Kevin Healy explains why legal protection is necessary when renovating your home in the Darling Magazine Autumn issue.
A building contract can be complex and is governed by statute which means that many terms may be implied even if they are not specified.
Like any contract, a building contract is an agreement by one party to do something for another party, in exchange for payment. It does not have to be written, but if it is not, how will you remember exactly what has been agreed and, in the case of any contention, prove what has been agreed?
The terms and conditions of a building contract therefore should be recorded in writing to ensure all parties know exactly what has been agreed, providing comfort and security of legal protection for the investment you are making in your home. If properly drafted, it will also give you some protection against spiralling costs and ensure parties are aware of what is expected and when, thus hopefully avoiding disputes.
A building contract is, however, only as good as the scope of works it describes. You need to carefully consider what you want your builder to achieve, what each of you are responsible for, and for what price. You will need to put in place instructions and drawings to monitor this which may involve appointing an architect to assist you who can also help draw up the building contract.
The holy trinity for any building work is cost, time and quality, and must be documented in the contract to give you a degree of control over your project.
There are numerous, standard forms available on the Internet, such as JCT Home Owners or Minor Works contract, RIBA Domestic Building Contract and Federation of Master Builders contracts. It is important to choose which one best suits your needs; often intricate contract terms are inappropriate for inexperienced parties. Some of the contracts may also contain limitations which your legal adviser will be able to give you guidance on.
Often, builders may wish to use their own form of contract. If this is the case, seek legal advice to ensure that you are protected against any inherent risks, and to give you an understanding of how the contract works and the statutory obligations that will apply to both parties.
Pippa Beesley is a Construction Law Partner at Mundays. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org | 01932 590 638