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Many householders are familiar with the often traumatic experience of falling out with builders. However, as a High Court case showed, if their work is not up to scratch or left unfinished, lawyers will bend every sinew to ensure that fair compensation is paid.
A homeowner engaged builders to perform major construction works on her property, including the erection of a kitchen extension and bathroom refurbishment. She also commissioned the manufacture and installation of triple-glazed windows, bi-fold doors and other glazing works.
After she launched proceedings, it was common ground that the works carried out were defective and left incomplete. Following a trial, the builder who bore responsibility for the construction works was ordered to pay her £34,711 in damages. She was also awarded £9,778 against his company in respect of the glazing works.
The judge rejected defence arguments that the homeowner was responsible for all that went wrong with the project because she permitted a friend to act as de facto project manager, a task for which she was said to lack the necessary experience, and failed to consult an architect or engineer when required. He found that the defective construction works arose from the builder's own shortcomings.
The builder's contention that she had contracted solely with his company, which had since ceased to trade, also fell on fallow ground. The judge found that, in dealing directly with the homeowner, he was not acting on his company's behalf. He thus bore personal contractual responsibility for the construction works.
The homeowner further succeeded in arguments that, as the builder was not registered for VAT, the construction works were not subject to the 20 per cent levy. Save in respect of the bathroom refurbishment, the judge also found that the quoted contract price included both labour and materials.
In refusing to grant the builder and his company permission to appeal against that outcome, the Court found that any such appeal would stand no real prospect of success. The judge's factual conclusions on the various issues in the case were amply justified. An award to the homeowner of £70,000 in interim legal costs was also confirmed.