Construction contracts can offer protection for you, your contractor and any consultants involved, whether you are self building or just getting some work done on your own home.
A contract provides a formal framework within which work can proceed. Each party's obligations are agreed at the outset and clearly documented. If disagreements do arise, everyone can refer back to the contract for clarification.
This can prevent serious disputes down the line and/or a costly trip to court!
Many of us get work done with little more than a quote and a handshake, then we're surprised when things get complicated!
A construction contract formalises the work agreement in terms of:
An appropriate contract provides an excellent foundation for your project and the basis for a good relationship with your contractors. With obligations and expectations clear from the outset, any changes can be easily identified, discussed and new terms agreed.
Not only does it give you a tool by which to measure and control a contractor's performance but it offers them a degree of protection too. Many builders lose out when a client changes their mind about what they want or how they want it with little understanding of the impact it has on the contractor's costs or schedule.
These misunderstandings can quickly descend into a serious issue and a soured relationship which isn't good news for the rest of your project. With a good contract, these changes can be identified, discussed, costed, agreed and paid for. Everybody's happy!
Although a contract is a good foundation, don't just think of it simply as recourse if things go wrong. Use it as a tool to manage the project and follow it up with effective and regular communication. It's far easier to maintain relationships and steer the project than it is to argue and fight your way to a resolution when it's all gone wrong.
The JCT (Joint Contract Tribunal) has been producing standard forms of contract for the construction industry since 1931. They offer a downloadable contract designed for self builders, renovators and home improvers, who are directly employing a builder or consultant such as an architect.
Construction solicitors Contract Store have also just developed a contract package specifically for self builders and homeowners. They have worked in collaboration with self-build friendly site-insurance and warranty providers 'Self Build Zone' to produce a set of simplified and reusable contract documents to meet the needs of the self build and home improvement market.
If you are getting work done on your current home, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have a free construction contract available for download on their website.
If you are self building your own home, your level of involment and contract needs will vary depending on which build route you decide to take.
Please note that the information on this page does not constitute legal advice and as always with legal matters, you should seek professional advice for your particular situation.