24 April 2018

This is often a question that forms in the mind of a homeowner when considering an extension. In many cases the builder is a friend or someone already known to them. There is a reasonable level of trust between them, yet still the questions forms. The answer is far simpler than you might imagine.

If there is an agreement that both parties understand and are committed to, a contract has already been formed. It is immaterial that there is nothing in writing. If anything goes wrong the homeowner is entitled to similar consumer protection to that which they would receive were they to purchase a toaster.

Really the question is not if you need a contract, because at some point one will be formed, but do I want a written contract. This is where it gets more complex.

What does a Contract Provide?

A written contract provides reassurance about the cost, the duration, daily activities, materials used and a host of other things. Any builder unwilling to accept a written contract probably isn’t worth contracting with and no, it’s not rude to insist on one.

The contract can expressly set out when payments are to be made; the total cost of carrying out the specific works; how the builder has to address ‘extras’ so as to ensure you always know what your build has and is going to cost, how long it is all going to take and what happens in the event that the timescale is not stuck to.

It can also reference other documents like the architects plans or material specification sheets so that everybody knows what they’re actually agreeing will be built.

What can a Contract Save? Whilst a written contract can seem daunting and may involve some expense in drafting and agreeing, it will likely save time, energy and cost as a build progresses. There are always changes and compromises in building works, material selections alter, even the extent of the works can change. But if you start from a position that is understood by all to be X and decide you want to change your destination from Y to Z its helpful to be able to agree at the beginning how those changes in direction will be dealt with, rather than trying to agree these things as you go along.

Most homeowners will spend months or even years planning their build and choosing how they want it to look. It can’t hurt to spend a bit of time thinking about how you want to control what it costs or how long it will take to erect.

If you have any questions about this article or want to know more about construction disputes please contact Iain Cole on 01935 846465 or email