Don’t be a vic­tim: Pro­tect your­self when start­ing home ren­o­va­tions

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News - Ask the right ques­tions Hir­ing a Con­trac­tor Min­i­mize up-front pay­ments Get it in writ­ing

The On­tario Min­istry of Gov­ern­ment and Con­sumer Ser­vices pro­vides tips on how to avoid com­mon home ren­o­va­tion pit­falls.

Help pro­tect your­self and your home by know­ing your rights be­fore start­ing a home ren­o­va­tion. Learn how to hire a re­li­able con­trac­tor and see what you need to in­clude in your con­tract with them.

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?

When you are look­ing to hire a con­trac­tor make sure to:

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.

Deal with a lo­cal com­pany. This may make it eas­ier to check ref­er­ences, en­force a war­ranty or have fol­low-up work done.

Get writ­ten es­ti­mates from at least three con­trac­tors.

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. For ex­am­ple, in drive­way paving, they should ask if any heavy ve­hi­cles will be parked on the drive­way.

Do not go for a deal that sounds too good to be true.

If it’s a ma­jor pro­ject, you might need an ar­chi­tect or engi­neer to draw up plans and give di­rec­tion.

You will also likely have to get a build­ing per­mit. Ask your mu­nic­i­pal­ity how much build­ing per­mits cost and how to get them.

Learn about com­mon home ren­o­va­tion scams.

Check­ing ref­er­ences

Al­ways get at least three ref­er­ences and check them, even if some­one you know has rec­om­mended the con­trac­tor to you. Make sure each ref­er­ence is from some­one who has dealt with the con­trac­tor per­son­ally.

Get ref­er­ences from peo­ple who had work done that is sim­i­lar to the pro­ject you have in mind.

Also, get ref­er­ences both from the re­cent past and fur­ther back in time. Some­times, prob­lems do not show up for a while. For ex­am­ple, you of­ten don’t see prob­lems in roof­ing or paving for about a year or more af­ter a pro­ject is done.

Be­fore you sign a con­tract for home ren­o­va­tions or re­pairs, re­mem­ber to:

Check with the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau, cham­bers of com­merce and your city for any in­for­ma­tion they may have on the con­trac­tor.

Get a writ­ten es­ti­mate and con­tract be­fore any work be­gins.

Keep down-pay­ments to a min­i­mum -- no more than 10 per cent.

Never pay the full amount of the con­tract be­fore the work is done. This will help en­sure that the con­trac­tor will fin­ish the job. It will also pro­tect you from los­ing money if the com­pany goes out of busi­ness or de­clares bank­ruptcy be­fore fin­ish­ing your pro­ject.

Un­der On­tario law, any home ren­o­va­tion con­tract worth more than $50 must be in writ­ing. Be pre­pared to pay for any ex­tra ma­te­ri­als or any work that are not in the con­tract. If some­thing isn’t writ­ten in your con­tract, you may not get it. Make sure your con­tract in­cludes: The con­trac­tor’s name, ad­dress and con­tact in­for­ma­tion;

A thor­ough de­scrip­tion of the pro­ject with de­tails of the work to be done and the ma­te­ri­als to be 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.

Un­der the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act (CPA) if an es­ti­mate is in­cluded as part of a home ren­o­va­tion con­tract, the fi­nal price for all goods and ser­vices can­not be more than 10% over the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate un­less you have agreed to new work or a new price.

This means that it’s im­por­tant for you to in­sist that the writ­ten es­ti­mate is in­cluded in your con­tract.

If new work comes up, your con­trac­tor should dis­cuss it with you and ask you to ap­prove and sign a change to the con­tract, in­clud­ing a new es­ti­mate.

Un­der the Con­struc­tion Lien Act you can re­tain 10 per cent of the con­tract price for 45 days af­ter the pro­ject is done.

This helps en­sure the qual­ity of the work. It also pro­tects you in case the con­trac­tor doesn’t pay the sub-trades or sup­pli­ers work­ing on your pro­ject.

If your con­trac­tor has told you that the work be­ing done qual­i­fies for a gov­ern­ment re­bate or credit, it is your re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure that you qual­ify for it. Check with the gov­ern­ment min­istry, depart­ment or agency of­fer­ing the tax credit, re­bate or grant.

Sign­ing a con­tract in

your home

If you sign a home ren­o­va­tion or re­pair con­tract worth $50 or more in your home, you have the right to a 10 cal­en­dar-day cool­ing-off pe­riod. You may can­cel this con­tract for any rea­son and with­out hav­ing to pay any can­cel­la­tion fees within these 10 days. How­ever, if you hire a con­trac­tor and the work was started dur­ing the cool­ing-off pe­riod, you can can­cel the con­tract but you will be re­spon­si­ble for rea­son­able com­pen­sa­tion for work and ma­te­ri­als that the con­trac­tor has pro­vided.

Be­ware of the scams

The door-to-door scam: In this scam, a door-to-door sales­per­son of­fers you a “good deal” be­cause “we just hap­pen to be in the neigh­bour­hood with all our ma­te­rial and equip­ment.” The con­tract usu­ally has to be signed right away to get the spe­cial price.

Or, a sales­per­son may of­fer to “in­spect” your fur­nace, chim­ney or roof, free of charge. Af­ter­wards, you are told that im­me­di­ate and ex­pen­sive re­pair work must be done. The in­di­vid­ual then of­fers to do the work and has a con­tract ready for you to sign.

The Dis­ap­pear­ing

Con­trac­tor

Never let a con­trac­tor talk you into mak­ing a large down pay­ment “to pay for ma­te­ri­als.” The con­trac­tor may cash in the de­posit and never fin­ish – or even be­gin – the job he or she was hired to do.

Re­mem­ber, le­git­i­mate home ren­o­va­tion com­pa­nies have enough credit to buy the ma­te­ri­als they need.

Not hav­ing the right pa­per­work – es­ti­mates, con­tracts, pro­fes­sional li­cences, build­ing per- mits – is a warn­ing sign that a con­trac­tor is not rep­utable.

A con­tract is your best pro­tec­tion as a con­sumer.

It’s also a good idea to avoid cash deals. Although they can be ap­peal­ing, if any­thing goes wrong with your pro­ject, you won’t have proof of pay­ment with­out a re­ceipt.

Re­mem­ber, rep­utable com­pa­nies com­ply with the law.

A pro­fes­sional li­cence shows that a con­trac­tor is qual­i­fied to do the work you’re hir­ing him or her to do – like plumb­ing or elec­tri­cal. Build­ing per­mits al­low your mu­nic­i­pal­ity to make sure that any work you have planned meets the Build­ing Code stan­dards and by-laws.

Never be pres­sured into ac­cept­ing spe­cial lim­ited-time “deals” Re­mem­ber that a cost over-run can­not be more than 10% of the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate

Af­ter you have signed a con­tract, you can change your mind within 10 days

SOME­THING HAS TO GIVE: A vis­i­ble crack in an old house need not be a deal breaker if the home is up for sale. Most houses are go­ing to shift over time. How­ever, any signs of ma­jor struc­tural move­ment ought to be in­spected.

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