How to handle disputes with builders and traders

Whether it is a planned project or emergency repairs, if you are getting work done on your property or workplace, it requires an investment of time and money.

Each year in the UK builders undertake a vast array of projects much to their customers’ satisfaction. However, despite the best of intentions, there are times when projects do not go to plan and disputes arise. In such cases adopting a calm approach and trying to resolve the matter through discussion is advised.

In many cases disputes are often due to rogue traders who pass themselves off as reputable traders. Red flags that a prospective builder or trader may not be genuine include asking for money upfront, an inability to provide examples of past projects and difficulty in getting in touch with them.

If you do find yourself in a dispute with a builder or trader, check out our top tips of how to handle it correctly…

  1. Give them an opportunity to put things right
    A reputable builder should welcome the opportunity to put right any work which is subpar and should be given the opportunity to do so. However, this is only the case if they are qualified. If you discover that, for example, they are not qualified to work with gas or electricity then do not let them work on these things within your property.
    If you do not feel you can trust your builder to put things right, under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 you can advise them that the work they have done was not with ‘reasonable care and skill’ and that they cannot carry out any further work on the project. This means they have not met their contractual obligations.

  2. Get a second opinion
    It may be worth getting another builder in to assess the work. A professional will be able to establish what exactly has gone wrong with the project, what it will take to put it right and how much remedial works could cost.

  3. Keep comprehensive records
    Take plenty of photographs of each stage of the project and aim to keep a paper trail. Keeping a copy of any letters or emails that have been sent/received could help support your case in the future and builds a holistic picture of the situation.

  4. Getting back your money
    Getting back your money is not always easy and may even result in court proceedings. If you paid with a credit card you may be able to reclaim costs under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 or if the work was insured, you could look into making an insurance claim.
    If the amount you are claiming back is less than £10,000, you could pursue a claim through the small claims court. For projects of greater value taking the case to county court could be an option.
    Pursuing a case through the courts can be time consuming and potentially expensive, which is why aiming to resolve things through mediation is always recommended.

  5. Trading Standards
    Trading Standards exist to protect consumers and if your builder has carried out work inadequately, you can report them. If you have fallen foul of a rogue trader, in reporting them you could prevent other consumers facing the same issues in the future. To report a trader, visit

If you’d like to find out more about the legal services offered by Smith Partnership, don’t hesitate to contact us via Alternatively, speak to a member of our team directly on 0330 123 1229.