LAWLINK: Building bother

Q: We decided to renovate our home by extending the kitchen and changing some of the upstairs rooms. Our architect was able to plan things in such a way so that we didn’t need for planning permission. We got in touch with a local developer to project manage the build for us. The building works ended up being so extensive that we had to move out for three weeks, which was a step that we were willing to take. There were delays with windows and external doors,and now, some five months after the building works started, we have had to move back into essentially one and half rooms. Is there anything we can do?

A: As a first step, you should look closely at any building agreement or written agreement between you and the builder.

While there might be delays with certain sub-contractors or suppliers, your contract appears to be entirely with a specific developer, and it’s to that agreement you should have regard.

It is likely that you signed a version of the standard Law Society/CIF Building Agreement.

That contract will generally specify that works shall be completed by a specific date, or within a certain number of weeks.

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Generally speaking, and again your contract may state differently, the contractor will have sole possession of the site while the works are ongoing, and generally the time allowed for the works to complete shall be extended if the cause of the delay is not reasonably within the control of the developer.

That said, there is a substantial difference between a build that would take around three or four weeks and a build that would take five months.

Whether or not your developer has any liability for the delay would depend upon the specific circumstances of your case, and how and why the delays occurred. For example, if you pushed for the works to start before all materials were available, your builder may not be liable. Alternatively, if your developer assured you that the materials were available, then the developer might be liable.

Your contract may provide for arbitration and you should ensure that if this is provided for in the contract that the terms of the arbitration are adhered to.

You should consult with your solicitor with the contract and any written correspondence, emails and text messages that may have passed between you and the developer.