Get It In Writing

Once you have found the right contractor for the job, make sure to get a proper written contract before the work begins. Never accept a verbal agreement. Never hire someone who offers to give you a "special price" if nothing is written down and you pay for the work in cash.

Professional renovation contractors always provide customers with a proper written contract. Here's why:

  • A proper contract spells out what work is to be done, when and how much it will cost. Without a contract, you have little protection from overcharging, incomplete work or excessive delays in completing the project.
  • A proper contract includes a clear warranty on the work being done. Without a contract, it can be difficult or impossible to get faulty work repaired.
  • A proper contract specifies the materials and products to be used in your project. Without a contract, you could end up with inferior materials and little recourse.
  • A proper contract includes proof that the contractor has up-to-date workers' compensation coverage and liability insurance. Without a contract, you could face enormous financial and legal costs if anyone is hurt on the job, or if there is damage to your home or neighbouring properties.
  • A proper contract includes payment holdbacks in accordance with provincial lien regulations. Without a contract, you could be held responsible if the person you hired fails to pay for materials or subcontract labour, even if you have already paid the contractor.

When you hire someone to work on your home, a proper written contract isn't an option, it's a necessity. It protects you. For more information about why you need to Get It In Writing!, visit CHBA's Get It In Writing! website.

When you hire a contractor for your home, a pen is your most important tool!

There are many experienced and reliable contractors doing business in your community. Unfortunately, there are also some "underground" operators who offer a "great price" so long as nothing is written down and you pay in cash.

Don't make the mistake of falling for the "deal" that could turn into a real nightmare, exposing you to lawsuits, financial liens or liability for workplace accidents or injuries.

Find the right contractor: someone who is skilled, knowledgeable and does business fairly and honestly. In short, a professional. Finding someone who is right for you and your project is not difficult if you take this simple advice:

  • Get Recommendations

Start by asking friends, family members and neighbours for recommendations. Have they hired a contractor to do building, renovation or repair work recently? Were they happy with the contractor's performance and would they hire the contractor again? Ask about the quality of the work and whether it was completed on time at the agreed price. Make sure the contractor provided a written contract and didn't ask for payment in cash "under the table".

Use the search engine located to the right or call the Home Builders' Association in your community and ask for a list of professional new home builders and renovators.

  • Get Customer References

A good contractor has satisfied customers. Ask contractors for a list of customer references: people who can verify the contractor's past performance. Follow through and call the homeowners. Ask the same questions as you did when gathering recommendations. Was the work done properly, on time and on budget? If there was follow-up warranty work, was this completed satisfactorily? Would the homeowners hire the contractor for future work? If any contractor is unable or unwilling to provide references, don't hire them.

  • Get Protection from Risks

It's important that any contractor you hire operates their business properly. If not, you could face some serious risks. Poor quality work, extra costs and no warranty service are just some of the pitfalls. You could also face very expensive legal problems. A professional  contractor always carries liability insurance and workplace compensation coverage (when required) and complies with municipal building permit and licencing rules. This protects you. Without this protection, you could be liable for any injuries or damages that result from your building or renovation work.

Make sure you get proof of protection from these risks. Ask the contractor for insurance and Workplace Compensation certificates. Make sure your written contract with the contractor spells out who is responsible for getting building permits and approvals. And because most homeowner's fire and liability insurance doesn't cover construction-related risks, contact your insurance company before construction begins, inform them about your renovation project and make arrangements for any additional coverage needed.

  • Get It In Writing!

Always get a written contract that states what work will be done, what it will cost and how payments will be made. Never agree to anything before you have it in writing!

A contract is important for a number of reasons. Without one, there is little you can do if the work is of poor quality or incomplete. You risk being charged far more than you expected. And it's unlikely that you can enforce any warranty or after-sales service promises.

Also, a proper written contract gives you specific legal protection, should your contractor go bankrupt or fail to pay for the materials and labour that go into your project. Without this, you could face liens and have to pay suppliers, even if you already paid the contractor.

Professional contractors always provide customers with a clear, written contract.

  • Be Very Careful About "Great Deals"

Not every contractor plays by the rules.

An underground contractor may offer a very low price provided nothing is written down and you pay in cash, without a receipt. This sort of "deal" is only possible because they don't do business properly. They don't protect you from their mistakes. If anything goes wrong, you could end up with serious legal and financial problems. At the very least, there will be little you can do about poor quality or incomplete work.

Real professionals care about their reputation and want every customer to be satisfied. Underground operators don't care about these things.

So don't be taken in by promises of a low price by someone who's cutting corners. It could end up being a real nightmare for you and your family. Hire a professional contractor and get value for your money.

About Renovation Contracts

A detailed written contract between you and any contractor you hire is essential for any home repair or renovation project-no matter the size. Even the smallest job should be put in writing. Why? Because without a proper contract you face serious legal and financial risks.

CMHC's Sample Renovation Contract provides excellent information about how renovation contracts work, what they should include and why. To view online, click here. To order the publication from CMHC free of charge or to download, click here.

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