The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement
Dealing with local, reputable firms is a matter of common sense
Every year, unsuspecting home owners fall prey to unscrupulous operators who take advantage of people who do not do their homework before proceeding with work on their homes.
What are some common home renovation scams?
The Door-to-Door Game
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.
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.
Keep down-payments to a minimum and never pay the full amount of the contract before the work is all done. Remember that legitimate home renovation companies have enough credit to buy the materials they need.
The Paper-Free Deal
Not having the right paperwork – estimates, contracts, professional licences, building permits – 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.
Hiring a roofing contractor
Roofing is dangerous work, where even a small slip can have serious consequences. So it’s very important to ask about health and safety precautions and certifications before hiring roofing contractors.
If you hire workers who don’t have workplace insurance or safety certification, you could be held responsible for any medical costs or other related costs if there is an accident or if someone is hurt.
Before you sign a contract with a roofing contractor, make sure to see a copy of its current Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) certification workplace insurance. Insurance should include liability coverage.
Also, make sure your written contract has details about the contactor’s safety precautions and insurance.
Roofing businesses with five or more workers are legally required to have a written health and safety policy.
They are also required to have a competent on-site supervisor, who is qualified through training and experience. This person is responsible for ensuring safety practices that protect workers from fall hazards.
Your roofing contractor should be able to give you the contact information of a supervisor to talk to in case of any issues.
Hiring a Contractor
Here are some things to when you are 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.
Consider dealing 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 township hall how much building permits cost and how to get them.
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.
Check the warranties
Check warranties and guarantees carefully. But remember that the contractor’s reputation and length of time in business are more important than a warranty or guarantee.
Avoid cash deals. Reputable companies meet all legal requirements, like charging and paying applicable taxes.
If you do pay in cash, make sure that you get a detailed, signed receipt from the contractor.
If a contractor offers you financing, it may be wiser to arrange your own.