Working With Contractors

However hard we work at supporting our clients, in most cases we’re judged on the end product: the standard of the repair, improvement or adaptation, and that comes down to the quality of the contractors that you work with. They’re an essential part of the process but sometimes their importance is neglected, and unsurprisingly they then go to ply their trade elsewhere. This means that many agencies become over-reliant on a small pool of contractors and all the risks that entails. 

This guide takes you through working with contractors to attain the best quality work at the most cost-effective price.

Contractor Pre-Qualification

Having a pre-qualified list of contractors (an accredited list) is important for tendering because it streamlines the procurement process, enhances efficiency, and ensures that the selected contractors can meet the project’s requirements. Here’s why having a pre-qualified list is crucial: 


Pre-qualifying contractors before the tendering process saves time for both the client and the contractors. It eliminates the need to evaluate every potential bidder during each tender, allowing the client to focus on a shorter list of qualified candidates. 

Quality Assurance:

A pre-qualified list ensures that contractors on the list have been vetted for their technical expertise, financial stability, past performance, and compliance with regulations. This minimises the risk of selecting contractors who are unable to deliver quality work or complete the project successfully. 

Risk Mitigation:

Contractors on the pre-qualified list are more likely to have a history of successful projects and a track record of adhering to safety and legal requirements. This reduces the likelihood of disputes, delays, and subpar work. 


A transparent pre-qualification process increases confidence in the selection of contractors. It demonstrates that the selection is based on objective criteria rather than personal bias. 

Cost Savings:

Since the list is comprised of established and reputable contractors, the client can expect more accurate cost estimates and competitive bids. Contractors are also less likely to submit artificially low bids to win the project and then increase costs later. 


Setting up a pre-qualified list involves several steps

Define Selection Criteria: 

Determine the criteria that contractors must meet to be considered pre-qualified. This can include financial stability, experience in relevant project types, technical expertise, health and safety records, and compliance with regulations. 


Announce the intention to establish a pre-qualified list through public procurement notices, trade publications, and relevant industry platforms. 

Expression of Interest (EOI):

Invite interested contractors to submit an EOI. This document typically includes information about the contractor’s background, experience, financial standing, and references. 


Review the EOIs to ensure that contractors meet the defined criteria. This might involve evaluating financial statements, references, and past project portfolios. 


Create a shortlist of contractors who have successfully met the criteria. These contractors will be included in the pre-qualified list. 


Notify the shortlisted contractors of their inclusion on the pre-qualified list. Make sure to communicate the expiration date of the list and any subsequent renewal processes. 

Tendering Process:  

When a project arises, invite contractors from the pre-qualified list to participate in the tendering process. This can involve submitting detailed bids and proposals. 

Regular Review:

Periodically review and update the pre-qualified list to ensure that it remains relevant and up-to-date. Contractors who fail to meet standards or demonstrate poor performance should be removed. 

By establishing a pre-qualified list, you streamline the selection process and ensure that contractors chosen for tendering have the necessary qualifications to successfully execute the project, ultimately leading to better project outcomes. 

Using Trustmark 

Using an accreditation scheme like TrustMark can be a good way of pre-qualifying contractors for domestic building projects for several reasons. TrustMark is the only government-endorsed quality scheme that helps consumers find reliable and trustworthy tradespeople.  

Here’s why it can be a beneficial method of pre-qualifying contractors: 

  • Credibility and Trustworthiness – TrustMark is a recognised and government-endorsed accreditation scheme. Contractors who are part of the scheme have undergone thorough checks, demonstrating their commitment to quality, professionalism, and ethical business practices. 
  • Stringent Standards – Contractors within the TrustMark scheme are required to meet specific standards set by their respective trade bodies. These standards cover areas such as technical competence, customer service, and compliance with regulations. 
  • Vetted and Qualified Contractors – TrustMark assesses contractors’ technical skills, qualifications, and experience to ensure they are competent in their respective trades. This verification process reduces the risk of hiring contractors who lack the necessary skills or knowledge. 
  • Consumer Protection – TrustMark provides an added layer of protection for consumers. If there are disputes or issues with the work carried out by a TrustMark-registered contractor, the scheme offers a clear process for resolving complaints. 
  • Continuous Monitoring – Contractors in the TrustMark scheme are subject to ongoing monitoring and assessments to ensure they maintain their standards. This encourages contractors to uphold their quality of work over time.
  • Insurance and Warranty – TrustMark-registered contractors often offer insurance-backed warranties for their work. This provides additional peace of mind to clients, knowing that the work is covered in case of defects or issues.
  • Streamlined Pre-Qualification – Instead of going through a complex pre-qualification process from scratch, you can rely on TrustMark’s assessment and accreditation. This saves time and effort in vetting contractors independently. 

