December 6th 2016

Get it in Writing

Having a clear and concise written agreement between yourself and a contractor will help avoid problems before they get in the way of your home improvement projects. At Shell Busey's HouseSmart ALL our members are required to have written agreements and estimates, no matter how large or how small the project is.

Recently we have received inquiries from customers across Canada regarding issues they are experiencing with their home renovation contractor.

In many of these cases customers have let us know that they did NOT have a contract in place with their contractor. When asked why they did not insist on a contract, the popular response was that they 'trusted' their contractor and didn't feel a contract was necessary.

Step 1 - Know who you're dealing with

Good contractors have satisfied customers. Ask contractors to provide customer references for projects similar to yours. Then take the time to call these homeowners and ask if the work was done properly, on time, and on budget. Find out if any follow-up work was needed and if this was done satisfactorily. Also ask if they would hire the contractor again.

If a contractor is unwilling to provide references, don't hire them.

Step 2 - Make sure you're protected from risks

When a contractor works on your home, you need to be protected from a number of risks. These risks exist whether you are hiring someone for a simple home repair, a large renovation project, the construction of a new home or cottage, or to work on a rental property you own.

Here are some things legitimate contractors (renovators) should have:

  • Business liability insurance
  • Worker's Compensation Coverage
  • Business Number or GST/PST/HST number
  • A contractor's written warranty (what is covered and for how long)
  • Appropriate Municipal, Provincial and Federal Licenses & Permits
  • Written receipts for all deposits and payments that comply with local business codes
  • All required building permits (Homeowners are responsible for obtaining a building permit; however, your contractor can usually obtain the permit on your behalf).
  • Inform your home insurance company before any work begins. Some homeowner policies don't cover construction-related risks or theft of building materials from the work site.

Step 3 - Get it in Writing!

Having a written contract is essential. It helps protect you from the nightmare of lawsuits that can result from accidents, work-related injuries, or damages to third parties. Even for small projects, it's important to make sure you're protected. The size of the job does not limit the liability you face if an accident occurs. And accidents can happen even with the simplest home repairs. A written contract also helps protect you from many other potential problems. Without a contract, you could lose any deposit or advance payment given to the contractor, or find yourself charged far more than you expected. Also, there is little you can do about poor quality or incomplete work. And you have little assurance that you will get warranty coverage and after-sales service.

A contract doesn't have to be complicated. This is some of the information that should be in all contracts:

  • The name, address and telephone number of the contractor
  • A full description of the work and the material and products to be used
  • When the work will start and be completed
  • How much you will be charged for the work and when you will have to pay
  • The contractor's warranty detailing what is covered and for how long
  • Confirmation of business liability insurance & WCB coverage
  • The contractor's Business Number or GST/PST number and the contractor's business license number (where required by the municipality)
  • Most often, the contractor will draw up a contract for you to review. Don't sign it unless you are satisfied that it includes all the necessary information and accurately represents what you have agreed to.

** Professional contractors always work with a proper, written contract. Their price includes protection you need in case something goes wrong or an accident occurs. This is a valuable part of the service you're paying for.

How to find a good contractor in your area: Get in touch with our HouseSmart Referral Network. Made up of carefully screened contractors, the Referral Network can recommend a contractor in your area.

Get it ALL in Writing!

Here is a sample contract: