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What are my rights if things have gone wrong?

What are my rights if things have gone wrong?

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If you’ve had home improvement work done and there’s a problem caused by the trader, the law gives you certain rights to refund, replacement or repair.

You can find useful information here on consumer rights https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights

And if you're worried about safety issues on a building site, you can report them here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction

Fixing the problem

If the trader 'sub-contracted' (passed on) some or all of the work to another business, it is still their responsibility to deal with problems. Gather your paperwork and receipts, take photos to use as evidence of the problem and make notes about what’s happened, including dates and times.

By law, builders should carry out work with 'reasonable care and skill'. You’re legally entitled to either ask them to fix the problem (if they provided you with goods as well as the service) or get a refund and stop them doing any more work - if they just provided the service.

Let them know you understand what you’re entitled to.

If the work was carried out before 1 October 2015 your rights apply under The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

If you gave the go-ahead on or after 1 October 2015, your rights apply under The Consumer Rights Act 2015. 

The trader should fix the problem within a reasonable amount of time, without causing you too much inconvenience. The law doesn’t say what counts as reasonable, so you’ll have to agree it between you or decide to take it further.

If they can’t or won’t fix the problem, you can ask for a partial or full refund - depending on how bad the problem is. You’ll have to come to an agreement with them about how much you should get. It’s a good idea to start by suggesting a figure and explaining why you think it’s reasonable.

What if the builder hasn’t done the work on time?

You have to give the trader a second chance to finish the work, unless you made it clear that it was important that the work had to be finished by a certain date. Make it clear that this time, the work has to be finished by a certain date. It’s a good idea to put it in writing - this will help make it feel more urgent. If you said the work had to be finished by a certain date you can tell the trader you don’t want them to carry on working for you. You must put this in writing. 

You should pay them for any work they’ve done so far, though you can ask for a discount to make up for any inconvenience they’ve caused. If they’ve done very little or no work at all, you might not want to pay them anything. If you’ve already given them some money (or a deposit) and you think it’s too much for the work they’ve done, you can suggest a figure and ask them to refund the difference. 

What if I think I'm being overcharged?

If the builder has charged more than you expected or was agreed, your rights depend on whether you were given a quote or an estimate. Check your paperwork if you’re not sure what you were given. A quote is a promise to do work at an agreed price. An estimate is the trader's best guess as to how much the work will cost.

What if something's been installed badly?

If you’ve had something installed at home and it’s been done badly, you’re entitled to get it fixed - or you might be able to get a refund. For example if you get an electric shock from your oven, your shower has really low pressure or your light switch is on the wrong wall.

Your first port of call is to complain directly to your builder or contractor, or to the company that employs them.

What if the builder has done something unsafe or dangerous?

Stop using anything that’s dangerous or unsafe straight away. If it’s an electrical appliance, switch it off and unplug it if you can. If it’s a gas appliance and you can smell gas, call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

You should report a dangerous building or structure to your local council immediately, even if it’s outside of normal working hours. You’ll have to contact your council directly or the emergency services if the health and safety of people are at immediate risk. Leave the building if you think you might be in immediate danger.

Can I take legal action?

If you do end up taking your builder to court, you will need to be able to provide evidence of the problem. This is why it's always a good idea to take pictures of building work before and throughout the project and also keep a diary of when things are done, what issues you raised and what was agreed.

If you are bringing a case to court on the basis that your builder hasn’t done the job with reasonable care or skill you also need to make it clear that you are rejecting the work. If you don’t do this promptly the court could decide you were partially satisfied and only offer you a part refund.

Reporting a builder or contractor to Trading Standards

It’s really important that you report the trader to Trading Standards if they’ve done anything that’s dangerous or unsafe. You can’t report the trader to Trading Standards directly - contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline and they will pass your report to Trading Standards.

You can call the consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or talk to a Welsh-speaking adviser on 0808 223 1144.

Further information

What to expect during building work

What contract should I have for my building work?