We’ve all heard the horror stories from friends and family when it comes to negligent, unreliable, un-prepared contractors. Do yourself a favour and understand your rights before you start any home renovation or repairs. Protect yourself and your home with these simple tips:
Do Your Homework
Don’t let a lack of research and preparation be the reason why your home renovation/repair goes off the rails. There are hundreds of common scams and chances are, you know at least one person whose fallen victim. Don’t make the same mistake! Ensure that you’re fully informed so you can make the best decision for your wallet and your sanity:
When you’re looking to hire a contractor:
- Make a list of exactly what you want done. Remember that changing plans in the middle of a project will cost extra money
- Set a clear budget
- Ask for recommendations from friends and neighbours
- Check to see if their employees are covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- Ask if the tradespeople hired have their certification from the Ontario College of Trades
- Consider dealing with a local company. This may make it easier to check references, enforce a warranty or have follow-up work done
- Never accept an estimate over the phone or without the contractor inspecting the area
- Remember that good contractors ask a lot of questions so they can understand and plan out the project
- Don’t go for a deal that sounds too good to be true because chances are, it is
Keep in mind that if it’s a major project, you might need an architect or engineer to draw up plans and give direction. You also may have to get a building permit so ask your city/town hall how much building permits cost and how to get them.
Don’t Skimp On Estimates/Contracts
A safe rule of thumb is to always get at least three written estimates from different contractors. All estimates should include a description of the work that will be done, an itemized list of products and services and all prices. Make sure that everything you’re expecting is included in the list! Once you choose a contractor, make sure they include the estimate as part of your contract so that they can’t charge you more than 10% above the estimated cost (unless of course you’ve agreed to new work or a new price and have signed a change to your contract).
Ontario law states that any home renovation contract worth more than $50 must be in writing. Be prepared to pay for any extra materials or work that isn’t included in the contract. Remember, if something isn’t written in your contract, no matter how small, you may not get it.
Make sure your contract includes the following information:
- Contractor’s name, address and contact information
- A description of the project with details of the work to be done and the materials being used
- A clear description of any warranties
- The total cost and terms of payment
- A work schedule, including start and completion dates
- A payment schedule (including the deposit amount)
- Who is responsible for clean up after the job is finished
- All sub-trades that will be contracted out and who will pay for those sub-trades
Ask the Right Questions
Knowing which questions to ask can make a big difference in the long run. Cover your bases and be prepared for any situation that may arise during the renovation/repair process. Consider these questions when meeting with your contractor:
- Can I get references from people who have had a similar work done in their homes?
- Will my estimate be included as part of my contract?
- Will you get any building permits on my behalf? Can you say so in my contract?
- How will we handle any disagreements or disputes? Can you include that in the contract?
- If I cancel my contract after the work is started, will I have to pay for any work or materials?