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Builders guarantee for a large self-contained extension?
My parents are now near to completion on a large self-contained extension, which is really a one bedroom flat attached to the house. They have done everything through a main contractor, who then sub-contracts the work for roofing, plumbing and electrics, as well as his own kitchen/bathrooms/windows supplies companies, and my parents pay the contractor only. He came recommended by the architect who is obviously his mate, and my parents went with him because he could start the work immediately.
At the quote stage, guarantees were not discussed. Unfortunately I was away and would have insisted if I were around that the work is guaranteed for 5-10 years as I thought that was standard for something this size. Now, as the extension is due to be completed, my Dad has asked the main contractor for a guarantee and he is only willing to give 1 year. He is not a member of the National House Building Council so can't offer the 10 years you get being a member (he's also not a house builder per se but does large extensions and conversions). I'm guessing he is not part of any guilds/schemes that offer these insurance backed guarantees (IBG).
What options do my parents have to extend the guarantee beyond 1 year? Can they take out an IBG offered by a third party? I'm assuming the main contractor needs to approach someone for this. Will third parties offer an IBG to someone who is not a member of a guild/association?
If there is a major defect in the building work beyond 1 year and the builder refuses to fix it out of goodwill, I've read that "guarantees do not affect your legal rights to have work done with reasonable care and skill using materials that are of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose. A trader would not be able to claim that you cannot get a repair on any work that you discover is not up to standard after your guarantee period is over. You could be legally entitled to have issues with the quality of work put right free of charge, or to have any products repaired or replaced." So it looks like there is legal recourse, but I don't know how difficult it is to pursue.
If my parents can't get the contractor to provide an IBG to guarantee work beyond 1st year, would their buildings insurance cover any major defects?
Are there any other insurance options they could pursue that do not involve the main contractor?
The workmanship seems quite good to the eye, but obviously I'm worried about defects appearing beyond 1 year. Any advice will be gratefully received.
* UPDATE *
Thank you Holmbrook Interiors Ltd, really helpful to know. My parents spoke to the architect who has assuaged our concerns. There is a contract. They have extended their buildings insurance to cover the extension, so any defects should be covered (though high excess for things like subsidence). Next time for a big job, being a member of a trade body is definitely something we will remember to look for! Thank you again.
1 Answer from a MyBuilder Extension Builder
It's unusual that a builder doing these sort of large works isn't a member of some sort of Trade body such as FMB, but not unheard of. Presumably he's done other work introduced by his architect associate, who would have an interest in not letting him loose on clients if his work isn't up to standard. It may be worth voicing your concerns to the architect.
Have you seen other examples of his work/ referrals by previous clients? I don't think there's any way you could get an insurance backed guarantee other than through a scheme the builder is a member of.
It's also worth bearing in mind that the work will be inspected by building control at all the critical stages, i.e. foundations, drains, structural and fire safety etc. and this does offer some level of confidence that major items will be properly checked. The architect is often involved in onsite inspections also, but that depends on the contract between the architect/builder/client. I assume there is a written contract between the builder and your parents, if not, I would strongly suggest that you don't proceed without one, as it makes any potential dispute easier to deal with.
Regarding legal recourse if necessary, yes you have rights as a consumer, but these are very difficult to pursue if the company is no longer trading, for instance. This is the whole purpose of IBGs, of course, to give consumers the confidence to engage in such projects. They do not remove the necessity for the builder to give his own guarantee, and indeed are one of the main requirements of a contractor joining such a scheme. The contractor is still required to make any repairs at his cost, the insurance scheme is only in the event of him being unable to do so for any reason.
I am not aware of any schemes that would provide a "3rd party" IBG without the builder being a member of a Trade body and would think them unlikely to exist, as the Contractor is required to sign a contract of obligations and provide evidence of competence and trading history. Again, giving consumers confidence is much of the point to a contractor being a member of such bodies. Consumer bodies usually recommend to only engage contractors who can show such commitment, especially for larger projects.
Hope this helps in some way.
Answered 31st Aug 2015
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