Happy World Architecture Day. There are plenty of reasons why you should consider buying a property that needs work, repairs, or renovations. From being able to negotiate on the asking price all the way to having free reign to completely re-design the home and make the space your own, more and more people are investing in “fixer-uppers”. There are some things you should consider before starting building work on a property, however, that could protect you from a legal standpoint.
Permission & Approval
When we think of home improvements we often think of Planning Permission which is usually required when building something new or making major changes such as adding an extension to a property. You may have to consider more than just Planning Permission when making improvements your property, though. For example, you may need Building Regulations Approval for smaller types of building work such as replacing windows and doors. Leaseholders will need permission from the freeholder before they make any changes to the property. Click the following gov.uk links to check if you need Planning Permission or Building Regulations Approval.
No matter what kind of building work you’re doing, it’s vital that you screen contractors accordingly. Just because a contractor has been recommended by a friend or family member doesn’t mean they are above-board (and remember, online testimonials are easy to forge). We always recommend hiring contractors who are in a Competent Person Scheme as well as registered gas engineers and electricians. Don’t feel shy about asking to see proof of qualifications and make sure you double check any trade association websites that your contractor says they are a member of to make sure they are actually listed.
Once you’ve found a suitable contractor it’s important to outline exactly what work needs doing to the property and to get a written quote for this. A written quote constitutes a fixed-price for the work so that you’re not hit with any nasty surprises. A contractor can’t charge you more than the quoted price unless you ask for additional work; they let you know that they have to do additional work to complete the project and you agree to it; or they discover that they made a genuine mistake when calculating the price (and can prove this).
We always recommend considering insurance when carrying out building work on a property. Your contractor may have their own set of insurance policies so it’s vital you check these and ensure they don’t run out before the work is due to be completed otherwise you will not be covered. It’s likely that your contractor will have Public Liability Insurance but if they don’t you may want to consider taking this out yourself to protect against the possibility of somebody being hurt or somebody’s property (e.g. a neighbour’s) being damaged during building work.
It is imperative that you get a written contract before any building work is carried out. If you don’t you may still find yourself beholden to an implied verbal contract once work has started and this makes resolving disputes infinitely more complicated. It’s likely that your contractor will provide their own written contract before work starts, so make sure you check that it covers everything you’ve agreed to.
In the unlikely event that the contractor doesn’t provide their own contract, you are well within your rights to draw up your own. Written contracts need to outline exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on with regards to deadlines, materials, payments, and clean-up. Do not work with a contractor who is unwilling to sign a written contract.
Now you know exactly what to consider before starting building work on a property, you’ll have a much better idea of whether or not a property that needs work is for you. We here at Jackson Barrett and Gass are conveyancing specialists, fully equipped to offer legal advice, information, and services with regards to purchasing properties in need of work, repairs, or renovations. Contact us today.