This article explores how to avoid civil disputes and have a stress free relationship with your architect or builder.
Making the decision to build your own home can be incredibly exciting, and offers a world of possibilities when it comes to creating a home which is tailor made to your taste and requirements. Unfortunately, it can also be a fraught time with many a setback along the way and, in some instances, a civil dispute.
While it’s unlikely that your home building project will go without a single hitch, there are a few things you can do to minimise the stress, and avoid legal trouble. In this article, we’re going to look at 10 tips for avoiding a dispute with your architect or builder. Take a look…
10 Tips for Avoiding a Dispute with Your Contractor
Making an informed decision
First and foremost, always make sure that you perform proper research and background checks before hiring an architect or builder. In 2022, it’s easy to find reviews and information on a company or professional, and you should always check these out thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.
Similarly, always ask to see evidence of the professional’s accreditation and trade association memberships. For example, in the case of your architect, they should be registered with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Quite often, your builder or architect will offer to provide you with an estimate for the work on your new home - which you are strongly advised not to accept. An estimate is, essentially, a guess as to the final price, and gives your tradesman the right to pile on extra costs due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.
Instead, insist on a written quote which itemises the work that they intend to carry out, the materials needed, and the price for each part of the process. This is a really effective - and important - way of avoiding disputes with your professional further down the road.
Before agreeing to the work being completed, ask your builder to let you know if planning permission is required. If so, ask them to provide you with written details of these permissions. This important step will help to prevent the work being stalled should you discover too late that this has been overlooked.
Paying it forward
Once you’ve agreed the price of your project with your architect or builder, you should always put together a payment plan. Most reputable professionals will not expect full payment of the project up front. Instead, they may require occasional payments throughout the project in order to pay for materials.
By agreeing a payment plan with your tradesman, you can avoid any wrangling over payments once the project is underway.
Keeping it covered
When undertaking a project as large as building a home, there are countless things that can go wrong. While you can minimise these by choosing your tradesman carefully, that’s not quite enough. It’s really important to ask your builder or architect about what kind of insurance they hold - and to ask for evidence of this insurance.
You will always hope that your project will not be met by any kind of catastrophe but, as the saying goes, ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’. By making sure that your professional has the correct - and adequate - cover, you’re protecting yourself from any expensive headaches should the worst happen.
You can’t expect your new home to be built overnight but, in most cases, you will have an idea of when you need the project to be complete. It’s essential that you discuss this with your builder or architect in order to agree a timeframe for the project.
Although the odd delay can be expected, agreeing a timeframe in advance will help to keep you on the right path, as well as being able to quickly identify times when things may not be going exactly to plan.
All above board
Once you’ve agreed all of the costs, requirements, and timeframes of your project, these all should be put together in the form of an official contract. In many cases, your professional will have a boilerplate contract which they will present to you. Always hire the services of a solicitor to look this over for you and to add any new clauses that you may require.
The big picture
Once your project is underway, you’ll expect to be kept updated about how it’s all going. Although we wouldn’t recommend trying to micro-manage the build or to keep turning up unannounced, you should request regular reports, accompanied by photographs. This will help you to keep an eye on the progress, and provide vital evidence should a dispute arise.
Back to the drawing board
The most common complaint against architects result from clients claiming that the finished result is not what they asked for. When hiring an architect, it’s important to be clear about your requirements, and then to carefully study the architect’s blueprints to make sure that you’re both on the same page before work begins.
Worst case scenario
In an ideal world, following all of these steps will help you to ensure that the relationship with your architect or builder is a peaceful and stress free one. Unfortunately, there are times when problems occur, and civil disputes are unavoidable. While this hopefully won’t be the case, it’s always a good idea to have the name of a good solicitor to hand to help you resolve any issues quickly and painlessly.
Ready to Renovate Whilst Avoiding Disputes with Your Builder?
If your project is a large one, you’ll probably find that you’re speaking with your builder or architect more than you are your own family. While it’s fine to be friendly, this is a business relationship and should, therefore, be kept as professional as possible to avoid misunderstandings or being taken advantage of.
Have any more tips to keep your relationship with your contractors running smoothly? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained contract professional. Be sure to consult a contract or dispute professional or solicitor if you’re seeking advice to avoid a dispute with your builder or architect. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.