Construction Disputes

Unfortunately disagreements between consumers and builders or contractors are commonplace and often arise out of misunderstandings following verbal discussions. Many disputes could be avoided by the parties entering into a written contract before work starts.  McMillan William's Building and Construction Dispute Specialist, Hayley Prideaux, discusses when you should enter into a written contract with your builder or contractor, what you should discuss at the outset and what you should put in writing to avoid a dispute.

When should you have a written contract?

Hayley Prideaux
Hayley Prideaux
Solicitor - Estate & Trust Disputes Specialist

In an ideal world you should always enter into a written contract when engaging a builder/contractor so that everyone understands precisely what has been agreed.  The terms agreed between you should be outlined in a written contract which should be signed and dated by both parties. This is particularly important where the project is complex, you have agreed to make staged payments or where the cost of the work is significant. In addition, if there are any changes to the terms outlined in the contract as the work progresses, which you both agree, those changes should also be set out in writing and signed/dated by you both.

However, we understand that it is not always practical to enter into a written contract. You may also feel awkward about asking your builder/contractor about the same and worry they will not want to work with you, particularly if the job is straightforward.  But, even for if you decide not to ask your builder or contractor for a formal written contract, it is important that both parties are clear on what work will be carried out, how much it is going to cost and what will happen if things go wrong.

The more information that can be put in writing, the better.

What should you put in writing?

If you do not want to go to the trouble of making a formal written agreement, we would advise you to discuss your project fully with your builder/contractor and then follow up that conversation in writing as a record. Email is the quickest and easiest way of doing this and will be useful evidence if the project does not go as planned.

You should ensure you discuss the following with your builder or contractor:

  • A description of the works – You should be specific about what work you want the builder/contractor to do so that there can be no dispute at a later date. For example if you are building an extension, does the work include work to the interior of the extension such as joinery and painting. You should also discuss how long it is likely to take for each aspect of the work to be completed.

  • The cost of the works - It may seem obvious, but you should agree the cost of the work alongside the description of the work so there can be no dispute as to what is being paid for. It will also ensure you have something to refer to if changes need to be made later. You should ask your builder/contractor to provide you with an estimate or a quote at the outset and ask them to confirm precisely what work the estimate/quote refers to if it is not clear.

  • The payment terms - Agree how much is to be paid and when payment is due. You should discuss whether you will be paying for materials up front or whether the cost of materials is included in the price. Also, does your builder/contractor require you to pay a deposit? Do you need to pay for additional items such as scaffolding or skip hire? When and how should the final bill be paid and what happens if it is paid late? Is it appropriate for you to make staged payments and, if so, when will each payment be due? Agreeing payment terms up front will help to avoid any disputes later on.

  • The builder or contractor’s responsibilities – You should agree at the outset what do you want your builder/contractor to do as the work progresses. For example, do you want the builder/contractor to clear up once the work is complete? Is it important for tools to be securely stored away, if you have children in the house for example? Agreeing theses type of details will help both you and the builder/contractor know exactly what is expected before work begins and should ensure the project proceeds smoothly.

  • Your responsibilities – Responsibilities work both ways and it will also assist your builder/contractor to do a good job if certain things have been discussed and agreed by you in advance. For example, do you need to move items of furniture before the work commences? Will this be your responsibility or the responsibility of the builder/contractor? What access to your property are you going to provide to your builder/contractor?

  • Additional work and alterations – Once work starts, consumers often find they want to make changes to the work initially agreed or they want additional work done. If this happens, make sure you confirm any changes to the originally agreed works in writing and ask your builder/contractor to sign the same if you are able to. This can be done by email if necessary and you could ask your builder/contractor to confirm their agreement by return email. You should ensure you agree a description of the revised/additional works, the cost of the works and the payment terms, as you would have at the outset. Should a dispute arise at a later date, you will then have an accurate record of what was discussed and agreed between you.

  • Defects – Builders/contractors often offer guarantees on their work and/or materials, which are sometimes backed by insurance. You should make enquiries at the outset as to whether the work undertaken will be backed by a guarantee in the event there are any issues with the work undertaken. 

Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT)

If you decide you need a written contract and you do not want to deal with this yourself, you can purchase standard forms of contract from the Joint Contracts Tribunal. These standard contracts are widely used in the building/construction industry and your builder/contractor should be familiar with them. At McMillan Williams we can also assist you with any queries you may have in relation to JCT contracts.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including those who are in dispute over a construction project.

If you are in dispute or think your relationship with your builder is deteriorating or would like to take advice at an early stage in order to prevent the dispute escalating in the future, call our team of experienced solicitors on 0203 551 8500 or email us at

Leonard Supple, a man who died in 2004 leaving an Estate thought to be worth up to £18m, has again found its way into the media forefront after further disputes within the family.

The first of these disputes go back to 2007, was an allegation of fraud in relation to Leonard’s last Will. Leonard’s illegitimate daughter, Lynda Supple, attempted to prove the validity of his last Will (which the terms gave her almost all of his entire £18m wealth) following 3 years of arguments over the distribution of the Estate. In the court action that followed, Leonard’s son Stephen successfully argued that the Will was a forgery and was subsequently asked by the Court to administer the Estate of his father.

Further arguments develop within the family after Lynda then attempted to bring an Inheritance Act 1975 claim against the Estate, where Stephen questioned the eligibility of Lynda Supple in bringing the claim. The result was Leonard acknowledging that Lynda was indeed his half sister and therefore entitled to half of the Estate. Following the same proceedings, Stephen was replaced as Executor of his father’s Estate by an independent Solicitor to run the administration.

