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What is a reasonable time for building work to take?

There are few things more frustrating than building work that drags on and on, way after the time you were expecting it to be done, dusted and a distant memory.

But what can you actually do about it?

If you entered into a contract with your builder after 1 October 2015, you are covered under the Consumer Rights Act. This says that, by law, the service provided to you must be carried out in a reasonable time and your builder has a statutory duty to comply.

If you have an agreement with your builder that the work should start and finish on agreed dates, they should stick to it.

Even without a specified date, the work should still be carried out within a reasonable timeframe, taking into account factors like what work you are having done and all the relevant circumstances, for instance, an unexpected emergency or unforeseen issue.

New deadlines

In both circumstances, the first step is to agree a new date for the work to be completed. This is often known as making ‘time of the essence’.

If this doesn’t work, and nothing speeds up, you should set a further and final deadline. If this is missed, it can be deemed a breach of contract and if this causes you a loss, it might be possible to recover damages from your builder.

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 new date for 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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