Although a written contract usually isn’t necessary when employing an electrical contractor to carry out minor electrical repairs around the home, it is certainly advisable when you are planning substantial electrical installations. The following are a series of considerations when drawing up that contract, based on advice from NICEIC, one of the top trade organizations in the UK.
Get it in Writing
Although verbal contracts are legally binding on both parties, they are prone to misunderstanding and ambiguity. Make sure your agreement with the contractor is fully documented and that both parties confirm that the document is a concise record of that agreement.
While every contract will vary, there are some common elements that you should look to include;
- Contact Details for both yourself and the contractor including full addresses and telephone numbers
- Timescales – agree start and end dates and possibly include penalties for any slippage
- Technical – including plans, and a full list of materials to be used.
- Permits – Details of any authorizations required for the work (e.g. Local Authority) and whose responsibility it is to arrange for them
- Sub-Contractor Details – if any
- Snagging Provision – that any defective electrical work will remedied and any collateral damage made good before the final payment
- Insurance Details – ensure that the contractor has full insurance cover
- Payment Schedule - details of deposit, stage payments and final payment
Clarity is Essential
Most complaints around contractors arise due to ambiguity around cost, timescales or quality of work. Having these expectations outlined up front, in writing, should remove most cause for complaint
Cooling Off Period
Include a period after signing of the contract when you can change your mind and walk away, without penalty.
If possible, only pay for work that has been completed (and to your satisfaction), although it is usual to pay a deposit to allow preparation work to commence and to purchase materials.
Check the Small Print
If there is any part of the agreement that you do not understand, then get clarification and ask for the relevant part to be re-written.
Protected by the Law
You are protected by law in your dealings with suppliers , specifically The Supply of Goods and Services Act (1982), under which a supplier, in this case an electrical contractor, must carry out any agreed work to a reasonable standard, in a reasonable timescale, at a reasonable cost.
Get Professional Legal Advice
Certainly for any large complex contract, getting legal advice is a must, preferably someone with legal expertise in the relevant area.
To recap, for all but the smallest of electrical works, getting a written contract is essential and just as important is to ensure that you understand what is being agreed. Don’t sign until you do!