Consumers & Loft Conversions
Consumers who take on Loft Conversions or extension projects for their homes are at great risk of being ripped off everywhere, but particularly in the London market.
There are so many established fraudster builders using casual labour as their work force and not paying them that demand money up front and use the payments for work made on account, or paid as deposits and then promptly fail to carry out works and leave the site.
It is essential to have professional advice on the form of the contract and the monitoring of works. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 offers consumers contractual cooling off period and the entitlement to void contracts (end them as if they never existed) and demand and receive all payments made to builders where the builder fails to provide a contract with the prescribed notices.
But great care needs to be taken to terminate the contract, because if the termination turns out to have been incorrect, the consumer exposes themselves to cross claims for unlawful termination and loss of profit.
In this case, in the run up to Christmas, the termination of the contract came too late and the sums paid by the client were promised by the builder to have been placed in a secure trust client account. However, the money disappeared into an overdrawn trading account and when the builder resolved in January to go into liquidation, the client was left with a £40k unsecured claim against the company, fraud claims against the directors personally, and a London house with its roof off exposed to the elements, and without any workforce.
The economics of bringing a claim without legal expenses does not make sense when limited client resource needs to be focussed in procuring another construction contract to complete work
So the lessons are:
Take advice on how to procure the construction work so you don’t pay upfront.
Get references from third parties for the would be builders.
Vet the references.
Do not set demanding work timetables or be pressurised into starting work before you are ready and have a clear achievable timetable.
Get a good independent building surveyor who should be employed to advise on the build program and the form of contract and get him or her to monitor and control the work and the builder.OK it’s a cost but if you go cheap in construction you pay three times when it goes pear shape, the money you paid, the correction and the rebuild.The effect of building work is long term.
Get legal expense cover to bring a claim if you need to, and
Please please remember to check your household insurance policy does not exclude claims for damage when contractors are working on site. If it does then have then take out a policy that does have cover against contractor damage.
At Cox Minhas & Co Limited Solicitors and Commercial Mediators, we have 40 years' experience of construction projects, and can deal with all of this for you as part of the property purchase process.