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Renovating Step By Step – Part 4

Renovation, Step By Step

Step 5. Get it in writing

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

Your Responsibilities:

  • Decide what’s to be done
  • Choose materials and products as required
  • Select the renovator or design firm
  • Ensure the contract describes the job completely and correctly
  • Obtain zoning approval and building permits
  • Provide workers with the necessary space, access and utilities
  • Inform the renovator about deficiencies or mistakes as soon as possible
  • Pay for the job once it has been done to your satisfaction
Your Renovator’s Responsibilities:

  • Be licensed
  • Perform work as contracted, unless changes are authorized in writing
  • Maintain liability and property damage insurance, and workers’ compensation
  • Hire skilled workers
  • Pay workers, suppliers and subcontractors
  • Oversee the quality of work
A Smile and a Handshake Just Aren’t Enough

Without an agreement on paper, there’s little you can do about poor or incomplete work. You risk being charged more than you expected, and it’s unlikely you’ll get any warranty or after-sales service.

Professional contractors always provide customers with a clearly written contract. Once signed by you and your renovator, it’s legally binding. So make sure that what you sign describes exactly what you want. Most client-renovator disputes occur because there was no contract,
or because the contract was vague or incomplete.

If you have any doubts or questions about the contract, have your lawyer review it before you sign. If your renovator refuses to accept a written contract, get another renovator.

The Main Ingredients

There’s no such thing as a standard contract. Every one is an individual document covering special requirements. That said, all contracts should include:

  • The correct and complete address of the property where work will be done
  • Your name and address
  • The renovator’s name, address and telephone number (if a corporate name is used, the company’s official on-site representative should be named)
  • A detailed description of project, plus sketches and a list of materials to be used
  • The type of work that will be subcontracted
  • The right to retain a mechanic’s lien holdback as specified under provincial law
  • A clause stating that work will conform to the requirements of all applicable codes
  • Start and completion dates
  • Agreement about who is responsible for obtaining all necessary permits, licences and certificates — the homeowner or the contractor
  • Responsibility of the contractor for removing all debris as soon as construction is completed
  • A statement of all warranties, explaining exactly what is covered and for how long
  • A statement of the contractor’s public liability and property damage insurance
  • Price and terms of payment.

Both you and the contractor should sign two copies of the contract, one for you and one for the contractor.

In the Real World

No matter how well you plan your project, changes will probably be necessary. These can result in increased costs and delays. To protect yourself and your contractor, changes should be made only through a written change order detailing what’s involved and the associated cost differences.

Money Matters

Your renovator may ask for a deposit on contract signing, especially for larger jobs. If so, it should be a nominal sum unless special items or materials have to be ordered.

Paying by cheque is another important part of getting it in writing. It gives you a record of what you have paid, and what you have paid for. You should also insist on a signed receipt.

Pay only for work completed, and never for the full amount. Holding back some of the money from each instalment protects you against liens that can be placed on your property by suppliers or workers unpaid by the renovator. Liens hold your property as security for the renovator’s debts — even if you have paid the renovator in full!

You can guard against this by making out some cheques jointly to the renovator and supplier or workers, provided this is agreed to in the contract.

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