Which? Legal Service resolve building disputes Which? research showed 2.5m Brits affected

08 August 2011


'My plumber told me it would take a week to fit my new bathroom - 4 weeks later it is still not finished - what can I do?'

Which? Legal Service hosted an online Q&A between 4 and 5 August to help consumers resolve issues encountered with builders and decorators.

A team of expert lawyers responded to a range of queries from unfinished jobs to overpriced and unsatisfactory work.

Leading the Q&A, Joanne Lezemore, senior lawyer, said: 'We've been happy to advise consumers on issues they've faced when employing builders – we've even helped a builder who was struggling to obtain a payment from a customer.'

Signed contract

She advised that the best cure for disputes is prevention: 'You must always get a signed contract that fully sets out the costs, the work to be completed and the start and completion dates.'

Among the queries received was one from a consumer asking how they could chase a plumber who had yet to complete a one week job after four weeks of work.

1 week job takes 4 weeks

The legal team at Which? advised that the plumber was in breach of contract having committed to a completion time. The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 states the work must be completed in a 'reasonable time'.

Which? Legal services say that consumers in a similar situation should contact the tradesperson, in writing, saying that the work must be completed within a specified period. If unsuccessful, consumers could engage someone else to finish the job and claim the cost from the original plumber.

Unresolved building problem?

If you missed the chance to get your building query answered, why not see if our free advice guide on dealing with problem builders can help. You can also revisit the questions posed and answered on the Which? Legal Service website.

If you need tailored advice for your legal issue, Which? Legal Service is currently running a half price offer on its annual subscription. At only £34 for unlimited telephone advice from our lawyers, why not join today?

Avoid cowboy builders

Five top tips to avoid cowboy builders and decorators, from Which? Legal service:

1. Find a trader through word of mouth or personal recommendation or through Which? Local.

2. Try and obtain three detailed quotes before starting work, ask for references and don't be afraid to verify them by asking to visit previous clients with the trader.

3. Get a signed contract that fully sets out the costs, the work to be completed and start/completion dates.

4. Don't pay all of the money up front - payment should be made on satisfactory completion of the job. Request a written schedule of when payments are to be made.

5. Don't go for the cheaper option of paying in cash, rather than a properly invoiced job that may include VAT. Paying by credit card where possible offers extra protection if things go wrong.