If you’ve had to suffer bad builders or a neighbour’s dodgy development, you’ll know the pain of a construction project gone seriously wrong – but what legal options are there available to you?
If you’ve suffered builders that can’t seem to build, or a neighbour’s project that has gone drastically wrong, you’ll know how aggravating construction projects can be. For some people, however, badly-built projects can have a devastating effect on their homes and their lives. For these people, pursuing a legal course of action can be the best option for them.
NON-LITIGATION DISPUTE RESOLUTION
If you or your property have been adversely affected through faulty construction projects – be they your own or someone else’s – then the first step for you may be dispute resolution: arbitration and mediation services.
Arbitration can be thought of as a ‘mini-court’, with arbitrators presiding instead of judges. Often arbitrators are experts in their field and have technical knowledge that judges in court proceedings would not necessarily have access to, and generally arbitration is quicker than court proceedings. However, arbitration can be highly complex, with little to no appeals process if a decision is considered erroneous, and often parties are required to pay the arbitrators’ fees without the recovery of legal fees process that is more common in judicial proceedings.
Mediation has two branches: mediation and conciliation. Conciliation tends contain more of an advisory element than mediation, but both work to find an agreement between two parties. Mediation offers the chance for both parties to find a path that is agreeable, but which could be enforceable in court later. However, mediation requires both parties to be willing to enter the mediation process – should one party not wish for this, then mediation cannot take place.
If dispute resolution hasn’t worked, or you simply decide that it’s not for you, then you may wish to try the court system. This is typically longer and can be costlier than a non-litigation option. It does, however, offer the option of legal aid or other such funding, or recovery of legal fees following the court judgement.
The outcome of a litigation case is legally binding and often followed up by the courts. There is also an appeals process to follow in the event of an incorrect court decision. However, compared to mediation, neither party are likely to come away from proceedings entirely satisfied as judge rulings tend to take into account actions that each party have committed rather than what each party wants to achieve.
Should your dispute come to a court case, a qualified structural engineer can be called upon to testify on your behalf as to the cause and extent of the problem and its future implications for your property. We have, in the past, acted as expert witnesses in a number of court cases where clients have been the victims of builder error or have had neighbouring projects impact on their own properties. An expert testimony allows the judge to access technical knowledge and opinion where their own is limited, and gives a further dimension to the proceedings.