Choosing the right contractor is an important step when making renovations to your property. You should be cautious, do your homework and have a high level of trust with the professional you decide to hire.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself when choosing a contractor, to help ensure that you are making a sound investment.
If your contractor requests a pre-payment:
Contractors requesting pre-payments or progress payment for work must be licensed with the Government of Alberta as a pre-paid contractor. You can verify this by contacting the Consumer Contact Centre at 1.877.427.4088 or at Service Alberta.
Avoid contractors who:
A payment schedule should be clearly outlined in the contract. Many contractors will ask for a deposit. However, if they ask for a large initial deposit to purchase materials, consider that a warning sign.
Contractors requesting pre-payments or progress payment for work must be licensed with the Government of Alberta as a pre-paid contractor. You can verify this by contacting the Consumer Contact Centre at 1-877-427-4088 or visit Service Alberta.
Contractors may also want interim or progressive payments after specific work stages are completed. Make sure the details - exactly what will be done and how much is to be paid - are part of the contract. Insist on a signed & dated receipt for every payment you make.
Before accepting that the job or part of the job is complete, inspect the work carefully. Ask your contractor for a copy of their Final Inspection Report or Approval for Occupancy to ensure there are no outstanding deficiencies with the project. Wait until everything you have been promised is completed to your satisfaction before making the final payment or signing a completion certificate (or a similar document).
Before final payment, check your title
You should know that suppliers or subcontractors may have the right to register a lien on your property if they are not paid for their work or materials. A lien is a notice claiming a right to be paid from the value of your property. Before making your final payment to the contractor, check for any liens on your home, which is available from an Alberta Land Titles office.
Options to consider if things go wrong with your contractor:
Before you run to your contractor to complain about something, be sure that the contractor is actually doing something which violates the contract – or be ready to point to the contract item that is seemingly being violated. Your contract may also have a dispute resolution process. If so, you should follow that process.
If you are dissatisfied with the work of a contractor, it is always recommended that you attempt to talk to your contractor first. You should approach any negotiations calmly and professionally while trying not to make accusations against the other party.
During negotiations, you should clearly communicate to your contractor:
• Clearly state what you are dissatisfied with.
• Indicate what action you want your contractor to take to remedy the problem including a specific timeframe.
• Give your contractor a chance to respond. It's possible that there has simply been a miscommunication.
If you believe that work has been done without proper permits or inspections, contact Planning & Development Services at 403.529.8374.
If it appears that the contractor has abandoned the job and you cannot reach them by phone, text or email, send them a letter via registered mail. State the date you expect the contractor to finish the job and inform them that if the deadline is not met, you will hire another contractor to finish the work using the money remaining from the original contract. Do this only after you have received an estimate from another contractor.
Contact Planning & Development Services if you plan on replacing a contractor. When a permit holder has abandoned the job and does not intend to complete the work, the associated permit is no longer valid and must be terminated. A new permit is required to continue the work which was authorized by the original permit.
If you are not satisfied with the work, consider lodging a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Complaints can be lodged online or by phoning: 1.800.221.6690 (toll-free).
If you have been a victim of fraud (e.g. you have given money to a contractor who has subsequently discontinued contact, with little or no work being done) contact the Medicine Hat Police Service at 403.529.8400.
In some cases, if you are unable to resolve a dispute with your contractor, then mediation or legal action may be your only alternative. Contact a legal professional for advice.