Slow builder - how to speed him up?

Please can anyone help restore my sanity?
We are over six months into building an extension to our home. The small local builder we engaged to do the job said it would be finished in 5 months, and signed a contract to that effect.
But, rather than appearing to work extra hard to get the job finished as it's late, he is still absent half the time and seems unable to get his subcontractors - such as the plumber - on-site when he promises. Frankly, we have given up believing anything the builder says. The problem appears to be that our builder is slow to pay his subcontractors, and they are naturally reluctant to do more for him until they see his money. Also, his qualities as an optimist are not matched by his skills in time estimation and organisation.
We have been paying our builder in instalments, and there is still money due to be paid at completion, plus 5% to be held back for up to 3 months or so in case any minor things need fixing. (All in the contract.)
What can we do to put pressure on the builder? Do I need to write a formal letter to him stating a final deadline after which I will engage a different builder, or something? If so what should I say, what deadline must I give? After this time, what action can I take?
Any advice really appreciated!
D W Green
[cross-posted to uk.legal, and uk.d-i-y]
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You could sack him, and get someone else to complete it.
I am guessing that the contract did not specify penalties for exceeding the 5 months. If not, you might be able to suggest appropriate damages for the delay and make it clear that these will be imposed. He may sue you, and you would have to be reasonably sure you would win. Perhaps take a solicitor and barristers advice and opinion.
--
Richard Faulkner

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writes

Only if the contractor has clearly failed to progress with reasonable expedition and diligence, which usually requires a process of notice-giving.
If you try it and get it wrong the contractor can then take YOU as having unjustifiably repudiated the contract, quit work and sue you for his lost profit.

You can't just add damages (or any other provisions) into a contract after it's been originally agreed, unless both parties agree.

If David did as you suggested he would certainly lose.
If David has money to spare he would be better off spending it on an Architect, Surveyor or other project manager to superintend his contract for him.
Legal advice comes later when he wants to terminate the contract and sue the builder.
John
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David seems to want to do something to make something happen. The alternative to some kind of serious threat is to cajole the builder, and he will just carry on as normal.
I suggested legal advice exactly for the reasons you give. The legal advice should provide the process by which the things I suggest should be done.
--
Richard Faulkner

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snip

Damn right. That's exactly what you have to do.
Getting the legal remedy, namely terminating the contract then suing the contractor for the cost of having the work completed by others is, as I have explained in another post: * procedurally risky, * time-consuming, * prone to problems in finding another contractor willing to take over the work, * likely to run up costs (if only psychic and in terms of the owner's lost time) that can't be recovered.
As people in uk.legal will tell you time and time again:
* don't take legal action if there is ANY OTHER WAY of solving a problem * don't threaten to take legal action unless you are going to do it.
It's no use trying to make a builder fear you and your lawyer: builders are fearless (or too dumb to know the difference).

By no means necessarily: most small contractors are honest people of good will: they just don't do the job right: the cajolery comes in in making them _want_ to do the job right for you and then "helping" them and making sure that they do do it.
snip
John
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J. Allan wrote:

Indeed. Offer him a bonus if he gets it done on time, and THREATEN to sue if he does not.

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It might be a bit late for this recommendation, but if you're near a bookshop and don't mind spending a tenner, you could look at "Getting the builders in" by Paul J Grimaldi, that goes into all this sort of thing, including samples of letters you should write to the builder, disputes, payments, etc. ISBN 0-7160-3012-8.
Or by a miracle it might be in your local library!
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<lots of really good advice from others snipped>
God, your experience sounds identical to mine 2 or 3 years ago, which SWMBO and I rank as one of the most stressfull periods of our lives. We're still suffering now; eg long after the builder left I still have a new loo and sink lying on the floorboards of our new second bathroom, waiting for me to do my stuff and causing plenty of marital dischord!
I would strongly advise the 'pleading, cajoling' route rather than getting heavy-handed; use the legal route as an absolute last resort. I think you're unlikely to get a good result that way. You say the guy is a small builder (like mine was) and that he's slow to pay his subbies (like mine was). Turned out my bloke was about 50p away from bankruptcy; he'd been stiffed on an earlier job and had been diverting funds from my project to pay off the previous one, and once I said 'enough is enough', ie stopped the staged payments because not enough work was being done, he wasn't interested any more. Which may be where you are. Problem is if you try to sue him, you'll may well find he has no cash or assets worth anything, and you may win, but all you do is force him into bankruptcy and have to cover not only the rest of the building work but also legal costs too.
I don't know how much you've paid in installments; maybe like me you reckon you've paid roughly according to how much work has been done; however we found that the reality was that at crunch time, there was so much 'bitty' work left over, involving loads of subbies for small amounts of time, that it would have been a lousy job for any other builder to take on, and the costs would have been disproportionate to the amount of work left over.
Although what I really felt like doing was kicking the guy's backside, we ended up paying our builder a bit more cash, ie over and above the agreed price, and on a strictly daily basis, just to do the bits I really couldn't do, and then I did (am doing!) the rest myself. It really grated to pay more, but the reality was that this was the cheapest option open to us to get the job (sort-of) done.
Very best of luck... David
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David wrote:

A lot of builders will front load the job, so the basic structure goes up fast, you pay money, thinking ;'its nearly there'
Then comes the time conbsuming and expensive part : Getting teh trdaes in to do the real work - electrical plumbing plastering etc. At this point teh builder isn't working much on the job, and couldn't give a stuff. He is happy to walk away half wayt throuigh, with his profit, leaving you with the messy job of project management and subcontractor handling.
The key is to pay fair whack for every stage - not over, not under.
Otheriwse teh builder has an incentive to be sacked - he has got more than a fair whack, and whats left is more hours, les money.
Be warned.
Which may be

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<snip>> I would strongly advise the 'pleading, cajoling' route rather than

<snip>
Cash flow does seem to be a likely cause of the problem. One other thing you might try is to change your builder's role from overall contractor and paymaster to site foreman and builder. If you undertake to pay the sub-contractors directly you could avoid the history of payment problems between the builder and the subbies. This gives the builder an incentive to complete the work, to take his profit from the job, and also gives the sub-contractors confidence that they will be paid for their work. Pay them promptly in cash and the word will get around :-) This involves you doing some of the management that you were paying the builder for, but might let you complete the work to the original budget. You may also have to pay for building materials directly as a builder who cannot pay his subbies is probably also struggling to pay the builders merchants. I guess you would also need to get a written agreement to the changes in procedure and an agreement that 'time was of the essence' and that if the work was not completed in a reasonable time then all bets were off. Bottom line is that you do not pay any more money directly to the builder until the work is completed, but you allow him to schedule in sub-contractors and specify materials to be ordered. If pushed you could pay him a small amount for time spent doing constructive things on site but hold back most of the remaining money as the carrot to complete the work quickly. If he can see an achievable result in a reasonably short time you could go back to the top of his list for resource. I would also suggest a visit to your local Citizens Advice Bureau where you can get good advice and quite often a free chat with a solicitor.
HTH Dave R
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David Green wrote:

Sack him, and finish the job yourself. If its just a question pof managing teh trades etc.
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Prehaps you could give him a hand.
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