With Liz being a contracts lawyer she has enough experience to know that in the UK, building contracts can be like a small book with pages of schedules and conditions and a very detailed cost break-down to ensure the stage payments made during the project are always keeping pace with what has actually been done.
So when Sky’s standard contract (which he has used as the basis for building houses for over 25 years) arrived and had so little detail in it I felt I needed to do some serious work on it before I even let Liz see it.
So after a couple of weeks of emailing Sky to agree the commercial aspects (details like how many outside taps would be fitted, how big the cistern pump would be) I handed it to Liz – she wasn’t very impressed!
In the UK we had signed a longer contract just to get three rooms knocked into one so Liz debated whether to get hold of a typical building contract to use as a template and try to knock it into something that would be more familiar to UK lawyers, but feared this would be entirely out of line with what Sky was used to. Alternatively we could perhaps engage some solicitors in Grenada to handle it – although getting any Grenadian lawyer to respond to an email within a reasonable timescale also appeared to be a challenge (as we had experienced during our land purchase). Even something simple like the ’due diligence’ required to check that Sky Construction Co Limited was financially solvent and not about to take our money and disappear was discussed since we were committing pretty much all of our life savings to this venture.
I took the view that things are a bit different in the Caribbean and if Sky had been building houses for about 30 years with a very good reputation using just this flimsy little contract then it must have been okay for all his other customers. Plus how easily can you disappear with someone’s money when you live on a little island of about 6,000 people?
The truth is, on such an island everyone would hear very quickly if you did a crappy job or fleeced someone and you’d likely never get any more work so the tiny island community gave this a kind of self-regulation that we could not immediately get our heads around.
As a further illustration of the different way of thinking, we asked Sky about stuff like responsibility for the site while the house was being built in case say someone goes there and injures themselves and then sues us. We figured at the very least we would need some kind of public liability insurance.
His reply [quote]
“If you fall on the property and damage yourself and damage let’s say the railing, when you get better you have to come and fix the people’s railing unless they tell you it’s ok ( laugh ) this is Carriacou!”
So after Liz worked on the contract herself to give us some small degree of protection without throwing the entire project into jeopardy, we threw caution to the wind and signed on the dotted line. At the end of the day it’s only money.