Avoid Disputes with Your Contractor: Put it in Writing

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By NEELA RAMSUNDAR

How time flies! It’s already the last month of the year! Time to spruce up the home and get those construction projects you were holding off on done!

Its hard to get a good contractor, be it a plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter and the like. Even if they are good at their jobs, disputes often arise over exactly what you and the contractor agreed on. If the dispute isn’t resolved, the contractor frequently walks off the job, leaving you to consider your options.

I’d like to suggest a few tips that may help avoid some of the more common disputes from occurring in the first place.

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My first tip, put it in writing. Yes, it’s all well and good to have your discussions and feel assured you and your contractor are on the same page. Chances are though, you may not be on same page. By reducing your discussions into writing, in the form of a contract, you can eliminate all the grey areas you didn’t even realise existed.

Sometimes the assistance of a lawyer may be needed, but for many simple home improvement projects, it is quite possible to draw up your own contract. Here’s a sample contract which gives a good idea of what areas should be covered, at a minimum:


 

CONTRACT

CLIENT NAME:

ADDRESS:

CONTACT INFORMATION:

CONTRACTOR NAME:

ADDRESS:

CONTACT INFORMATION:

JOB SPECIFICATIONS:

MATERIALS TO BE SUPPLIED BY CONTRACTOR:                    YES                NO

COMPLETION DATE:

AGREED PRICE:

DEPOSIT:

WHEN THE BALANCE WILL BE PAID:

 

We have signed below agreeing to the above:

 

CLIENT:…………………………………………………..           DATE:

 

CONTRACTOR: …………………………………………          DATE:


 

Second tip: you see that part of the sample contract above which states the job specifications, spend a great deal of time with your contractor discussing this. A very important question you should ask your contractor is: “What is not included in the job for the price we agreed?”.

I know of roofing contractors hired to do all the works necessary to install a complete roof, who subsequently argued the price did not include installing drip edges, guttering, eaves and under-ceiling. I’ve heard countless stories of building contractors arguing about jobs they were not contracted to do, like a contractor hired to build a two-storey house who argued constructing the stairs was extra! Of course, they demanded more money to do these “extra jobs.” So get it crystal clear exactly what you are getting for your money.

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The third tip, if the contractor is hesitant or gives trouble to sign the contract, this is a huge RED FLAG! A reputable contractor wouldn’t be surprised to know you want a written contract signed by the both of you to reflect what you agreed. In fact, many would welcome it. Consider finding another contractor who’s willing to have a transparent, yet legally binding agreement in place.

My fourth tip, get all the details of contractor such as his/her full name, address, licence number, telephone number and email address. It amazes me sometimes that people hire contractors, yet sometimes don’t even know their last names. If you have cause to sue the contractor, or write them a legal letter later on, you may just be metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot.

Whenever problems occur, it helps to have a paper trail. My last tip is to get receipts. For every dollar you part with, have the contractor sign a receipt. Don’t depend on the contractor to have a receipt book on him. Go to the stationary shop, buy one, keep it and use it.

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It may be something like a weight off your shoulder knowing you locked the arrangements between you and your contractor down into a written contract. I hope this helps with some of the holiday stress. Happy home improvements!

© Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informative purposes only. It does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney – client relationship. Further, the sample contract above is meant for guidance only and should be tailored to meet your specific needs. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney-at-Law of your choosing directly.

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