Building Disputes: Tips to keep you sane
Building and renovating are complex tasks. Most of your clients will be extremely unfamiliar with the technical requirements and dimensions of your work. They may ask you many questions during the time you work for them and the way you respond to these inquiries – and any concerns they may have – is crucial. Open and honest communication with your client is one of the keys to business success.
Regardless of how competent a builder you are, it is inevitable you will encounter complaints during your career, and the way you handle these can make or break your building business. Below are a few guidelines to keep you level headed should a complaint arise:
• Immediately seek professional advice so that you can respond from a knowledgeable and considered position.
• Have a formal, written system in place for recording and keeping track of complaints.
• Always follow the contract.
• If variations to the contract arise, always ensure these are documented and signed off by the client.
• Keep copies of any documents you give to your clients and record any steps you took to try and solve the dispute.
• Do not agree or disagree with the client’s verbal demands or statements. Ask for details to be put into writing, and respond once you have seek professional advice.
• Let the client vent their frustrations and be mindful not to interrupt. Customer service is crucial to the success of any business, particularly those operating in a competitive environment like the building industry. Address each individual issue after they have had their say.
• Fix defective work immediately – do not wait until completion or attend to it during the defects liability period (usually 13 weeks) as clients may be justified in not paying for genuinely defective or incomplete work.
• Explain that work-in-progress is just that and is not defective work. Ask the client not to pass judgment until work is complete.
• If a written claim is received from a client, always acknowledge receipt and advise the client you will seek professional advice before responding. Respond to written claims in writing.
• Always tell your professional adviser everything, including mistakes you think you made, so that you can be defended correctly. It is difficult for your legal adviser to properly defend when all details are not disclosed.
• At the completion of the job, builders often forget to inform their clients of some important points. This oversight can result in unnecessary and unpleasant disputes. Inform your client that there may be a ‘settling in’ period for building materials. For example, door hinges may need adjustment.
• Understand your contractual rights. In a majority of cases where a price has been quoted to the client and has been accepted in the form of a fixed price contract, then there is no later obligation on you to quantify that price or show your margin.
You don’t need to be involved in a dispute to benefit from our advice, but if you are experiencing difficulties in the building and construction industry we can help you with a wide range of issues. Here at The Quinn Group, our team of experienced Lawyers can provide you with more information and assistance in a building and construction related matter. For more information or for advice regarding any other business law issues please submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.