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Dispute resolution techniques

The most common problem between the customer and the contractor is a lack of communication. When you are commencing upon a construction project of any description, be that a boiler replacement in London, a house rewiring project, right through to a some garden decking, you should always have a written agreement in place with the builder, plumber or electrician in there is a dispute.

Resolving building disputes

We all know that things don't always go to plan when you are building or even having a smaller job done such as a bolier replacement or electrical rewire. However, there are steps you can take to help resolve a dispute that has arisen between you and your, electrician, plumber, locksmith, carpet contractor, aerial installer, painter and decorator, home building contractor or even your handyman.

Firstly, it's vitally important to develop and maintain positive communication with your builder or tradesperson. A positive, polite attitude and friendly disposition can mitigate against a dispute arising in the first place. If people can't speak to each other at the start of the project, it becomes very difficult for them to start speaking when problems arise.

Talk to each other

The first step to resolving a dispute with your builder or tradesperson is to discuss your concerns, as soon as you become aware of a problem. You may find that there is just a miscommunication.

However, the first chat you have is likely to be about the quality of the work. Now, unless something really outrageous is occuring before your eyes - such as painting on an unsanded wall, then wait un til the job is completed before you start a conversation about the quality of the work. After all, the job is not complete yet and there are lots of things to be completed for sign off. Things that may look unfinsihed to the untrained eye might just be your contractor waiting for something to settle before applying the finishing touches.

However, if you must or they have finished, then have a look through this document produced by the Victorian Building Commission in Australia - Guide to Standards and Tolerances. regardless of what country you are about to have your dispute, it will help you understand what standard of work is acceptable, for example, it explains how much shrinkage around timber windows and doors is tolerable. I's really worth a look at becasue it will mean that you don't get fobbed off by the contractor in the first instance.

Write the contractor an email or letter

Following your conversation, write down the details of what was agreed to be done and by when. Send the letter or email to your contractor and keep a record of the date it was sent and a copy of the letter or email itself. You might need this letter if the dispute remains unresolved.

a final demand

In the vast majority of cases a discussion followed by an email or letter that sets out the agreement to rectify the problems, will put the matter to rest. However, if your contractor has broken that agreement then you need to write another letter or email to that effect stating that unless the actions you previously agreed to are not completed by a specific date, then you will be taking legal proceedings. Note down whetehr the contarctor is a member of any Guilds, associations or governing bodies and inform them that you will be contacting them for advice.

Arbitration bewteen parties

Your next sensible option is to contact those trade bodies your contarctor is a member of and state your case requesting their advice. They may well sort everything out for you. They may well offer to arbitrate. Arbitration is an option open to both homeowner and contractor and can avoid court disputes and the large costs and time delays involved with them. An arbitrator is an independent, private, confidential, individual with experience of resolving disputes between parties. Employing an arbitrator will usually provide you with a faster, more cost effective resolution than you will find with litigation.

Taking it legal

The nuclear option and really the last resort. You will find many solicitors and legal representatives willing to hear your case - for a fee. But make sure you weigh up the cost of taking the contractor to court verses the amount you feel the contractor owes in the first place!