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What to do when a contractor does poor work

Every year, more than a million people fall out with their builder or decorator with a quarter forced to take formal action.

The most common disagreement is over the quality of work with other major gripes including builders not turning up when agreed, delays over completion and properties being left in a mess.

But how do you handle builder disputes? And in cases of poor workmanship, what are your rights?

Complaint against a builder

Firstly, contact the builder or decorator and explain the situation. If you phone the builder, it’s a good idea to follow up the conversation with a letter confirming the problem, what you agreed the builder should do about it and by when.

Under the Consumer Rights Act which came into force on 1 October 2015, consumers who enter into a contract for goods and services can expect these to be supplied with reasonable care and skill. This applies to plumbers and other tradesmen as well as builders.

If you entered into your contract before 1 October 2015 you have the same rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.


  • Set a date for remedial work to be completed
  • If this date is missed, explain to your builder that you’ll get someone else in to do the work but claim costs from them
  • Check to see if your contractor is a member of a trade association which may have a dispute resolution scheme you can use
  • If they are not, you can take your complaint to the Consumer Ombudsman to try to sort things out
  • Keep evidence – for example photographs of shoddy work
  • You can take your builder to court if there is no other way forward

For further help, please contact Wards Solicitors’ building disputes specialist James Murray

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