If you have decided to build or renovate your home, and have already hired a contractor, the next step is to draw up written contract outlining all the project details. A proper contract will address the work that must be done to client specifications, the materials and products to be used, and an estimate of costs that will fit into the client’s budget. A written contract should also include details such as whether the contractor or you, the homeowner, is responsible for obtaining the relevant permits and inspections. Issues such as drawing up a workable schedule, and determining payment arrangements should also be included in a written contract.

A written contract serves a twofold purpose. Firstly, it holds the contractor accountable to any verbal agreements made at the outset of the project during the interview process in which his services were retained. Secondly, a written contract provides protection for the homeowner. A legitimate contractor who is operating in an above-board manner should also outline his business liability insurance, worker compensation coverage, bonding, licensing, and business registration such as GST/HST numbers.

The absence of written guarantees or a written contract means the homeowner is at risk for poor quality workmanship that can cost more to rectify in the long run, damage to property, fraud, or injury to workers. The homeowner can also open himself or herself to the legal consequences of laws and regulations that are not being properly followed, or fall victim to the underground contractor. The underground contractor can tempt the unsuspecting homeowner by offering lower priced work for cash-only transactions, and in tight economic times, homeowners can fall victim to unscrupulous contractors unwilling to provide a written contract. 

The Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) together with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) have created a very comprehensive website to inform and educate the homeowner on the risks involved in hiring the underground contractor and in not drawing up a written contract. The website can be accessed at www.hiringacontractor.com and contains special sections on contracts, guarantees, workers compensation, permits, inspections, and more. The “Hire a Professional” section is very helpful in imparting tips on how to find and hire a professional contractor, and the “Get It in Writing” section outlines all the reasons a written contract is necessary. So if you or someone you know are planning a new building project in the near future, be prepared, build and renovate with confidence – Get It in Writing! 

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