When pre-qualifying contractors for domestic building projects, using an established accreditation scheme like TrustMark can significantly simplify the process and provide clients with confidence in the quality and reliability of the contractors they choose to work with. 

Contractor Forums 

Consider hosting a contractor forum or meeting for an accredited list of builders. It can offer several benefits: 

  • Updates and Changes – You can communicate updates, changes in procedures, regulations, or expectations directly to all contractors, ensuring consistent understanding and compliance.
  • Feedback Loop – Contractors can provide feedback on the accreditation process, project management, and other aspects, helping to improve the overall process.
  • Continuous Improvement – Forums encourage contractors to identify areas for improvement and innovative solutions, elevating the quality of work and project outcomes.
  • Transparency – Open discussions promote transparency among contractors and demonstrate a commitment to fair and equitable treatment. 



With a DFG, the aim is usually to obtain quotations on behalf of the applicant to form part of their applications. After the grant is approved, the contract will be between the applicant and the contractor.

The authority is simply awarding the money to the applicant for them to make the purchase. Therefore, the local authority is not directly procuring any goods or services so public procurement rules do not strictly apply. However, it is good practice to ensure fairness and transparency. 

For DFGs there are three main ways in which prices can be obtained:

Dynamic Procurement

Dynamic Procurement System (DPS) involves creating a pool of pre-qualified contractors who can bid on specific projects. Contractors are selected based on their qualifications, experience, and financial stability. When a project arises, the pool is invited to submit bids, often using an online platform. 


  • Efficiency – The process can be quicker since the pre-qualification step is done beforehand. 
  • Competition – Contractors compete within the pool, potentially leading to competitive pricing. 
  • Flexibility – Suitable for projects that require fast turnaround times or multiple small projects. 


  • Limited Competition – Contractors are limited to the pool, reducing overall competition compared to open tendering. 
  • Less Transparency – There may be concerns about the fairness and transparency of contractor selection. 
  • Exclusion – Smaller or newer contractors might find it difficult to enter established pools. 


Framework agreements are established with selected contractors, specifying terms, conditions, and rates for a range of projects over a set period. Mini-competitions are usually held within the framework when a specific project comes up, allowing eligible contractors to bid. Some frameworks also allow for direct awards without further competition based on an agreed schedule of rates. 


  • Efficiency -The framework reduces procurement time since the initial qualification process is done. 
  • Consistency – Frameworks offer standardised terms and conditions, streamlining the contracting process. 
  • Relationship Building – Long-term relationships with contractors can lead to better collaboration and understanding. 


  • Limited Flexibility – Frameworks might not suit unique or complex projects that fall outside the established terms. 
  • Limited Innovation – Contractors might not propose innovative solutions due to the standardised nature of frameworks. 
  • Reduced Competition – While there is competition within the framework, it might be limited compared to open tendering. 


Tendering is the traditional method of procurement, where project details are published, and contractors submit bids. DFG tendering is usually “restricted” to pre-qualified contractors only, although open tenders are an option. 


  • Competition – Open tendering attracts a wide range of contractors, promoting competitive pricing. 
  • Transparency – The process is generally transparent, enhancing credibility. 
  • Innovation – Contractors can propose innovative solutions specific to the project. 


  • Time-Consuming – The process can be lengthy due to pre-qualification and evaluation phases. 
  • Costly – Tendering requires effort from both clients and contractors, potentially increasing costs. 
  • Complexity – For clients without procurement expertise, the process might be challenging to manage effectively. 


Competition – Tendering offers the highest level of competition due to its open nature, followed by dynamic procurement and frameworks. 

Efficiency – Dynamic procurement and frameworks are generally more efficient than tendering, as they streamline the process through pre-qualification. 

Flexibility – Tendering allows for the most flexibility in terms of project scope and contractor selection, while frameworks and dynamic procurement are more standardized. 

