In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the team at GHP Legal, sets out to answer some of your problems. Today's question is answered by senior solicitor Rod Waters...

Builder has disappeared taking our £40,000 and leaving us with a building site

Q: In November 2019 we engaged a builder to construct an extension and do a loft conversion on our bungalow. He was to start work in spring 2020. We paid up front for some materials but then the coronavirus pandemic started and the job was delayed. He did some of the groundworks after first lockdown and then wanted more money for steelwork that had not been budgeted for. We paid that but there was a further delay due to manufacturing problems. To date we have paid over £45,000 but the job is nowhere near complete and since January this year we have been unable to contact the builder, despite having a contract for the work. What should we do?

A: It does sound a dubious situation, but in view of Covid-19 you should perhaps make one last attempt to contact him before pursuing him through the court. Also, do check your contract to see whether there is a clause regarding what you should do in the event of a dispute.

Write to the builder giving him one last chance to put matters right and complete the job. Tell him that you will cancel the contract if the work is not completed by a specified date, that you will be obtaining estimates from another builder to complete the job, and you will be looking to him for costs if the new builder has to do something you have already paid him for.

If this fails to produce a result, record as much evidence as you can in a timeline, including emails, texts, letters, invoices, records of payment and photographs of the site. This will not only help to evidence your grounds for a claim but will also save your solicitor time and save you money in pursuing a claim through the court.

This question has been answered by Rod Waters, a Senior Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. In accordance with government guidelines, most of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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