Fast forward to 2016, and we find that not only is the Estate not yet distributed, but Lynda has brought further proceedings against him for failing to disclose key documentation in relation to the administration.  Key documents which have prevented the administration from continuing.  Stephen had been ordered to provide them the previous year and in summary judgement, he was found in contempt of court for failing to disclose the documents and is now facing a potential two year sentence once he is located by the High Court’s tipstaff.

This Situation Could Have been Avoided with Mediation

This is certainly an example of an unconventional Estate administration, and it is suffice to say that 99% of administrations will never be this complex or drawn out.  However, this case needn’t have been within that 1% either if both Lynda and Stephen had utilised some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as Mediation, back in 2007 when the will was first challenged.  Court actions needn’t have been brought, the costs involved could have been drastically reduced and the Estate could have been distributed with much less difficulties.

Mediation is an excellent tool in settling claims and keeping a matter out of the increasingly expensive Court procedures. It can offer a very controlled situation where both parties can put all of their cards on the table and enabling them to focus on the key aspects involved and come to a considered, and quite often more favourable agreement than can be had with traditional negotiation. Not only that, but there is now the possibility of Costs orders being made against parties refusing or ignoring an attempt to settle a claim using ADR.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" and our specialist inheritance dispute Solicitors are keen advocates of using Mediation to settle claims, especially in light of its very high success rate and inherent flexibility in the agreement that can be made.

If you have found yourself in a dispute over an Inheritance and are looking to mediate over the matter, then please call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at

The High Court has ruled that phone hacking claims against The Sun newspaper can now proceed. Mr Justice Mann’s decision makes The Sun the latest target publication for lawyers who are representing phone hacking claimants. Such claims against News Group Newspapers (NGN) can now be brought in relation to both The Sun and the defunct News of the World.  Previously phone hacking claims against NGN had solely been commenced in relation to articles in the News of the World.

Whilst there are hundreds of claims of hacking by the News of the World, there are at present, only a handful of alleged phone hacking claims which rely on articles published in The Sun, although this may increase over time.

Experienced Lawyers

The Solicitors in our Media Law and Reputation Management Department have first-hand experience of conducting phone hacking cases against NGN in relation to the News of the World and MGN with regard to Mirror Group Newspapers.

They are experienced in telephone and email hacking cases in other situations, such as someone hacking into a spouse’s telephone or email account to access information to assist in a divorce, or when organisations hack into people’s telephones and emails to obtain data from them unlawfully for a variety of reasons.

The Law is Not Just for the Rich and Powerful

We firmly believe that “Justice is a Birthright” and that everyone, not just the rich and powerful should be able to defend themselves in court.  In recent weeks our team have secured a string of defamation victories against the BBC, The UK Defence Secretary and The Prime Minister. 

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those who have been victims of phone hacking.  We offer conditional fee agreements (no win, no fee funding) for these types of cases, where appropriate.

If you have been subjected to telephone or email hacking and would like to talk to one of our specialist Solicitors, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at  You may be entitled to compensation.


Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Partner & Head of Professional Negligence

In a recent Professional Negligence case, Glyn and Amy Daniel, were beneficiaries of a Trust set up by their father.  They filed a claim against their deceased father’s Solicitors, Stanley Tee & Co, for a breach of trust in connection with the investment of their trust funds between 2000 and 2002.  The claim amounted to £1,476,000.

The Claim

In this case, the claimants argued that a lack of realistic investment strategy at the outset, with no periodic review to consider whether the strategy was still appropriate, meant that the trustees had adopted a less balanced and less diversified approach than a reasonable trustee would have thought appropriate.

Why The Claim Failed

The claimants failed to prove they suffered loss as a result of those breaches and the Judge found for the Defence.

This was based primarily upon the fact that the performance of the investments was assessed over a relatively short period of time (2000 to 2002) and the choice of markets into which the funds where invested (IT and Telecom sectors) whereas the Trustees had looked to invest over a longer period of time which would have negated the short term volatility in share prices.

While the claimants had established some breaches of duty, particularly during the early stages, they had failed to prove they had suffered a loss as a result of those breaches.  Some aspects of the trustee Solicitors’ approach could be criticised as having fallen below the expected standards and call into question generally the duty of care owed by Solicitor to client.  However, unless the breach of duty led to imprudent choices, liability for loss will not be established.

We Can Help

If you have appointed Solicitors to act as professional executors and those professionals act imprudently we can help to establish liability for breach of trust if the beneficiaries sustain losses as a consequence.

At MW, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including those who have suffered loss as a result of “professional advice”.  If you would like to speak to a specialist to discuss your case call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at

MW Solicitors Official Solicitors of Brighton & Hove Pride

On Saturday 6th August, the staff at MW Solicitors will join with 180,000 others in celebrating Brighton & Hove Pride.  We will march in solidarity and community fellowship in the Pride Parade which this year takes on an added significance, in commemorating the tragic loss of life at the Orlando bar shooting that took the lives of 49 innocent people and severely injured many more.

Challenging Attitudes

The Pride Parade has its roots in challenging social injustice, a march of protest, a march of solidarity and an annual demonstration of the determination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer members of society who would not allow themselves to live in fear or suffer oppression.  The tragedy of the recent Orlando terrorist act is that it highlights that persecution and intolerant attitudes still exist and still need to be challenged.

Celebrating Diversity and Uniting Nations

So whilst the Pride Parade and the Festival in the Park, both of which we are taking part in, is rightly a celebration of LBGTQ life, it is also a reminder that there is still much work to do in this country and in many other countries in achieving equality and access to Justice for Everyone! 

This year we will be taking to the streets of Brighton in our open top Pride Parade Bus and we will have a stand in the community section of Preston Park, we have over 70 Volunteers already which is superb, We encourage you all to turn out, support Pride and wave us all on!

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