USING BUILDERS AND TRADESMEN TIPS AND ADVICE FROM LETTINGFOCUS.COM
What you need to know before you employ a builder or tradesman by David Lawrenson
If you are thinking of doing difficult building jobs yourself you need to remember that unfamiliar things take longer for you to do than they would a professional.
Time is money, so even if you can get it done cheaper yourself, once you factor in the extra time it would take, ask yourself if you are really making any saving at all.
So it may make sense to use a tradesman or builder.
HOW TO FIND A GOOD BUILDER OR TRADESMAN
The first thing is to ask for recommendations. If you know builders who have had a job done on time and done well, go and see the job yourself.
Find out if the builder is a member of a trade body such as the Federation of Master Builders. If it for a specific job such as a new roof, check if they are a member of the appropriate trade body for that trade - for roofing that would be the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.
Check with the appropriate builders trade body to see what guarantees (if any) membership really gives you and call or check on line to see if the company is actually really listed as a member.
Ask the builder how long they have been in business and for proof that they possess the necessary liability insurance. Insist on seeing a copy of their public liability insurance which should also validate their address and trading name (just in case you have to sue them later.)
Don’t pay by the hour and always insist on a quote not an estimate. (An estimate is nothing more than a rough guess of what the job might cost whereas a quote should be fixed and break down the work involved into distinct parts.)
GET A DETAILED SPEC
Do a detailed specification of the works you want doing and agree whether it will be you or the builder who will pay for materials.
Get at least three quotes for bigger jobs and instruct each company to provide a description of materials to be used.
Ask about the builder or tradesman’s availability and avoid those who will be juggling your job alongside too many others. But bear in mind, if the builder can’t start for ages, that might indicate they are in demand because they’re good!
If you are thinking of buying a property which needs building work, get the builder in as soon as possible, and well before exchange of contracts so they can fit you in. Get an agreement from them to start as soon after the property completes as possible.
Don’t ignore gut feel. Do you think you can get on the builder? Did they treat you with respect? How professional they were when they came to look at the job. Did they make lots of notes?
Then go through each written quote in detail. Has the builder quoted for everything in the job spec? Did they explain technical words? Did they provide insurance certificates and provide reference sites? Are they available and have they said how long the job would take? Are they planning to subcontract work? If so, how well do they know the people they’ll be subbing to?
Once you have their quote, try to get agreement on retaining 5-10% of the total cost for “snagging,” - this to be payable one month after the job has been completed if there is nothing wrong. That way you can be sure the builder will come around promptly to fix problems.
Don’t be afraid of imposing penalties if the builder is late but you must accept delays if it is you who changes your mind.
A word of caution here! Builders make lots of money from the extra things you think of as the job progresses because once on the job, the builder has more control of the price of the extras. That’s why you need a detailed specification in the first place.
Both you and the builder or tradesman should sign the quote or have a contract drawn up.
If the builder then finds unforeseen problems, it’s usually his problem, though in some cases it might have been impossible to have anticipated a problem.
Should this happen, and you get into a dispute, ask an independent surveyor for their opinion.
Make sure you put in your contract something like “claims for unforeseeable work will not be entertained, where the work could reasonably have been anticipated.”
Never pay a builder or tradesman until the agreed stage of the work has been completed, the only possible exception being where perishable or made to measure materials are needed.
A Building Surveyor might be required to ensure your builder has done the work to the right standards in accordance with current building regulations.
Depending on what you’re doing, you may need to apply for planning permission. Phone the council for the planning forms and submit the plans and your fee.
An architect or a Planning Consultant can handle the process of getting planning permission for you and meet the planning department too.
The Buildings Regulations Officer at the council planning office can send you their guidelines and application forms appropriate to the work you are carrying out. And once you’ve submitted the forms, a Buildings Officer will visit to make sure the site complies with the guidelines.
Check your builder has submitted the application forms because Buildings Officers have power to shut down unsafe sites.
When the work is done, you’ll get a Buildings Regulations Approval Certificate. Keep it safe along with Planning Consent forms as you’ll need them when you come to sell.
For more on this topic, a good book on employing builders is "Getting The Builders In" by Paul Grimaldi. Click this link:Getting the Builders in to buy it from Amazon.
ABOUT DAVID LAWRENSON AND LETTINGFOCUS
I’m David Lawrenson from property investment experts LettingFocus.com.
We work in a consultancy role with organisations helping them with their products and services for the private rented sector but we also offer a limited amount of unbiased consultancy advice for landlords too.
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