this financial uncertainty and also the potential for an extension to the anticipated build time.
Building disputes can be highly complex so it may well be worth your while to seek legal advice before signing any contracts if yours is a large project.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194