Hiring a Contractor

The process of building or renovating a home can be very intimidating, especially if it is your first time. Your home is likely to be the biggest investment you will make and whether you are building, renovating or simply painting your roof, it is important to hire a good contractor to avoid costly mistakes.

But for a lot people, hiring the right person is a challenge. This is not to say that there are no good contractors out there, there are, but you must do some research first if you want to avoid costly mistakes.

Here are some frequently asked questions about hiring contractors for home improvements.

How do I choose a contractor?
Talk to people who have had work done recently. They may be able to recommend contractors or tradesmen who did good work and warn you about those to avoid. If you are using an architect ask him or her for recommendations as well.

Get the names of three or more contractors and check their qualifications and experience for your type of renovation.

Ask the contractor for references — and check them — and get written, itemised quotes, not estimates.

Do not accept a quote without the contractor doing a site inspection.

How much should I pay a contractor up front?
Do not pay for the project in full before is it completed. An acceptable down payment is usually 10 to 30 per cent. Keep back a retainer amount, usually 10 per cent, until the job is complete.

Should I get a contract?
Yes. It 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.

If you or the contractor makes changes to the project, ensure the contract reflects these changes, including any additional costs and changes to the completion date. Also, make sure the changes are within Planning Department guidelines.

Both you and the contractor should sign and date the original contract and any subsequent changes.

What steps should I take if my contractor does not finish my job?
File a complaint by following these steps. Make an informal request for redress, in person, to a person of authority such as the manager or business owner to allow them the opportunity to rectify the problem.

If you are not successful, make a formal request for redress in writing to the business or contractor so as to provide a legal “paper trail” of the dispute.

Next, file a complaint with Consumer Affairs so we may guide you in acquiring redress and provide mediation or enforcement if the issue is a criminal case. You can file a complaint on our website, www.ca.gov.bm.

Consumer Affairs will guide you through the procedures of Small Claims Court if the claim is less than $25,000 and mediation is unsuccessful or if the matter extends beyond our jurisdiction of enforcement.

If a contractor charges me an exorbitant fee after doing the job, do I have to pay that price?
If you did not have a quote — the actual cost of the job within 10 per cent — from the service provider before the job was started, then you are liable to pay the cost charged to you by the contractor. But if the charges are excessive, it may be viewed by the courts as not reasonable. A reasonable price is the norm for that job in that field of trade. Before resorting to court action, follow the steps above.

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