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Dan Sherlock

Partner - Sevenoaks and Ashford

4th January 2021

Cowboys & Rogues and how to avoid them in construction

We all know there are many disreputable business out there but here is how you can take some practical steps to avoid falling foul of rogue traders within the construction industry.

  1. Do they have accreditations?  Do they publicise any industry kite marks of quality or professional competence such as the Master Builders Association.  It might also be worth seeing if you can independently verify any that are published.  Be warned however that you are looking for accreditations which carry a genuine kite mark of quality and not simply something they pay a fee to use.   A little research goes a long way.
  2. Are they demanding payment up front, particularly where it is the full amount? This simply pushes all of the risks onto you as the client.  In my view there is simply no excuse for anybody making this demand.  A written contract with staged payments linked to genuine and verified progress of an agreed specification of works will work for both sides.  You could do worse than consider a standard contract such as JCT Design & Build or Minor Works as examples.
  3. Do they come with references?  And by that I do not mean the number of stars on Google reviews.  Make sure these references can be checked out.  Look into both the quality of the contractor’s work and the satisfaction of the previous client.
  4. Have you done your due diligence? If the contractor is a limited company you can easily find out from Companies House how long have they been trading, the number of previous names used (this is a red flag for a bad reputation) and also whether it has unsatisfied mortgages and other charges registered against it.  You can see who the directors are and whether you are dealing with the appropriate person when negotiating contracts.
  5. Who called whom?  Be wary of those who metaphorically or indeed actually knock on your door to tout for business.  I would take either a personal or a professional recommendation over a cold call any day.
  6. Is the price the lowest or even too good to be true?  If so, then you know that it is probably unsustainable.  In those situations you are likely being brought into the contract before a price hike will come somewhere down the line.  In those situations it is usually a discussion which is accompanied by a threat that work will be stopped without renegotiation, often at a point in the project that causes you the most stress and risk. Get multiple quotes and have a written contract with a clear specification and breakdown of costs.
  7. Are they prepared to give you a written contract?  I cannot stress how important it is to agree your terms in writing.  Contracts where there are no written terms are almost always subject to the hazards of memory and interpretation.  You can pretty well guarantee that the time, stress and price of lawyers to sort out an oral contract will be significantly higher when there are no written terms to rely on.
  8. Are they prepared to offer you warranties for the quality of their work? If the scale of the project is significant and, in particular there are design elements involved, I would expect them to be giving a warranty for the work.  In addition, I would expect a defects period in which clear snagging will be remedied at no further cost.  A reputable contractor will be want to leave you a happy client and will accept being held to account.

Following these tips and resisting the pressure to commit before you are entirely comfortable will help to ensure that you never regret your decision and, perhaps just as importantly, never have to use the services of a litigation lawyer like me.  I wish you the very best of luck but there again, if you follow these steps then you should not have to rely upon it.

Contact our Dispute Resolution team in Sevenoaks, Ashford, Uckfield, Brighton & Hove

Rix & Kay’s Dispute Resolution Team has extensive experience and can advise you on all aspects. To discuss how we can assist you, contact Dan Sherlock, Partner e. t.  01732 441750

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