Builders should be insured for poor work, but there is no legal obligation to be. Therefore it is important a customer checks their builder’s policies before taking them on. Builder insurance quotes can include public/product liability and professional indemnity insurance, but not always. These policies are the most important for a customer as they safeguard their property and their neighbours’.
Other insurance a builder will need to hold is employers’ liability insurance (if they have any staff members), tools insurance, personal accident and critical illness cover, business use vehicle insurance and contract works insurance (used largely during big projects). But these don’t cover poor work.
To check if a builder is properly insured for your needs, ask to see their policy and take a copy of the insurance certificate or ask for a letter of confirmation from their broker or insurer. Don’t forget to check the dates the policy covers and what is included. Also, ensure the business name is correct, and the description of what the business does adequately reflects the work they are being hired to do.
Can I sue my builder for negligence?
You can sue your builder for negligence if it is their work which has cost you money. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 means customers have a right to work being performed with care and skill. If not, a customer is entitled to have the work redone at no extra cost within a reasonable timeframe. If this cannot be completed, the customer can claim a price reduction or even the whole cost waived if the issues are serious.
Professional indemnity insurance is what protects builders from these claims and therefore means a customer has a better chance of receiving compensation if there is an issue. Of course, both parties will need to argue the case, and not every claim is successful. Still, professional indemnity insurance covers the compensation awarded and any associated legal costs and damages.
Professional indemnity insurance also covers mistakes or oversights by the builder, for example, if the customer believes the brief was not met.
Reputable builders are likely to want to avoid a legal battle and may feel carrying out some fixes to the home is more efficient and cost-effective for both parties. But if the mistake is large or there is some dispute, litigation may be required.
If using an architect or surveyor, they are both required to hold professional indemnity insurance if they are a member of the Architects Registration Board or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
Even if the builder does not hold professional indemnity insurance, a customer can still sue them.
Can you sue a builder for poor workmanship UK
You can sue a builder for poor workmanship in the UK. A customer has a case if the work was not completed:
- With sufficient care and skill,
- Within a reasonable time or agreed time,
- Using ‘fit for purpose’ materials,
- Using agreed materials.
In these scenarios, a customer is entitled to have the faulty items repaired or replaced, poor workmanship put right, any damage repaired.
Builders often have product liability insurance in place to cover the costs of faulty materials or goods being used. Still, if not, then compensation would have to be paid out of their own pocket, which may cause some resistance.
If damage has been made to the customer’s property or another third party’s property, they can claim on the builder’s public liability insurance – should they have it.
Legal action should be seen as a last resort for a customer as solicitor fees can be costly, and the process can be stressful. Before launching litigation, try the following steps:
- Collect evidence to make the case to the tradesman. For example, take photographs, find what was originally agreed in writing, if another builder has fixed the work, detail what they have done and how much it cost, or how much another builder has quoted to do the work needed.
- Speak to the builder and see if a resolution can be found. They may offer to re-do some of the work at no extra cost to maintain their reputation. You’ll need to show you have done this before a formal complaint is made.
- Follow the business’s complaints procedure. If the builder works for a company, there may be a process already in place. If they are part of a trade association, there may also be a complaints policy to follow.
- Contact the industry’s ombudsman or go through mediation or arbitration.
- Report to Trading Standards; usually, this is done via the Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Contact your credit or debit card company to reclaim the costs. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means you may be able to recover the money paid on a credit card if between £100 and £30,000. There is a similar code for debit payments or those outside Section 75 limits called chargeback.
If these steps fail, it may be required to go to the small claims court, although this free court – which does not require a customer to be represented by a solicitor – only accepts claims up to £10,000.