Last edited 08 Jul 2019

Dealing with building disagreements

Hiring a builder to complete a new construction or remodeling project can be very costly; therefore you will want to be sure that you are careful about which builder you hire, and that you know what to do if you have a disagreement with your builder.

Before hiring a builder, you should carefully review their qualifications and their contract. Ask for references, and a list of jobs that they have worked on; once you have their references, it is in your best interest to contact the owners of those buildings and ask permission to inspect the work that the builder did for them. This may not always be possible, but if it is you should take advantage of the opportunity to verify the builder's work.

It is also advisable to check the website of the Federation of Master Builders (or some other reputable industry body) to see that any builder you are considering contracting with is a FMB member. Ensuring that your builder is a FMB Builder is very important because if you do have problems or disagreements with the builder, you can turn to the FMB for assistance and advice. In addition, a builder in a trade association may offer a guarantee on the work they do for you.

Another significant step that will help you to avoid problems with your builder is to get quotes from several builders before you decide to hire. It is important that you remember that what you want is a quote, and not an estimate. If you are given a quote in writing, the builder is legally bound by that quote, but the same is not true for an estimate.

Before entering into a contract with a builder some key things to consider are that the conditions outlined in the contract require the builder to complete the job specified according to applicable building laws, and any agreements that you and the builder have come to in regards to penalties for delays, payment schedule, as well as a guarantee of work quality are also outline.

A good builder will always use quality materials, so you may also want to ask the builder who their material supplier is, and if you are having concrete work done it is also advisable to ask the builder who their construction chemicals supplier is, as well as which construction chemical manufacture they get their supplies from.

If, after you hire a builder, you have a disagreement with them at some point during the work's progress, or even at the work's completion, there are a number of options open to you. For example, you may disagree with the amount of a progress payment, or have a dispute over the quality of the work. In a situation such as this, you may take your dispute to an adjudicator, but first you should talk with the builder to see if you can come to some type of agreement. If this is not possible, have the right to use this adjudication procedure, even in the situation where the dispute is presently being dealt with by some other court or tribunal.

To begin this process you must send a "Notice of Adjudication" to the builder; the notice must contain the date of the notice, the nature and particulars of the disagreement, and the parties involved, as well as what you would like to have done about the disagreement. Additionally, it will be necessary to include your name and address, as well as the builder's.

After sending the builder a "Notice of Adjudication" an adjudicator is chosen; at this point you will have to provide the adjudicator a written adjudication claim after receiving a notice that the chosen adjudicator has accepted the position. This claim must contain all relevant documents to your dispute, including a statement of the nature and grounds of your disagreement, as well as a copy of the notice of adjudication. A copy of the adjudication claim must also be served on the builder.

At this point, the builder will have 14 working days in which to respond to the adjudication claim. It is the builder's responsibility to see that you receive a copy of the response as well as any documents that accompany the response.

As you are going through the adjudication process it is important to understand that the adjudicator can implement any procedure that they deem best for the situation. For this reason the adjudicator may require you to make written submissions within a set time, provide copies of documents, appoint experts to advise on certain issues, and they may also require a conference of all parties involved. In some cases the adjudicator may ask to inspect the builder's work, and although you do not have to give permission for this, it can be advisable to do so.

During the adjudication procedure you have the right to be represented by a lawyer, or another party if you believe it necessary. In most cases each side will bare their own costs during adjudication, but in some cases the adjudicator may require one party to pay all costs if it is discovered that one of the parties made false allegations, or maliciously refused to cooperate with the procedure.

The adjudicator will have 28 days to make a decision on the case, but it is possible for them to ask for a 14-day extension in some situations. If both parties agree, there may be an even longer extension.

Once the adjudicator has made a decision on the case, either party may choose to comply or begin litigation so that they may have the case heard in court, although in most cases the courts will uphold the adjudicator's decision.

It is never a pleasant experience when you deal with a builder that does not perform the work as expected, but it is important to remember that you do have options open to you if you wish to recover any money you have lost, or force the repair of shoddy work.

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