Trades people and service providers comprise almost half of overall complaints to Consumer Affairs. In order to ensure that your home construction and renovation work is carried out to your satisfaction, follow these important guidelines:
- Shop around for contractors. Get names of three or more contractors from friends or neighbours who have had work done;
- Get a quote. After carefully describing your project to prospective contractors, obtain written itemized quotes, not estimates;
- Get references. The contractor should provide references from completed projects so that you can see the level of his expertise;
- Never use a contractor who does the following:
- Quotes a price without seeing the job;
- Demands a large down-payment to buy materials;
- Only has a cell phone number or answering service.
- Get a contract. The contract should include a commencement date, description of work to be done, materials to be used, payment schedules, completion date, and penalties for late completion of work;
- Don't sign before you understand the contract, get a second opinion, and are in agreement with the work to be done;
- Retain 5-10% of contractor’s fees to be held in escrow. The contract should establish an escrow period in case problems arise after the completion of the project.
- Do not pay over 10-30% upfront. A down-payment is customary, but should not exceed 30% of the project costs. Do not pay in cash (as there will be no paper trail), obtain a receipt (and file it).
- Don't be in a hurry to declare a job complete. Wait until everything that you have contracted for has been completed before you make the final payment, sign a completion document or any other document that releases the contractor from further responsibility. When the job is completed, pay 60% and keep ten percent in escrow in case there are manifestations of problems. Up to 3 months is an acceptable length of time.
If during the course of the project, something previously unforeseen occurs:
- Check with Planning Department. Make sure the change is within the guidelines of the Planning Department;
- Get a revised quote. Approve the changes, get a new completion time and both of you sign and date the revised quote;
- If the change is a major one, find out what the estimated finished time will be.
If things go wrong:
If for some reason you didn’t properly protect yourself by following the advice outlined on the Consumer Affairs website, and the completion date passes or the contractor has abandoned the job, send a registered letter to the contractor stating when you expect to have the job completed and that if he does not meet that deadline then you will hire another contractor to complete the job with the money remaining from the original contract. Do this only after you have received a quote from another contractor. Most times, disagreements can be settled through discussions and compromise. If this does not work, then your recourse will be to take the contractor to court.