Many people experience problems when having their homes improved or extended and the dream can become a nightmare.
These problems can include poor workmanship, excessive delays and overcharging.
Unfortunately such problems seem to be on the increase.
Most building companies do provide a good quality service but unfortunately there are many "cowboys".
Other than regulating certain types of building works under the Building Regulations the manner in which work is undertaken is beyond the Council's control.
The following advice may reduce the likelihood of problems occurring.
If you are thinking of altering or extending your property, here are a series of suggestions that will help you to avoid some of the problems and achieve an end result that lives up to your expectations.
There are two different types of approval that may be needed, Planning Permission and Building Regulations.
Do not attempt to avoid these requirements.
In addition to laying yourself open to enforcement action by the Council, should you consider selling your property the purchaser's solicitors will ask for a copy of all Planning and Building Regulation consents.
If you do not have them it will hold you up and in some circumstances may even prevent the sale of your property.
See if your neighbours or friends can recommend anyone to you.
Choose at least two builders with an established reputation and ask them to give a written quotation.
Ask for the address of work that they have recently completed so that you can check them out yourself.
Ask them if they are able to offer you a ten-year insurance backed guarantee for the work.
Details of insurance schemes that may be available can be obtained from Building Control.
calling offering to repair something which they "have noticed when passing" or salesmen using so called "cold calling" techniques aimed at selling you a service you may not in fact want or need.
Make sure that the builders provide you with a "written quotation" detailing all the work to be carried out.
Do not accept documents headed "Estimate" other than in exceptional circumstances.
Quality work and value for money should be the aims so try to find the best builder for the best price.
Avoid cash deals to save VAT.
If you deliberately avoid paying VAT you may expose yourselves to prosecution if you subsequently try to make a claim under Consumer Protection Law.
Public liability cover should be at least £500,000.
Do not accept any excuse.
If valid insurance cannot be shown choose another builder.
Also check your own property insurance to ensure that you are covered while building work is being carried out and inform your mortgage company as some have a requirement to notify them of works to a mortgaged property.
Use a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) Building Contract for a home owner/occupier to confirm your agreement with a builder. (Visit Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) website )
A reputable builder will want to use it.
A copy may be obtained by telephoning 0121 722 8200 or through local stockists and bookshops or stationers.
Do not assume that just because he shows a logo his membership is valid.
Ring through to the organisation shown and check his membership.
When carrying out work that may need Building Regulation consent ensure that Building Control has been notified as required at various stages and that Council officers have been along and inspected the work.
Building Control will issue a completion certificate which covers Building Regulation matters, but you must access the condition and quality of those parts of the project not subject to control under the Building Regulations, such as finishes, painting etc.
Ideally you should pay in stages as the work progresses.
If disputes arise then keep copies of correspondence, notes of conversations, photographs etc. as evidence to support your case.
Contact the Building Surveyor to check that he is satisfied and is prepared to issue a completion certificate.
A number of laws offer some protection for consumers. Many of these such as the Trades Description Act 1968 and the Consumer Protection Act 1987 are enforced by Essex County Council's Trading Standards department. ( Trading Standards at Essex County Council )
In the unfortunate event your building works do not come up to your expectations you can contact the Trading Standards department or take independent legal advice from a solicitor or Citizens advice Bureau.
Do not forget that building work can be a source of noise and pollution. Please think of your neighbours and your local environment, restrict work to reasonable hours, keep noise levels to a minimum and do not obstruct pavements and roads with materials.
Builders may find themselves the subject of complaints from householders about noise, hours of working, recommended working hours, dust or mud on the roads and there may be many other matters depending upon the site and local circumstances.
We all like to get on with our neighbours and we would like them to have consideration for us but in turn we have our own responsibilities to them.
To enjoy a happy relationship there has to be a partnership and the partnership should be such that everyone will benefit.
By working with the Basildon Building Control Service and following their advice it is most likely that any complaints about your building work will not be necessary and enforcement action will be avoided.
There is no reason why you cannot do the work yourself but be warned even a confident DIY'er should think about employing specialist trades where appropriate e.g. electricians, plumbers.
Never attempt to install an unvented hot water system or gas water heater yourself without advising Building Control.
It is a Legal Requirement that anyone working on a gas installation has to be registered.
In the long run jobs such as roof felting are also best left to a professional, ensuring that the correct materials are used and applied properly to maximize the life span of the roof.