Transparency – All methods can be transparent, but tendering might be perceived as the most transparent due to its public nature. 

Relationships – Frameworks and dynamic procurement can foster long-term relationships with contractors, leading to better collaboration. 

The choice of procurement method depends on factors such as project complexity, timeline, budget, desired level of competition, and the relationship with contractors. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, and the right approach will vary from project to project. 

A successful DFG programme is likely to feature a range of approaches, for example: 

  • A framework agreement for the supply and fit of stairlifts and home lifts 
  • Restricted tendering for straightforward building works such as level access showers and ramps from a list of pre-qualified contractors 
  • A DPS for larger and more complex adaptations such as extensions 

Procurement Frameworks

DFG Tenders

The DFG Tenders Portal is an automatic and easy-to-use online system built around a schedule of rates, which is fully customisable to meet your requirements. Developed for Local Authorities and Home Improvement Agencies, this system creates an instant solution to the tendering process so your officers can spend their time where it matters the most. 

Visit dfgtenders.co.uk to arrange a demo 

Building Contracts 

Having a contract for domestic building works is crucial for both homeowners and contractors to ensure that the project progresses smoothly, expectations are clear, and potential disputes are minimized. Here’s an explanation of the importance of having a contract and some top hints and tips for creating a strong and effective contract: 

Importance of Having a Contract 

Clarity of Expectations – A contract outlines the scope of work, project timeline, specifications, and quality standards. This clarity helps both parties understand what is expected, reducing misunderstandings. 

Legal Protection –  A well-drafted contract provides legal protection for both parties in case of disputes or breaches of contract. It establishes the terms and conditions under which the project will be carried out. 

Budget Management –  A contract defines the payment terms, schedule, and pricing, helping homeowners manage their budget and ensuring contractors are paid appropriately for completed work. 

Scope Management – The contract clearly defines the scope of work, preventing scope creep or additional work from being added without proper agreement and compensation. 

Quality Assurance- The contract can include specifications and quality standards, ensuring that the work meets the expected level of quality and that any deviations are addressed. 

Project Timeline –  A contract should include a timeline for project completion, helping both parties track progress and address delays if they occur.

HIA Works Contract 

Foundations have worked with leading contract lawyers to develop the HIA Works Contract. It is designed to be used for grant-funded works carried out by small and medium-sized builders, where the HIA is acting as the Contract Administrator. 

The contract is free to use for all accredited Home Improvement Agencies listed on findmyhia.org.uk. 

To request further details email [email protected]

FMB Plain English Domestic Building Contract 

The Federation of Master Builders has published a free-to-use contract for works up to £500k. It is written by FMB lawyers and adapted with feedback from their members to ensure it is as easy to use as possible. Contractors do not have to be FMB members to use the contract. 

Top Hints and Tips for Creating an Effective Contract: 

Professional Assistance: Consider seeking legal advice or involving a construction contract specialist to draft or review the contract. This ensures that the document is legally sound and comprehensive. 

Clear and Concise Language: Use clear, simple language that is easily understood by both parties. Avoid jargon or technical terms that might lead to confusion. 

Detailed Scope of Work: Clearly outline the scope of work, including specific tasks, materials, and any additional services or responsibilities. 

Payment Terms: Specify payment terms, including the total contract price, payment schedule, and any provisions for late payments or changes to payment amounts. 

Timeline and Milestones: Include a project timeline with key milestones, deadlines, and penalties for delays beyond the agreed-upon timeline. 

Change Orders: Outline the process for requesting and approving changes to the scope of work, along with any associated costs or timeline adjustments.  

Quality Standards: Define the required quality standards and specifications for materials, workmanship, and installations. 

Insurance and Liability: Clearly state the insurance coverage required by the contractor and any liability or indemnification clauses. 

Dispute Resolution: Include a clause outlining the process for resolving disputes, such as through mediation or arbitration, before resorting to legal action.  

Termination Clause: Specify the conditions under which either party can terminate the contract, including the associated procedures and consequences. 

Signatures: Ensure that both parties (homeowner and contractor) sign the contract, indicating their agreement to the terms and conditions. 

Review and Revisions: Regularly review and update the contract as necessary, especially when changes are made during the project. 

