What to Do if a Tradesman Doesn’t Finish a Job

A part built extension outside a house

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October 3, 2023

It may be that your tradesperson has gone AWOL with no attempt to finish the job on your home or place of work they are contracted to do.

This is unusual but, for various reasons, it does happen every now and again.

If you’re wondering what to do if a tradesperson doesn’t finish a job that you’ve commissioned him or her to do, then read on. There are plenty of avenues you can go down to either get them to return and finish the job or to pay your compensation for unfinished work.

First though, it may be that there is a perfectly reasonable excuse for them not turning up to work. They – or a member of their family – could be seriously ill, for instance, and haven’t had the opportunity to contact you. Or, it could be that there are problems with supplies or sub-contractors and, again, they haven’t had a minute to let you know.

Another issue could be that they’re behind with a previous building project and have had to devote more time to it. In these scenarios, it’s best to try and contact your contractor directly ASAP, rather than waiting another couple of days by which time your anxiety levels have soared if they’ve still not been in touch.

Talk to Your Contractor

If you’re lucky enough to finally track your tradesperson down then, rather than shout at him or her, talk to them in a reasonable manner to try and reach some sort of decision on what the next steps should be. If they can’t – or won’t – get the work done, then it may be that you agree to part ways and, if you’ve paid money upfront, get your money back for the work that remains outstanding.

Document Everything

If you can’t get hold of your tradesperson keep trying – and keep screenshots of when you have tried to phone, WhatsApp or email them. This shows that you have been making attempts to get in touch and they are not responding, for whatever reason. Your attempts at communication aren’t the only evidence you should be keeping though. There are others:

Take Pictures of the Unfinished Work

Take images of what work is still to be completed in line with your contract. Similarly, if you’re not happy with the existing work they have already undertaken and have finished, then take pictures of this too as evidence.

Write Down What Has Happened

Record on a computer file or notebook why you’re annoyed, and what building work or otherwise has still to be completed. Note too, when you last saw your tradesman. Note the number of times you tried to contact him.

Screenshot Text and WhatsApp Messages

Always take screenshots of what you’ve sent – whether that’s a WhatsApp or text message. Print out emails. That way you can verify you have attempted to make contact and what they have replied in turn (if at all).

Record Phone Calls

It’s simple enough to record a phone call on your mobile phone. That gives you further evidence should the matter of the unfinished work be taken further, to arbitration or the small claims court.

Work Out Financials

How much of the, for example, building work is still outstanding – and at what cost? Your tradesman will owe you this money if they haven’t managed to complete the work in agreement with their contract. You may have to take further action to get them to pay up though.

Talk to Them to Try and Resolve the Problem

It’s always a good idea to sit down and talk with your tradesperson to find out what’s at the bottom of the issue. It may be a personal family matter or it could be a money matter. Whatever it is, it’s a good idea to try to resolve the issue face to face, rather than have to fight a costly legal battle – which can take months and leave you out of pocket in the meantime.

Agree to Part Ways and Settle Up

If the situation can’t be resolved then a mutual agreement to leave the job and get your money back for the outstanding work which hasn’t been completed is often the best way forward for all concerned. And, certainly, it’s within your consumer rights to ask for it.

Come to an Agreement on Terms for Them to Finish the Job

It could be that you let the tradesperson finish the job without charging them a late completion fee, or sort out some other contractual agreement on revised terms that seems fair to both parties.

A part built extension

Check Your Contract

Checking your contract will let you know whether it’s possible to stop the job right there and then, and for what reason. Otherwise, breaking a contract without good reason can prove costly.

Terminating the Contract

If you do decide to terminate the contract then do so in writing, outlining why this is the case. Date the letter and keep a copy as evidence.

Making a Formal Complaint

It may be that prior to resolving the contract you may want to use the tradesperson’s formal complaints procedure. This may be outlined on their website.

Getting a Refund

Under your consumer rights you are entitled to have your money refunded for work which you’ve paid for but which hasn’t been completed. Either that or the existing work isn’t up to the standard agreed.

Contact Their Trade Association

If your tradesperson is aligned with a trade association then you’ll find they are obligated to follow certain procedures in line with clients’ consumer rights. This is especially the case in the event of a dispute with a client.

The Trade Association will probably get in touch with its members to find out what has happened and why. It’s within their interest to have reputable members and someone who will bring them a bad name will be banned. The Trade Association will also be able to advise you on the best course to take if you’re out of pocket.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Schemes

Your tradesperson may have signed up to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme. In doing so he or she has agreed to try and sort out a dispute without having to take legal action via the small claims court process. This tends to be less expensive for both parties and is a form of mediation.

It may be listed as dispute resolution on the tradesperson’s website or it could be listed under their terms and conditions (which should also be on the website or in their contract terms).

You should then post or email your complaint, together with any supporting images, screenshots and email threads as evidence.

When your complaint does go to ADR then an independent ‘judge’ or ‘ombudsman’ will look at the complaint, together with the evidence and decide what course of action should happen next. Certainly, arbitration is the next step prior to taking a tradesperson to court.

The arbitrator should take no more than 90 days to get back to you with their findings. If they won’t go ahead with your complaint then you should be notified of this within three weeks of them receiving your letter.

Claiming Back Credit Card or PayPal Payments

It may be that you can resolve your financial claim via another channel. The Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to help if you paid the tradesman via credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay or through some form of finance agreement. You can write to them with a copy of your complaint and they’ll let you know if you can make a ‘section 75’ or ‘chargeback’ claim.

Small Claims Court

Arbitration can work well but, if you don’t get the result you were looking for, then it may be time to go to the next stage – taking the legal route via the small claims court. This is if your tradesperson owes you £10,000 or less. You can fill in a form online and use the Small Claims Mediation Service You’ll be told what the court decides at a later date – or you’ll have to go to court, depending on how the other side responds.

Contacting Trading Standards

Trading Standards is a government service that ensures businesses operate fairly and consumers are protected. To file a complaint, gather relevant documents such as the contract, invoices, and any communication with the builder. Visit the Citizens Advice website for guidance on how to contact Trading Standards.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Legal action can be expensive but if your tradesperson owes you thousands anyway then it may be worth going down this route.

A lawyer can help you claim compensation if you can prove the main contractor didn’t fulfil their side of the legal bargain, for example, if they failed to complete the work, it wasn’t up to standard or the work done poses a safety hazard.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 may be useful if it comes to this.

Leaving Negative Feedback

It can be very tempting to leave negative feedback if you feel you have been treated in a shoddy manner by a tradesperson for building work or similar. But don’t do anything until a decision has been made following arbitration, or until you go to court. Or, if you are in talks with your contractor, until they have agreed to give you a refund of your money.

This will also give you time to calm down and reassess all the facts. Once you’ve done so by all means leave a review then. Make it an honest one and remember that the whole point of a review is to give a potential client an idea of the work and communication etc provided by the tradesperson.

We hope this article was helpful when it comes to the matter of what to do if a tradesman doesn’t finish a job.

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