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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I have employed the services of a builder, we agreed a price

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I have employed the services of a builder, we agreed a price and they requested a deposit of £2.5K and then three weekly payments of £1K each week with remainder (£4K) on completion. I paid the deposit and they began the work and I paid £1K week one and then £1K week two. This was Christmas week. They asked for £4K to order the kitchen and bathroom furniture, tiles and flooring etc. so that the goods would be there the week after Christmas so they could crack on. They have not returned to site and despite their assurance they will start work soon. They will not commit to a start date. meanwhile, I am £8.5K out of pocket with about £1K worth of the work done. I have advised I don't want to but will take legal advice but they are now not returning my calls. What action should I take? Pat Milligan.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

What reason have you been given for the builder not returning please?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

All sorts of answers. Plasterer broke his fingers. The builder told me he had dislocated his shoulder and then told me he had walked into a low doorframe and had to have physio (the most unluckiest building firm ever). That he had had difficulty with his overdraft but that had been restored. I told him eventually to stop fobbing me off and commit to a date. He came back as said " I haven't fobbed you off, I've been straight with you. I have been to the suppliers today to sort materials etc. I guarantee we will be back on our job on Thursday (this was Tuesday 4th February) and we will crack on. I replied good, please don't let me down. He came for one day, removed the copper immersion tank. Heard again from him on 10.02.14 saying to update you, we will be back on yours on Wednesday (12th Feb) and plasterer will be there Thursday (13th Feb) and I will be putting installations in Thursday 20th Feb. I was polite and said I was looking forward to the work starting again but no show at all. No answer to my text messages asking for a date. I haven't bombarded him, I send one every two weeks to try and secure a commitment but no luck. I am scared he has just taken my money and is conning me.


Did you agree time was of the essence in the completion of the work?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

At the builders instigation the work start date was agreed for 2nd December and to run for 3 weeks. So it should have been completed by the end of December. However, for one of those weeks no work took place and so I just thought in the run up to Christmas his staff were taking leave etc. so was not too concerned until the work did not resume in January when I had been requested to transfer £4K for the goods to get them started after New Year. Since which time they have only attended for one day (12th February) other than that I have not been able to get them to commit to a date and to date they are now 7 weeks behind the agreed schedule.


But did you use the words time is of the essence?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.


Thank you.

Obviously you do have a claim. The question is how to enforce it.

You need to write to them and send it recorded delivery. You need to set out the amount that you have paid and make clear that if they do not begin work within 28 days you will sue for the money.

This is a small claims court sum so it will be very easy to sue and cheap. You can issue here

But it is important to send the letter before action 1st giving them warning.

You can also complain to trading standards who probably would be interested in this.

If, at the end of 28 days, they are still not at work and resolving this then you can also instruct another to complete the work because they would have repudiated the contract at that time.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information.

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