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Home Extensions and Conversions

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Home Extensions and Conversions – Avoiding the Nightmare Scenarios

Moving house can be stressful, expensive, and difficult, particularly in a tough market.  Home renovation projects offer an alternative and they seem to be as popular as ever.  The appeal is obvious: add space and value to a property without the upheaval of relocating.

However, extensions and conversions do come with their own set of hazards and traps – for both the home-owner and the builder. 

Ideally, both ‘sides’ would have the same expectations on price, workmanship, lead-times, payment terms, materials and the ‘end-product’, but, unfortunately, too often, they do not.

To any average household, a building project is a substantial investment and any substantial investment always involves – or should always involve - a detailed written agreement at the outset, which ensures both parties set off with the same expectations.

Similarly, a builder will require large sums to cover costs and many would agree that any such arrangement should not be left to a conversation and a hand-shake.

However, sadly, many building projects go ahead without a formal agreement in place, or perhaps worse, there is a written agreement, but it is unclear, confusing or contradictory – or all three!  Sometimes, the build begins without anything other than a brief exchange of quick emails which develop into a trail of emails as the build goes on.

In every build, there is also a need for flexibility on both sides.  Every project is unique and unforeseeable problems can arise.  Similarly, a home-owner needs opportunity to adapt and modify their plans as the building works take physical shape.  With some careful consideration at the beginning, this flexibility can be managed to minimise surprises. 

When disputes do arise between a builder and a home-owner, the written agreement will be crucial in determining who is in the right and who is in the wrong.  When there is no agreement, or the agreement is unhelpful (or fragmented by a series of emails,) the dispute will become a disruptive force, especially if building works are unfinished.   This can quickly turn the excitement of a home renovation project into a miserable and stressful legal conflict.

Time spent making sure a legal agreement is in place before building works begin, can save significant time, expense and stress – not to mention disruption to a project. 

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.