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What are my cooling-off and cancellation rights?

What are my cooling-off and cancellation rights?

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If you decide not to go ahead with your building, landscaping or decoration work your legal right to cancel and get your money back will depend on where and how you made the arrangements, whether they’ve started work and whether you've ordered 'made to measure' or standard products.

If you made arrangements for the work in the contractor or company’s place of business or home, your right to cancel will depend on whether they’ve started the work.

Cancelling before work starts

You can cancel the work as long as you haven't made a contract and you won't have to pay anything. However since a contract is formed when either you or the business makes an offer and the other party accepts, you’ll probably have some form of contractual agreement, even if this isn’t a formal written contract.

You may have signed an agreement, agreed to a quote (you could have done this verbally), agreed a starting date, paid a deposit or just verbally told them to go ahead. If any of these apply, cancelling will be breaking that agreement unless you’ve agreed conditions for cancelling (such as a cancellation charge) or the business hasn’t honoured the agreement by starting or finishing late.

They may ask you to pay either a cancellation fee (which ideally would have been agreed in a contract) or pay for loss of profit caused by your cancellation because they had not booked any other work for the planned duration of your project.

They may withhold some of any deposit you paid. You may need to negotiate this amount.

Cancelling after work starts

If you cancel after the work has started you’ll need to negotiate with the business. They may ask you to pay a cancellation fee to cover:

  • labour costs up until the time you cancelled
  • any items installed or fitted that can’t be removed without damaging them
  • the return of any items that have been delivered but not installed
  • any loss of profit caused by your cancellation. 

If you paid a deposit they will probably hold some or all of it to help cover their expenses. Negotiate with the business if you think the amount they’re withholding or the cancellation fee is unreasonable.


If you arranged for the work away from the business’s premises such as over the telephone, by mail order or via the internet you have a statutory 'cooling-off' period of 14 days to cancel and get a refund. Check any terms and conditions as the period may be longer than 14 days. After the cooling off period your cancellation rights are the same as if you’d arranged the work while on the business’s premises.

If you have ordered bespoke goods like a conservatory, kitchen or outbuilding you won't automatically get a cooling-off period.

There is also no cooling-off period if you invite the business into your home for urgent repairs or maintenance - for example, when you ask a plumber to come and mend a burst pipe or a roofer to fix a leak.

Your cooling-off period begins the day after you give the go-ahead for the work to be done.

If work hasn’t started and you are still within the cooling-off period you can cancel and get all your money back. Always cancel in writing, by email or letter, so that there's record of your request.

If you asked for the service to be provided quickly, during the cooling-off period and the business provided the cancellation information, you’ll have to pay a part of the agreed price. The amount will depend on how much was completed when you asked to cancel. If however the contractor started the work during the cooling-off period without your approval you’ll have the right to cancel and get a full refund of all costs.


You should always try to negotiate with the business if you disagree about how much you’re being charged for work already completed when you cancel, whether a cancellation charge is fair or not or over how much of your deposit covers the business’s loss.

If the business is a member of a trade association, the association may be able to help you in your negotiations. You may also need to consult an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme - a way of solving disagreements without going to court.

Further information

What do I do before I start building work?

How should I choose and work with a builder on my home improvement project?