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Unauthorised Building Contract Changes

By Spiral - 24 September 2014 7

I would appreciate some informed opinion about a legal matter please.

We have a building contact for a new home that we signed a while ago. The contract went through several revisions. We recently found out that there were some allowances in the original version that were later dropped. Neither our solicitor nor us noticed that these allowances had been removed and were not aware of these changes. Now the builder is trying to get us to pay for the things these allowances would have covered.

Our solicitor is claiming that it doesn’t matter that she didn’t spot the unauthorised changes as the builder’s solicitor has a Duty of Care to inform our solicitor of any changes they make.

The builder claims that the first contract was an error as he didn’t intend for those allowances to be in the contract and our solicitor should have spotted the changes and thus it is our solicitors fault.

Legally, who is correct?

Thanks

What’s Your opinion?


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7 Responses to
Unauthorised Building Contract Changes
Spiral 7:29 pm 26 Sep 14

justin heywood said :

Unfortunately, I cannot give you any informed advice, but I can certainly sympathise.

I doubt that many people go through their contracts line by line before they sign (that’s what solicitors are for).

Surely at least your solicitor will waive their fee?

We had already paid most of their fees at settlement. That part was in theory a fixed price fee, but at the solicitor’s request we did pay extra because the solicitor claimed they had done a lot of work (presumably heaps of work that didn’t involve reading the actual contract).

We are supposed to pay some more for the work the solicitor does between exchange and hand over. We expect a lot of negotiation on that and am certainly investigating what other options we have.

Antagonist 10:57 am 26 Sep 14

Name and shame the solicitor and builder so that others do not get stung.

justin heywood 10:29 pm 25 Sep 14

Unfortunately, I cannot give you any informed advice, but I can certainly sympathise.

I doubt that many people go through their contracts line by line before they sign (that’s what solicitors are for).

Surely at least your solicitor will waive their fee?

Spiral 8:45 pm 25 Sep 14

bronal said :

Genie said :

I had to either sign or initial every page of my building contract.

It’s not a matter of who is correct, it’s a matter of which contract is signed. If it was changed before you signed it, and those changed pages have your initials on it. You don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

Yes, but I assume your solicitor (if you had one) went through the contract with you, pointing out the significance of certain provisions and any changes that had been made. That is what solicitors are supposed to do, not just give it you and say ‘sign here’ or leave it to you to interpret and decide whether the contract is OK. And that is the point of this thread. Of course, if you didn’t have a solicitor then you would be on your own.

Yes we had a solicitor. She certainly got pwned by the other solicitor and sadly it looks like we have to pay.

bronal 1:11 pm 25 Sep 14

Genie said :

I had to either sign or initial every page of my building contract.

It’s not a matter of who is correct, it’s a matter of which contract is signed. If it was changed before you signed it, and those changed pages have your initials on it. You don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

Yes, but I assume your solicitor (if you had one) went through the contract with you, pointing out the significance of certain provisions and any changes that had been made. That is what solicitors are supposed to do, not just give it you and say ‘sign here’ or leave it to you to interpret and decide whether the contract is OK. And that is the point of this thread. Of course, if you didn’t have a solicitor then you would be on your own.

Genie 11:51 am 25 Sep 14

I had to either sign or initial every page of my building contract.

It’s not a matter of who is correct, it’s a matter of which contract is signed. If it was changed before you signed it, and those changed pages have your initials on it. You don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

bronal 11:30 am 25 Sep 14

I’m surprised there hasn’t been any response to this as yet.

The reason why people engage a solicitor for conveyancing is to pick up the very things you have identified. They are experts in reading and interpreting contracts, you are not. I do not doubt that the builder owes your solicitor a duty of care to point out any proposed contractual changes, but equally so does your solicitor to you.

Remember that most conveyancing isn’t done by solicitors themselves but by their conveyancing clerks. It sounds likely that a proper comparison of the original and proposed new contracts hasn’t been done. This is dead easy using track changes in Word and a marked up contract showing the changes will normally be provided along a clean copy.

It seems to me there may be two issues at play here:

1 negilgence on the part of the solicitor. Easier to say than to prove. Don’t count on any support from any professional body on this

2 possible misleading conduct by the builder. You don’t say what the allowances are for or the dollar implications of them but you may need to need to weigh up proceeding (with more costs) versus backing out.

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