Step 1: Know who you’re dealing with
Good contractors have satisfied customers so 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 whether this was done satisfactorily. Also ask if they would hire the contractor again.
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’re hiring someone for a simple home repair, a large renovation project, or the construction of a new home or cottage.
Some things you should know:
- A contractor’s business liability insurance can protect you if your home is damaged through your contractor’s fault, or if the contractor causes damage or injury to third parties, such as your neighbors.
- Most contractors are required by law to have Workers’ Compensation coverage. If you hire a contractor who does not have this coverage, you face an increased risk of claims or financial loss if a worker is injured on your project.
- A contractor’s valid business number on GST/HST number tells you that they are registered with the Government of Canada.
- Written receipts for all deposits and payments you make to a contractor provide proof that you have paid.
- It’s also important that your project complies with local building codes. Although homeowners are responsible for obtaining the permits, your contractor can usually acquire it on your behalf.
- Inform your home insurance company before any work begins. Some policies don’t cover construction related risks or theft of building materials from the work site, so make sure you have adequate coverage.
Step 3: Get it in writing
Having a written contract is essential. It helps to protect you from the nightmares 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. A contract also protects you from loss of deposit or advance payment, keeps you from being charged more than you were quoted for, and gives you recourse in the case of poor quality or incomplete work. The contractor will usually draw up the contract but you shouldn’t sign it unless you’re satisfied that it includes all the necessary information and accurately represents what you have agreed to.