We have all heard of building horror stories – the company going bust mid build, structures caving in, the wrong wall being taken out, or work dragging on for months after the assumed schedule. Hopefully, these horror stories will never become anecdotal but if they do, what are your rights?
The best way to ensure that your project runs smoothly is to have all your agreements and documentations in order. Fully research the construction company beforehand or choose the builder based on recommendation. If in the unfortunate event something goes wrong, there are a number of laws to help protect you.
Construction Contracts Act 2002
This act provides a process for dealing with payments and disputes that may arise from your construction contract. It also covers ways to enforce the payment:
- Protects retention money withheld under commercial construction contracts
- Helps to ensure a fair, balanced and appropriate payment regime
- Provides a fast and cost-effective adjudication process for people with disputes
- Provides enforcement mechanisms to recover any unmade payments
It is important to make the payment obligations clear in your contract and have them signed by both parties.
The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (CGA)
The act requires that work done by tradespeople is to be carried out with reasonable skill and competence. The act also states that the service must be carried out within a reasonable time.
If you feel that the work was not competently delivered or within a reasonable timeframe, the CGA says you can ask the person who did the job to fix it for you at no cost. If they refuse to, or cannot fix it, you can employ someone else to do so and claim the costs from the original trades person. The CGA applies to services only and not buildings or building materials. These are covered by the Building Act.
The Building Act 2004
This act requires builders to provide warranties that work will be done competently using suitable materials.
If you feel that your service did not meet the requirements of these acts, firstly, approach your builder to try to resolve your dispute. Should they refuse to cooperate, contact the Building Practitioners Board to lodge a complaint. If the tradesperson is not registered, contact the Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment to report an unlicensed practitioner. Take photographs of the work to use as evidence.
Should you need to take issue further, you can approach the Disputes Tribunal as an informal, resolution of claims for a service or product up to a maximum of $20,000. The tribunal will be able to assess whether the work had been carried out properly and the correct amount charged. There is a filing fee to make a claim and if you take this option, you usually cannot take the dispute through the courts.
In all instances of misconduct where a service has not been met and has potentially caused financial losses, contact your lawyer. Seeking expert advice early on is the best way to avoid further difficulty, potential money losses and time wasting. They will be able to assist you in the correct procedures and present facts to all parties in a reasonable and civil manner.