We had a conservatory built last autumn, and it’s started to leak. The builder says this is due to damage from storms during the winter and we should claim on our house insurance. We’re not convinced and think his work wasn’t up to scratch. What can we do?
This is a tricky scenario and you may need to bring in an independent expert, such as a building surveyor, in order to assess the work and determine where the fault lies.
If there is a dispute as to whether the leak is caused by storm damage or poor workmanship, see if you can agree on an independent person whom you both trust to examine the work and determine who is right,’ says Trading Standards Officer, Peter Carter. ‘If the leak is caused by poor workmanship, then the builder will be liable for the full cost of putting the problem right.’ Be aware, however, that you would need to pay the independent assessor for their time.
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If the builder, or trader, is deemed to be responsible but fails to put the matter right, you can send him (or her) a letter citing the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This states that a trader must perform a service with ‘reasonable care and skill’. Say that you don’t believe he used ‘reasonable care and skill’ when carrying out the work and is therefore in breach of contract. Give him a time period (14 days, say) in which to agree a date for him to rectify the problem. Explain that, if he fails to respond, you’ll consider taking further action.
How to complain like an expert
If the builder still refuses to pay for the repairs or to rectify the work himself, you can pursue the matter through the small claims court (ie, the county court), where you make a ‘court claim for money’. This is where it will help to have the independent report from an impartial building surveyor. And try to gather as much evidence as you can to help prove your case: keep receipts, make a note of the dates and times when work was carried out, and take photographs.
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The small claims court can be used for most contract claims. You can pick up a form (N1) and other documents explaining the process from your local court, or online at HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
How to use the small claims court
If your claim is for less than £10,000, you’ll be offered the court’s small claims mediation service to reach an agreement with the defendant, in which case a Civil Mediation Council-registered mediator will try to resolve the matter out of court. Before making a claim, do consult Citizens Advice.
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