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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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Hello, We are in dispute with a builder who has quoted for

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We are in dispute with a builder who has quoted for replacing a garden wall. We have not signed this offer, but accepted verbally. The work has not started.
The builder texted us with a start date of 14th July '14 back in May. On Friday 11th July '14 he visited us to finalise the details for the work commencing the 14th - that was our expectation based on previous conversations.
He said, that the work could not start as discussed, and that he would let us know when. This was a shock - we have taken a week's holiday for this purpose.
He left and we discussed the issue coming to the conclusion, that trust had broken down, and that we would not invest the app. £4.000 with a company we can't trust.
We informed the builder by email yesterday about our decision and he has responded that he will invoice us £1.500 for loss of earnings.
I would appreciate your advice on where we stand legally.
Many thanks in advance,
Steen Weidekamp
Alex Hughes : My name is***** and I'm happy to help with your question today. I need to ask you some preliminary questions to be able to help you.
Alex Hughes : Does the written quote mention a cancelation fee?
Alex Hughes : Does the quote mention a cancellation fee?

Cancellation fee has never been written down or discussed.

Alex Hughes : OK unless the builder said there would be a cancellation fee in his written quotation, then no cancellation fee will be payable. The builder is in breach-of-contract on the grounds that he has not complied with the agreed time to start work. You can rely on "time is of the essence" to show that the builder is in fact in breach of contract. This phrase is often used in contracts, which, in effect says: the specified time and dates in this agreement are vital and thus, mandatory, and "we mean it." Therefore, any delay, reasonable or not, slight or not, will be grounds for cancelling the agreement. The builder is in breach of this contract and therefore no cancellation fee is payable by you. You would be in a position to sue the builder for breach of contract for the fact that he is failed to carry out the work on the agreed date. In my view he has no grounds for any form of claim against you.
Alice H and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

For Alex Hughes.

Many thanks for your answer - most helpful.

I need to respond to the builder.

What should my answer / approach be if I don't want aggravate the situation? My concern is, that if he decides to take his claim to the Court, my credit rating might be compromised.



Steen Weidekamp

Are you prepared to negotiate a new date?

Or is your position that you do not wish to go ahead with this builder whatsoever?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The builder suggested a new start date - 28th July - in his email, which outlined his intention to bill us. But we feel that the relationship is unworkable after this "threat".

We would rather not go ahead with this builder.

I think your options are limited then.

1. You could pay him £1,500 as demanded; or

2. Agree to the new start date; or

3. Refuse to pay and make it clear to the builder that he is in breach of contract.

If you proceed with option 3 you need to respond to the builder setting out the history of the agreement, that time was of the essence and that he is in breach of the agreement by his failure to keep to the agreed start date.

There is no room for niceties. You have to make your position absolutely clear and unambiguous. If you do so the builder will think twice about starting a claim.

Even if he does start a claim he has to prove a) that a cancellation fee was agreed at the outset if you decided to withdraw b) if no cancellation fee is payable that he has lost out by £1,500 e.g. the loss he is claiming.

It seems to me that the builder is moving the date for his convienience which suggests that he has other work lined up. If so, it will be difficult for him to prove a loss (if he's not doing your job he's making money somewhere else).

If he decides to start a claim you can defend it and make a counterclaim for your losses and expenses. You should make that clear in your letter.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

If we're going with your option 3, and the builder decides "to go all the way", what effect would a court hearing have on my credit rating?



A court hearing would have no effect on your credit rating.

If you lose the court claim and a judgment is entered against you then you will have 28 days to pay in full. If you pay the judgement in full within this time then it will be cancelled.

A judgment will only go on your credit file if you do not pay within 28 days. An unpaid judgment will have a serious impact on your ability to obtain credit.

So if you decide to pursue option 3 and win, that's fine. If you lose, you must settle the judgment within 28 days to avoid problems on your credit file.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

OK, - should the judgment go against us, what extra fees / charges would apply?

This will be a small claim so lawyers fees will not be allowed by the court. The huilder will probably deal with the matter himself.

The only fees you really need to worry about are court fees and interest. If you lose the additional fees will be around a couple of hundred pounds.

Worst case scenario you might end up having to pay an extra £500 on top of the £1,500 that the builder is claiming.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, Alex.

In your view, have we covered all the bases?

And one final thing: We will email the builder with a response according to option 3 - should this be followed up with a posted letter?




My pleasure.

If he does threaten court action then you should consider asking for mediation.

This is a non-court route involving a round the table discussion with a trained mediator. Any agreement reached will avoid further proceedings and possibility of a court judgment.

I'm happy to have a look at your draft e-mail (no need to send a letter) - but you will need to post an additional question and fee.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks for your help, Alex.

I may take you up on reviewing the response.



No problem. If you do need further help then please remember to mark your question 'for the attention of Alex Hughes'.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

For Alex Hughes.

I have drafted an email to the builder - attached:


Dear Mr. Newsome,


We are in receipt of your email dated 12th July ’14 in which you state your intention to bill us £1.500 for loss of earnings in connection with our not accepting your quotation dated 24th March ’14.


On 24th March ,14 you submitted a quote concerning the removal and rebuilding of our garden back wall.

By text message on the 16th May ‘14 you confirmed the start date to be Monday 14th July ’14 and made an appointment with us to come to our house on 11th July ‘14 to discuss the details of the work, which you previously estimated to take a week depending on weather conditions.

In May we booked holidays for the week commencing 14th July ‘14 - we both needed to give plenty of notice to our employers to allow colleagues to plan their holidays.

During your visit on 11th July you indicated to us, that the start date might be moved out for you to accommodate potential additional work on a current project. This would depend on your client accepting or rejecting a quote by Sunday morning 13th July ‘14 at the latest.

We were astounded by this, but trusted you to start Monday 14th July as you had previously committed to in writing (the text message of 16th May ’14).

We discussed the matter and came to the conclusion, that we had lost trust in your company because of the failure to deliver on a commitment – failure to adhere to the agreed start date. This was explained and communicated to you in an email dated 12th July ’14.

On the same day we received a text message stating that you could commence the work on Monday 28th July ’14. On Sunday morning the 13th July we received your email in which you state that we have a written contract and that you will be considering your options suggesting that you commence work on the 28th July ’14 or bill us for loss of earnings.


Our position is that you are in breach of contract by your failure to keep to the agreed start date. Time was of the essence once we had your commitment to the start date for the reasons outlined above.

Your quote does not contain, nor have we ever discussed or agreed a cancellation fee. Consequently, we do not consider ourselves liable for your alleged loss of earnings. Should you wish to proceed with invoicing us we will challenge it, and we will consider a claim against your company for our losses and expenses.


Yours Sincerely,

Steen Weidekamp


I would appreciate your comments/recommendations.

And after sending it, should the builder's invoice arrive, what is the next step?


Many thanks,







Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello Alex - I got an alert but the trail of Qs and As does not end with your response.

Please could you resend.


You need to look at the new question that you post. I will re-send it.