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Everything You Need To Know About Building Disputes

Last updated:

November 06, 2022

Verified by Lawhive solicitors


A building dispute is a type of disagreement that happens between people or companies involved in a building project. In most cases you should try to discuss the problem with everyone involved before seeking legal action.

What is a building dispute?

A building dispute is a type of disagreement that happens between people or companies involved in a building project.

Disagreements that lead to building disputes can be about:

  • the quality of the work done,
  • the amount of time spent on the project,
  • the cost of work or payment terms,
  • payment,
  • errors in construction contracts,
  • professional negligence.

Building disputes can involve many different people such as employers, builders, contractors, sub-contractors, insurance companies and credit or debit card companies.

To avoid a building dispute, you should get legal advice before agreeing to work or signing a contract. A solicitor can help by reviewing and/or creating a construction contract based on your specific needs.

The cost of taking a building dispute to court often outweighs the cost of the building work itself. Generally, it will be best for you to try and settle any disagreements outside of court. If you have concerns about starting and managing the conversation, you can hire a solicitor or dispute expert to guide you through the process. See the next section below for further details about the ways you can resolve a building dispute.

Do I need a solicitor?

You will likely need a solicitor if you cannot resolve the dispute by speaking to the other person involved, making a payment claim against a credit card company yourself or through Alternative Dispute Resolution services.

DIY Score:


/ 5

You'll likely need a solicitor for a building dispute



Discuss the problem

1-5 Days

You can find a solution by talking through the points of your building dispute with the other person or company involved. This is strongly recommended because it could save you a lot of time.

Formal complaint

1-4 Weeks

If you are having a dispute with a builder, you can ask for their company’s complaints procedure and file a complaint through them. Large trade companies will have a formal complaints procedure which will help resolve the problem.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

£900 - £5000
1-8 weeks

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a cheaper and faster alternative to going to court. There are a few different types of ADR. Perhaps the most common is mediation in which an independent third party (called a mediator) will come to a decision that you and the other side will have to agree on. A mediator’s decision is not legally binding. Other types of ADR involve hiring an expert in the type of dispute you are having that will hear about the dispute from both sides and come to a decision on how it can be resolved. You may see these referred to on other sites as Adjudication or Arbitration. You can choose to hire a solicitor to explain the steps of the ADR process, advise you on what evidence you should bring and even represent you during the process.

Going to court

If none of the above methods have worked, you can take your building dispute to court. The Small Claims Court receives cases about poor building services and compensation. You can sue a builder, contractor or other professional on a building project if they acted recklessly or carelessly, causing you a loss. You can also sue your builder if they have failed to do something that they promised to do in a contract. You are strongly advised to hire a solicitor in both of these cases. Going to court is the most expensive and most time consuming option but it will give you the certainty that your building dispute problem will be fixed.

What steps are involved?

Step 1

Solicitor assessment

Your solicitor will try to understand your legal position by looking at the facts of your building dispute. At this stage, you should provide the solicitor with the evidence and documentation relevant to your dispute. Your solicitor will explain your legal rights and obligations and advise you on what to do next.

Step 2

Letter of Claim

If you choose to take the other side to court, your solicitor will first send a letter of claim. This letter will include the basic information about the people involved and a brief summary of the case you want to make.

Step 3

Letter of Response

The other side should respond with their own letter. This letter will contain a summary of their response to the case you make.

Step 4

Pre-action meeting

You are required to have a meeting with the other side within 21 days of the response letter. In this meeting, you and the other side will have to try to settle the building dispute. You can instruct your solicitor or hire an independent third party (a mediator) to guide this meeting. If you cannot reach an agreement, the process will continue into a court case unless you both decide to pursue an Alternative Dispute Resolution service.

Step 5

Court proceedings

Your solicitor will fill out a Claim Form and submit it to the court. The other side will have to respond to this and a court date will be set.

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Evidence and documentation


  • Record of communication between you and the other person (or people) involved. This can be emails, letters, texts or other documents
  • Photographs of work done


  • Construction contract
  • Home insurance
  • Credit or debit card insurance
  • Planning permission / Building regulations approval


  • Two-Party Mediation fees can cost between £900 and £2,400 depending on the value of the dispute
  • Adjudicator fees average around £8,878
  • Mediation fees are on average around £140 per person per hour

Factors that effect cost

  • Level of cooperation from both parties
  • Whether you choose ADR services or to go to court
  • How many professionals you hire


  • Mediation can last between 1 - 2 days
  • Adjudication typically lasts 28 days but can be extended an extra 14 days
  • Litigation can last between 12 - 18 months

Factors that effect time

  • Complexity of the case
  • Lack of cooperation from either party
  • Number of experts and legal council appointed

Your legal rights

The laws that could protect you in a building dispute:

  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that goods must be correctly installed, if installing them was part of the contract.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that reasonable care and skill must be used while working.
  • Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act states that the credit card company you use to pay for building services is jointly responsible if something goes wrong with building payments, as long as the job costs more than £100 and less than £30,000 and you make a claim within 120 days from noticing the issue.


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