Consumer Law – Home Improvements
Building work, home improvements and maintenance, whether planned or emergency work, can be very expensive. You will want to ensure that the work is completed by suitably qualified builders and its finished to a high standard.
If you have had some work done to your home and there are problems caused by the builder, you should be able to get the issues rectified or claim a reduction in price/refund.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA), any work completed has to be done with ‘reasonable care and skill’. There is no set definition of this to allow flexibility between sectors and industries, however, the courts will look at case law and take account of industry standards, codes of practice and the price you paid for the services. With this in mind, it can be helpful to consider whether another, reputable builder would have completed the work to the same standard being mindful that a customer might expect a lower standard of care and skill from a quick and cheap repair service than a more expensive specialist company.
If the builder has not done a good job, you are entitled to repeat performance. Under s.55(1) of the CRA the trader must:
- Repeat the work in a reasonable time
- Bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so, including the cost of any labour or materials.
In some circumstances you may also be entitled to a right to require a price reduction (or a refund for anything already paid above the reduced amount (s.56(1)). A “reduction in price” will normally mean that the price is reduced by the difference in value between the service the consumer paid for and the value of the service as provided. In some cases this may amount to a full refund. This could be, for example, where the consumer has derived no benefit from the service and the consumer would have to employ another trader to repeat the service ‘from scratch’.
If the builder has not completed the work by the set date, you can either give them more time or stop them from continuing with the work. This should be in writing, but remember that you will still have to pay them for the work they have done so far. If there is no set date, speak to the trader to agree one.
Although uncommon, you may be in a situation where you feel that the work they have done is dangerous and unsafe. If you think you might be in immediate danger, vacate the building. Following this, report the trader to your local authority and Trading Standards.
To do list prior to starting work
Steps to take when you have an issue
- Check if you need permission or approval for the works you want to complete.
- Ensure you are dealing with good and trustworthy builders. Get personal recommendations and ask for references.
- Get written quotes from different builders before you decide who to go with.
- Check if the builders have insurance in place.
- Get a written contract. This should include the work you want completing, cost, materials, timings and payment.
If can’t reach an amicable agreement between you and your builder, you should:
- Put a complaint in writing, setting out the details of the issue, itemised faults and expected outcome. It’s important to show a willingness to discuss issues and reach a common solution.
- If step one fails, check whether there is a trade association that can assist with the dispute. This information can be accessed through the trader and their advertisements.
- If they are a member of a Dispute Resolution Scheme, this will provide a way of resolving the matter informally. Ask the trader for the relevant contact details. If they are not a member, you may wish to consider choosing your own Trading Standards approved ADR Scheme.
- Consider claiming compensation from the trader and commencing court action.