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Don’t let a building problem escalate into a dispute

Monday, June 27, 2016

Most owners and builders are reasonable people. They do not want to be involved in a building dispute on a new home or renovation.

Both parties normally start off trusting each other and want the project to proceed to completion with a minimum of stress. This is difficult to achieve when you consider the hundreds of lines of communication that occur during the life of the project, from conception of the building idea until the keys are finally handed over to you. Contracts, drawings, specifications, meetings, phone calls, texts and emails are all forms of communication and can all be interpreted differently.

As the building works progress if problems arise reasonable parties generally give ground on some issues because they realise they can compromise without ending up with a poorly built product. Sometimes, however, trust and communication are tested and this is where arguments can develop.

I became involved in a dispute on a building renovation where the owner was unhappy with the external coating system (render and paint) being applied on his new extension. The builder wanted an independent assessment of his subcontractor’s work and invited us to the site.

After recording our findings onsite and conducting further research I concluded the coating system being applied was not used in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements and did not match the agreed specifications. The builder shared the Tyrrells report I wrote with the owner, agreed with our conclusions and recommendations and the subcontractor was required to rectify defective works. The lines of communication remained open; the owner considered the builder’s actions to be professional and works continued onsite.

Some building disagreements which might appear to be manageable to an expert, ie an independent building consultant from Tyrrells, can be most distressing to a home owner and builder and can consume the lives of normally reasonable people. If a building dispute proceeds to court often the dispute becomes secondary to the issue of who is going to pay the legal costs.

So, what can you do to give yourself the best change of minimising or avoiding a dispute?

  • I suggest you download the document The Building Process. This will assist you in understanding the many steps involved when you are building or renovating.
  • If you are travelling down the path towards a dispute, read our article on minimising disputes or contact us for help.

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