1. Make a written contract
The home renovation season is around the corner. Get prepared; learn about your rights BEFORE starting a home renovation project. Under Ontario law, any home renovation contract worth more than $50 must be in writing. Your contract has to include the following:
- the contractor’s name, address and contacts
- a detail description of the work to be done and the materials to be used
- a clear description of any warranties
- the total cost, the deposit amount and a payment schedule,
- a work schedule with start and completion dates
- who is responsible for clean up after the job is done
- all sub-trades that will be contracted out and who will pay for those sub-trades
Last but not least: include the estimate as part of your contract. This way, the contractor cannot charge you more than 10% above the estimated cost, unless you have agreed to new work or a new price and have signed a change to your contract. Be prepared to pay for any extra materials or any work that are not in the contract. If something isn’t written in your contract, you may not get it.
2. Make a detail list of what exactly you want to be done
Because if you don’t, changing plans in the middle of a project always cost extra money.
3. Get at least 3 written estimates from different contractors
To make an estimate, good contractors ask lots of questions so they can understand and plan out the project. Never accept an estimate over the phone or without the contractor inspecting the site.
4. Include a written estimate in your renovation contract
Under the Consumer Protection Act, if an estimate is included as part of a home renovation contract, the final price for all goods and services cannot be more than 10% over the original estimate unless you have agreed to new work or a new price. Make sure that the estimate has a description of the work to be done, an itemized list of products and services and their prices. If a new work comes up, your contractor has to discuss it with you and ask you to sign a change to the contract, including a new estimate.
5. Keep in mind a 10 calendar-day cooling-off period
If you sign a home contract (worth $50 or more) in your home, you can cancel this contract for any reason, without any explanations, and without having to pay any cancellation fees within these 10 days. In case if the work was started during the cooling-off period, you still can cancel the contract but you will be responsible for reasonable compensation for work and materials that the contractor has already delivered.
6. Check if you are qualify for a government rebate or credit
You might be qualified for a government rebate or tax credit: it is your responsibility, not your contractor, to check with the government ministry, department or agency offering the tax credit, rebate or grant.
7. Find out if you need a building permit
If it’s a major project, you will also likely have to get a building permit. Check with your city or town hall about zoning by-laws and rules, how much building permits cost, and how to get them. It’s your responsibility to get building permits and meet any legal requirements. If you want your contractor to get permits for you, make sure it is included in the contract. Do not allow a project to start until you get all legal documents.
8. Check the Consumer Beware List
Once you have a contractor in mind, check the Consumer Beware List to see if there are any complaints or charges against the contractor. Keep in mind that a single contractor may operate several businesses with different names, so search for the business and the business operator’s name. To check with the Better Business Bureau, Chambers of Commerce and your city for any information they may have on the contractor is also a good idea. The link to the Consumer Beware List: http://www.ontario.ca/consumers/search-consumer-beware-list
9. Be considerate with the payments
Never pay in full before the work is done, ever. It’s strongly advised to keep down-payments to a minimum (no more than 10% is recommended): it helps ensure that the contractor will not disappear with the money and never finish the job, and also protects you from losing money if the contractor declares bankruptcy before finishing your project. Try to avoid cash deals; but if you do pay in cash, make sure that you get a detailed, signed receipt from the contractor.
10. Retain 10% of the project costs for 45 days after the project is done
Under the law, you have the right to retain 10% of the project costs for 45 days after the project is done.
This helps ensure the quality of the work, protects you in case the contractor doesn’t pay the sub-trades or suppliers working on your project.
11. Beware of most popular home renovation scams
A contractor offers you a “good deal” because they “just happen to be in the neighbourhood”. They may also offer to “inspect” your roof or furnace, or whatever, for free, and then tell you that urgent repair work is required and offering it to be done with a contract ready for you to sign. Never go for a “paper-free deal”. Remember, a written contract is your best protection as a consumer.