Build build build!

What should you consider when engaging builders? What happens if you get into dispute with them? Steve Jackson explains.

Interest rates are at an all time low. Property values continue to increase, and there's been a stamp duty holiday. Owner-occupiers are spending more time working from home. These have all added to an increase in builder activity in Cambridge recently. Everyone has seen it – scaffolding being erected and dismantled, plant and material deliveries, verges being ripped up by parked vehicles, and scant regard paid to conditions appended to planning permissions that are designed to restrict daily working hours. With this huge increase in activity and a limited supply-chain, it is hardly surprising then that differences of opinion (or disputes) arise between builders and clients when work starts on site. It's what happens.

The essential issues to cover before engaging your builder would include these:

The vast majority of home owners would be considered “inexperienced clients” – that is simply because they are not serial buyers of construction work. And when things go awry this often leads to having to decide whether to put up with work that they consider to be sub-standard and live with the consequences of it, or to take issue with the perpetrator; as most people are not confrontational and possibly not sure of their “rights”, builders frequently come out on top. This need not happen and can often be resolved by using a construction professional with experience in these matters.

There are simple (pre-printed) building contracts that can be used and signed by the home owner and the builder and these should be used for all but simple works items. They are a “must have” for extensions, roof rooms, any structural alterations and reasonable size projects and are not expensive at about £40 per copy.

Before working in London for nearly 8 years, Steve Jackson – a resident of Queen Edith’s, Cambridge – worked locally for an Australian professional services company on secondment to Cambridgeshire County Council, as Commercial Manager involved in its schools building programme. Before that he was Commercial Manager for the Japanese developer Kajima on its award winning scheme Accordia in Brooklands Avenue in Cambridge.

Steve has decided to re-boot his career due to the current COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown. A Chartered Surveyor who has recently worked on major infrastructure projects in London, including the £400M Tottenham Court Road underground station and £100M City Airport projects, he says that the daily commute into London proved a little too risky. Even the constant adrenalin rushes whilst supporting sub-contractors in their contractual disputes on Crossrail has not convinced him that the commute is still worthwhile!

“I have been made aware that there is a requirement to provide local residents and builders with a non-adversarial mediation service that is both quicker and far cheaper than recourse to law”, says Steve. “This should be of interest to residents nervous about ongoing building work as well as those who may already be in dispute with them. I am happy for the first half-hour review of any issue to be provided free of charge.”

Contact Steve Jackson at