Good renovations: Why it’s wise to draw up a contract with your builder

Good renovations: Why it’s wise to draw up a contract with your builder
19th April 2022

In the recent ‘race for space’ phenomenon, people across the UK have focused their time, efforts and resources in finding ways to extend their homes. This has taken various forms, from building new bedrooms, summerhouses or comfortable offices to renovating rooms and reconfiguring garages. 

While home extensions are exciting, and might well boost the value of your property, the building work can be notoriously complex. There are countless things that can go awry if you don’t stay on top of the process. It’s only natural with so many aspects to a big project that you’re going to face hiccups at some point, and depending on how your builder responds to those challenges, it could derail the project entirely. 

Regardless of whether you have a good relationship with your builder or not, it’s a worthwhile use of your time to have a formal contract drawn up ahead of time so that everyone is on the same page throughout the renovation. 

Here are a few tips to bear in mind before you get started on your renovation project. 

Recognise the benefits of a contract

There are plenty of things to consider when you’re planning a home renovation, whether you’re taking on a small kitchen update or a loft conversion. But, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the moment you give the builder the go-ahead to work on your property, you’re engaged in a contract with them even if it’s not written down. 

So, before you agree to a quote, it’s highly advisable to get a signed contract in place. In relying solely on a verbal contract, it’s easy for details to be missed or ignored, and for miscommunications to occur. You should be wary of working with a builder who doesn't want to have anything in writing, as it could be a sign they’ll be dishonest. A written contract ensures that all details are captured and can be referred back to if need be, eliminating stress and financial worry. 

Establish realistic milestones

When problems arise, it’s helpful to refer back to your contract to check what was agreed. You may need to establish the time frames in which everything is completed. Put in writing precisely what will be done, along with a realistic timeline of the order and length of time it will take to complete, along with what the builders will do to rectify any issues that might occur. 

Some things will be out of their control, such as weather holding up exterior work, but for anything that is down to your contracting team, there should be contingency plans in place. 

Appoint a professional

It can be beneficial to get someone qualified in this area to provide you with the best foundation. They’ll have experience of writing contracts and will know what to include to cover you fully against any mishaps that might occur. 

Surveyors play an important role during property renovations, whether you’re referring to an earlier survey report or requesting a new one for ongoing works. For example, if your renovation project entails contacting your neighbours as part of the party wall act, a surveyor can prepare a schedule of condition which covers all ‘at risk’ aspects of the adjoining property before the work begins so that if any damage is incurred, both parties are protected. 

If you’re undergoing substantial renovations you should ensure that any tradesperson working on your renovation is covered by the correct building insurance. In any case, appointing a professional and having your project overseen by someone qualified to draw up a solid contract or advise you will give you peace of mind. 

Don’t be afraid to make amends

For some projects, the goal might be moved or the timelines changed to accommodate a delay in materials arriving, for example, or some other reason that requires the completion date to be changed. 

But don’t be afraid to amend the contract to reflect these changes rather than have the team rush to get the job completed to the original timeframe, as this could result in missed steps or shoddy workmanship. If the goalposts are moved to give your builders more time to carry out the work, make sure your contract is updated in line with those new deadlines so that everyone is on the same page as to what’s expected. Having a digital contract in place can make this much easier to manage and change as needed. 

Make sure both parties are protected

A contract isn’t designed to just give one side of the partnership peace of mind. Both parties should have their rights and obligations protected, both in describing the work required from the client’s side and paying on time. It also reassures both sides that work is being carried out in accordance with the contract and ensures insurance policies are taken out on the builders’ side. 

At its most basic, your contract should cover:

  • A clear description of the works needed and the site address, as well as details of whether the site will be occupied while the works are being carried out
  • Who is responsible for buying materials, fixtures and fittings
  • The contract period, detailing the finish date whether that’s a calendar date or a fixed period such as 20 weeks from the start date
  • Any facilities needed on site, such as temporary respite areas for builders, offices for project management or portaloos
  • If there are any other teams involved, such as architects, structural engineers or subcontractors such as kitchen or bathroom fitters
  • Charges and who will be responsible for paying for things such as planning permission or building regulations consent, along with the frequency of payments from the client to the building team
  • Defects fixing period to put right any issues identified within a specified period of time
  • Dispute resolution plans to deal with larger issues

Your contract should be focused on providing clarity for both you and the building team, so that everyone is aware of what's expected of them and when. It doesn’t need to be packed with confusing jargon or technical information, but it does need to be comprehensive to cover all bases. Building and renovation contracts provide you and your team with peace of mind, along with greater control over the project as you can ensure that everything will be executed to your specific requirements and completed to your set timeframe and budget. 

This article was written by guest blogger, Annie Button.

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