A well-drafted contract provides a solid foundation for a successful domestic building project by establishing clear expectations, minimising risks, and creating a framework for effective communication and collaboration between homeowners and contractors. 

Pre-start Meetings

Having a pre-start meeting with the client and the contractor before the work starts is a valuable and widely recognised practice. This meeting serves as a crucial step to ensure that all parties are aligned, expectations are clear, and the project begins on the right track. Here’s why having a pre-start meeting is considered good practice:

  • Clear Communication: The pre-start meeting provides an opportunity for the client, contractor, and any key stakeholders to communicate directly. This helps in clarifying any doubts, discussing project specifics, and addressing initial questions.
  • Project Understanding: The meeting ensures that everyone involved understands the project’s scope, objectives, and requirements. It prevents misunderstandings that could arise from miscommunication or assumptions.
  • Expectation Alignment: Both the client and the contractor can share their expectations, priorities, and concerns. This helps in aligning these expectations and avoiding discrepancies later in the project.
  • Project Logistics: The pre-start meeting is an ideal time to discuss logistical matters such as access to the site, working hours, storage of materials, and any potential disruptions to daily routines.
  • Health and Safety: Safety considerations can be addressed, including site safety protocols, emergency procedures, and ensuring that both parties are aware of any potential hazards.
  • Schedule and Milestones: The project timeline, key milestones, and deadlines can be discussed to ensure that all parties have a clear understanding of the project’s schedule.
  • Changes and Variations: Any potential changes or variations to the project can be discussed at the pre-start meeting. This allows for early planning and decision-making if modifications are needed.
  • Quality Standards: The meeting provides an opportunity to discuss the quality standards that are expected for the project. This includes materials, workmanship, and any specific requirements.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of both the client and the contractor ensures that everyone understands their contribution to the project’s success.
  • Risk Management: Potential risks and challenges can be identified and discussed, allowing for proactive planning and risk mitigation strategies.
  • Building Relationships: The pre-start meeting sets the foundation for a positive working relationship between the client and the contractor. This can foster collaboration and open communication throughout the project.
  • Documenting Agreements: The discussions and agreements reached during the pre-start meeting can be documented in meeting minutes or a formal contract addendum. This provides a reference point throughout the project. 

 In summary, a pre-start meeting plays a pivotal role in initiating a construction project on the right foot. It facilitates clear communication, sets expectations, and ensures that all parties are aligned, which ultimately contributes to a smoother and more successful project outcome. 

Pre-start Meeting Checklist 

Foundations have developed a pre-start meeting checklist for you to plan and document your pre-start meetings. If you think about how much time it takes when things go wrong, introducing this short meeting into your standard procedures can help to ensure that things are done right the first time and make your whole programme more efficient. 

Managing Variations 

Variations and the potential for additional costs can be one of the most challenging aspects of managing contractors. Here we delve deeper into considerations regarding a contingency amount, the potential issue of local land charges, and the steps to take if costs exceed the maximum grant limit in the context of a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)-funded building project: 

Contingency Sum:

For a complex project, including a contingency sum in the initial budget for a DFG-funded project can be a prudent practice. A contingency fund accounts for unforeseen variations, unexpected costs, and changes that may arise during the project. Here’s how to manage the contingency: 

Determining the Contingency:

The contingency amount is usually a percentage of the total budget. It can range from 5% to 15%, depending on the complexity and potential risks of the project. 

Usage of the Contingency:

The contingency fund should only be used for legitimate project-related issues that were unforeseen at the project’s outset. 

Documenting Contingency Use:

Keep records of any expenses incurred from the contingency fund, including the reasons for their use. This documentation provides transparency and accountability. 

For standard projects a contingency can be an unnecessary complication that means you have to vary the grant approval at the end of every case. 

Local Land Charges:  

In some cases, local authorities apply a local land charge when a Disabled Facilities Grant is provided for building works. This charge ensures that the property owner repays a portion of the grant if the property is sold within a specific period. It’s essential to consider this potential charge: 

Understanding Local Policy:

Check your local authority to determine exactly when a local land charge policy applies to DFG-funded projects in your area. 

Assessing Implications:

If a local land charge applies, this may increase if there are any variations. Always discuss the details with the Client/Applicant. They need to understand the potential financial implications of the charge if they plan to sell the property within the specified period. 

