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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I hope so! We gave the verbal "go ahead" in March to a

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HI. I hope so! We gave the verbal "go ahead" in March to a builder to build some large extensions to our house. We agreed the work should start late June. We said we were generally happy with the Estimate he had given us, subject to several changes which he needed to come back to us on. Since then we have been trying to firm up the Estimate he gave us and have found he has made several errors. When we stopped chasing him, we stopped liaising, he was not proactive in coming back to us. We asked him to come back to us with a contract and a schedule for the works. We lost confidence in him as he appeared busy elsewhere, due to the errors and differences in the Estimates he gave and that we thought we did not have a contract with him. We in the meantime met with another builder and would prefer to work with him. Do we have a contract with the first one, or were we ok in telling him we had lost confidence in him and changed our minds?! thanks
Assistant: Where are you located? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: Warwickshire
Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: Not sure what you mean? I don't think so. He has given us the Estimates by email and we have met with him a number of times in our home.
Assistant: Anything else you want the solicitor to know before I connect you?
Customer: I dont think so.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Is he trying to assert a contract with you?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Don't think he's used those words, but he is saying we cannot pull out so close to start date and because we have, his workforce have no work for at least 4 weeks if not the whole year. He asserts he has turned away work as he thought he would be busy with ours for 5-6 months.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
He wants us to at least give him one to two months work (the ground works). We said we would consider this, but that section of his latest Estimate is almost twice as much as it was in March, and will probably go up as he will add machine hire etc just for this part of the job and it wouldn't be spread over the whole job. And doing just the ground works means pulling down on of the rooms in our house so allow the machinery through - so we would have to have him build a temporary wall to make our house air tight / secure once he'd finished the ground works. We feel the house would be insecure for several months (preferred builder could not start until Sept). There is also possibly room for problems between the two bits of work (one doing the ground works and another doing the walls) and if there were any problems we'd be stuck in the middle, paying again for one of them to sort it out.

If you had initially agreed to use his services and to get the works done, then it is likely that some form of contract would have been created where you were contractually bound to proceed with the works and he was bound to undertake them.

If you wanted to cancel the agreement, unless you had a formal cancellation clause or the trader’s consent to do so, you would have to rely on some sort of serious breach on their side. Not firming up the estimate on time will probably not qualify, but if there was a large difference between the original estimate and any subsequent ones, then you can always argue that the terms had changed substantially and as a result the original contract would no longer stand. Whilst giving them some work may take some of the pressure off them trying to blame you for this, you do not have to do this and if needed can just take the risk of complete cancellation due to the factors mentioned above. If the trader was able to resolve the costs issues so that it is borught in line with the original estimate then that would have given them a possibility to argue that the contract should still proceed, but large differences which cannot be resolved would have likely allowed you to cancel.

I trust this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars above - this is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you still need me to clarify anything else, please reply on here and I will assist as best as I can. Thank you

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Thank you. Whilst there has not been a vast difference in the total cost, the difference in cost of the groundworks almost doubled for no obvious reason between the Estimate in March and the Estimate in May. And it is now just this section of work he is offering to compromise on....and it will increase again if he does the work end June. This is partly why we have lost confidence in him, there is not enough detail for us to see if we will end up paying more than his total Estimate. We have asked him to confirm what is included and what is excluded but have not had that clarification and I'm not sure we would ever get it.
There was no formal cancellation clause as there wass no formal contract, just our verbal "yes, go ahead" followed by 2 months of trying to get detail and asking for a formal contract.
Does Contract Law say there has to be an Offer, and Acceptance, and a Consideration paid (or is that only for consumer law, where buildings are excluded)? Thanks again

Contract law does require offer, acceptance and consideration but the issue is that consideration does not have to be money paid, it can be reliance on the acceptance, such as refusing other work to do this. So he could try and argue that consideration was given , in the form of direct reliance on the proposed works going ahead and acting accordingly. Hope this clarifies?

Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. Could you please let me know if it has answered your original question? You can either reply on here with a quick ‘Yes, thanks’, or select 3, 4 or 5 stars on this page. I can still answer follow up questions if needed to clarify anything for you. Many thanks

Hello, not sure if you are having trouble seeing my posts? Do you need any further assistance or are you happy with the response to your query? I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks

Ben Jones and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Hello Ben. Sorry for the delay in replying to you. I am happy with the responses to date, thank you. Is it ok to ask you some followup questions please?
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
In case I can:
we gave the builder notice, we are saying we did not ever have an accurate and agreed estimate, never a quote, and we never received a contract despite asking for one on a number of occasions (all backed up by references to emails). We gave examples of reasons for our losing confidence in him (main reference he relied on was 10 years old, local reference incurred objections on Planning site as they started building before getting planning permission and had to pull down and start again). W gave examples of our dissatisfaction with his service. His estimates were not added up correctly, being almost 15k over, landscaping valued at 20k was inserted, then left out but the value not removed, etc. We reminded him he said his firm could work on his own build if they were not on ours, and when we'd queried his delays he'd emailed to say we'd be 'top of the list' next.
We gave him notice as, after our final meeting on 9/5 (request for contract and final quote again made) we did not hear from him until 21/5 when he said he would be setting up his machinery on our land on 4/6. We reminded him again we wanted quote and contract before starting and on 25/5 he said he would get them to us 1/6. We felt we had run out of time, did not want to sign a contract under pressure over the weekend 2/6 and 3/6 before work started on the Monday 4/6.
He now wants us to make a reasonable contribution to his loss of earnings, if not he says he will take us to court for compensation for loss of earnings/profits.
We are prepared to offer him compensation now for 'work' he has done for us: produced 4 estimates and met with us 3 times including the initial brief (I don't know what price that should be?). Do you think if we ended up in court we would have to pay for his loss of earnings too? (To what level is that likely to be, can you comment?). many thanks

Hello, thanks for getting in touch. We do ask that customers post any related follow up queries within 7 days of submitting their original question if they want it to be covered by the initial fee. After that time, if you need further support, we kindly request that a new question is posted as we cannot offer indefinite assistance under one fee. If you need any further help on this matter please post it as a new question on our site, starting it with 'for Ben Jones' as I am familiar with your case and can deal with it most efficiently. Many thanks