Home Improvement Building Contract – Written Or Verbal?

When your builder agrees to carry out your work and you agree to his price you have both entered a verbal contract because the law assumes you both had intentions to create legal relations. As long as you were both “of sound mind” you have a contract so why bother using a written building contract?

Let’s say your garage roof is leaking and you want to replace it with a nice new fibre-glass roof. The builder turns up and quotes you £1000 and you agree. Your builder has never done a roof in fibre-glass although he has seen it done. The materials cost him far more than he had thought they would and the job takes him longer than he had allowed for.

He finally gets it finished and gives you an invoice for £2000. You tell him the agreed price was half that but he says he’s sure he had said between £1K and £2K. You stand your ground and give him the agreed £1K which he takes.

He then takes you to the small claims court saying you owe him another £1K. Why worry? You know what the agreed amount was and you paid it to him on completion, you honoured the verbal contract so you turn up for court confident you will be ok.

He tells the court he had told you it would cost £2k and explains how much the materials cost, labour etc. You tell the court the price agreed was £1k and that is why you only gave him that much.

The court splits the difference (they almost always do when its one persons word against another) and orders you to pay him £500 plus costs.

With a written contract in place the builder would have had to accept the agreed figure and simply put it down to experience.

Some maintenance builders will tell you “you don’t need a written contract for a job this small” but you should always insist on using one. A good builder knows a written contract protects him as well as you and will have no problems in signing your contract.

Some unscrupulous service engineers will tell you they need you to sign an agreement so they can go and pick up the parts to fix your boiler/heater etc. You know the type of thing, “Your warp drive abreviators shot to bits i’m afraid. Can you sign this so my boss knows i’ve got your permission to pick up a new one? It’ll cost about £50”

What you are doing is signing a contract that hasn’t had the details entered in. He’ll take off to the cafe or to another job and come back in a few hours. He’ll fit the new part then hand you the contract that you have already signed but this time with the costs entered. £50 call out fee, 3x£50 per hour labour and £50 plus vat for parts. You can argue he led you to believe it was going to cost you about £50 and not £250 but it wouldn’t do you any good because your signature is on the contract. If you refuse to pay you wouldn’t have a chance in court because the engineer is in possession of a contract that you have signed.

Either insist all the details are entered before you sign, refuse or use your own maintenance contract.

Both a maintenance building contract and a large works building contract can be downloaded for free from http://www.building-contract.co.uk

Source by Adrian Kinley

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