Exceeding the Maximum Grant Limit:  

If costs for the building project start to exceed the maximum grant limit specified by the Disabled Facilities Grant, it’s crucial to address this situation promptly.

Evaluate the Options – Assess whether there are ways to revise the project scope, modify materials, or explore cost-saving measures without compromising the quality or essential requirements. 

Consult with the OT –  Discuss the situation with the Occupational Therapist. In some cases, they might provide ideas on how to reduce costs elsewhere. 

Client Contribution –  If the costs exceed the grant limit and there are no viable alternatives, the Client may need to contribute funds to cover the excess amount. 

Documentation and Approvals – Ensure that any changes made due to cost limitations are well-documented, properly approved, and comply with grant guidelines.  

In summary, careful planning and transparency are essential when managing a DFG-funded building project, especially when considering contingencies, local land charges, and potential cost overruns. Communication with all relevant parties, including the Client, Contractor, and professionals involved, will help navigate these challenges effectively and ensure the project’s success. 


Supervising Works On-Site 

If you have followed the previous steps in this guide, then you will have minimised the chances of anything going wrong. However, it is still considered good practice to visit the site at least once while works are in progress. This ‘Clerk of Works’ role helps to maintain quality, safety, and compliance throughout the construction process. Here’s an outline of the role, including good practices and your involvement in snagging and sign-off on completion.

Quality Control and Inspection:

  • Monitor construction activities to ensure they align with approved drawings, specifications, and industry standards. 
  • Conduct inspections of materials, workmanship, and installations to identify any deviations or defects. 
  • Identify and address issues that might affect the quality of the finished project. 

Communication and Coordination: 

  • Act as a liaison between the client, design team, contractors, and other stakeholders to ensure clear communication. 
  • Attend site meetings if requested to provide input on technical matters and communicate progress, concerns, and issues. 

Problem Solving: 

  • Identify potential challenges or conflicts and work with the Client and Contractor to find solutions that maintain quality and compliance. 

Monitoring Health and Safety: 

  • Ensure that construction activities adhere to health and safety regulations and best practices to prevent accidents and injuries. 

Snagging and Defects Rectification: 

  • Conduct thorough snagging inspections to identify any remaining defects or issues before project completion. 
  • Collaborate with contractors to ensure timely and proper rectification of identified defects. 
  • Ensure that snagging items are adequately addressed and that the project meets the required standards. 

Quality Assurance: 

  • Assist in the testing and commissioning of systems and equipment to verify that they function as intended. 
  • Verify that materials used meet specifications and standards and that installation methods are appropriate. 

Sign-Off and Handover: 

  • Collaborate with the Contractor to ensure the necessary documentation is prepared for project handover. 
  • Assist in the final inspection and verification that the project is complete and ready for use. 


Snagging Lists 

Using an app to have contractors take a schedule of photos of the completed job can greatly enhance quality control and ensure that the work is done right the first time, minimizing the need for snagging and rework. Here’s how the process works and its benefits:

  • App Setup: Choose a suitable app that allows for photo documentation and task tracking. Set-up a project or task within the app for the specific job that has been completed.
  • Photo Schedule: Define a schedule of photos that contractors need to capture upon completing different stages of the job. This could include critical checkpoints, milestones, and finished areas.
  • Photo Capture: Contractors use the app to capture and upload photos directly from their smartphones or tablets. Photos should be clear, well-lit, and focused on specific areas or elements of the completed work.
  • Comparison with Standards: Establish a set of reference images or standards that depict the desired quality and finished look for various aspects of the project. Contractors can compare their photos to these standards to ensure alignment with expectations.
  • Immediate Review: HIA staff can review the uploaded photos.
  • Timely Feedback: If any discrepancies or issues are identified, immediate feedback can be provided to the contractors, directing their attention to specific areas that require attention.
  • Documentation and Accountability: All uploaded photos are time-stamped and stored, providing a digital trail of work progress and completion.

We recommend using the OnSite Checklist app which can be downloaded here.

Onsite Checklist App (385 × 330px) (1)

Speak to our Regional Advisors

Our team of Regional Advisors are at the heart of what we do – providing advice and support to Local Authorities and Home Improvement Agencies. And because we’re funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities our everyday support is free of charge.

Whether it’s a question about the DFG legislation, you need advice on how to commission a HIA or anything in between – we’re here to help.