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LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

The decision to construct a new house, condominium, renovate or refurbish an existing one, even just make routine repairs to your home, can turn even the most mild-mannered and patient person into a quivering wreak left wondering what went wrong.

But it need not be that way. There are some simple and straightforward guidelines which, if diligently followed from the outset, can make the process an altogether more manageable affair with a satisfactory outcome and the right kind of protection in place if things do happen to go wrong despite your best efforts.

First and foremost prior to the commencement of any construction, renovation or repairs, you must ensure that are acting within the law, regardless of the size or the state of the building. In some instances you may the permission of the city planner before proceeding. The last thing you want to do is commence the work in contravention of the laws of the land and end up receiving an enforcement notice to have the work dismantled.

Check the exact location of your line marks and those of your neighbours, and make sure they are clearly exposed and noticeable before you commence work. This will ensure there is no issue of encroachment which could result in a conflict with your neighbours.

You need to consider the exact nature of the work to be done and be clear about it in advance. Details of the required work should be set out in writing, and maybe you will require a building and small works contract which we will look at a little later on.

You may require work to be done in accordance with certain drawings and/or specifications, and certainly all work should be done to acceptable building standards. There may be times when you deviate from the original work plan for good reason, or you might just decide to carry out additional work once you have started. If so, you should be as specific and detailed in writing about what are sometimes referred to as ‘variations’ as you are about the original work.

If you are thinking about constructing a new home, unless it is absolutely necessary to start building right away, it would be far better to commence works when construction costs are more likely to be low. For example, when there is a construction boom in the country, construction prices may be less completive. In our current recession, prices are likely to be lower and you may also be able to purchase certain building materials at more completive rates reducing the overall cost. As for renovations repairs, don’t wait until things are falling apart. The last thing you want is for a workman to arrive at the point when the roof, windows and doors are barley hanging on by a nail or screw, with bare wood showing or simply leaning against the side of your home.

You will only have yourself or maybe management to blame if, in desperation to get the work done, you may end up having to take on whoever is prepared to do the project and pay whatever is charged. The best time to select a contractor and commence work is when everything is still in reasonable condition and merely needs straight forward repair, refurbishment or replacement.

And that brings us to one of the most important decisions of all. This is a decision that can mean the difference between a job well done at a fair price and a disaster that drains your bank account: your selection of contractors. Take the time to investigate skills, reputation and the number of years in business. Ask questions of suppliers and the quality, suitability and costs of the materials used. Seek out reliable friends and others who have had construction, renovations or repairs previously done themselves, or who know well informed people in the building industry. Interview contractors; ask them how long they have been in the business; get them to tell you about their work experience; ask them to show you other works they have done and whether might even meet some of their clients.

Competent, professional and reliable contractors and there workman will usually be happy to let you see there work. More importantly, solicit the assistance of experts such as quality surveyors, architects or engineers where necessary, particularly for larger projects. Some caution should be exercised in choosing friends or relatives to do the work as, even with the best intentions, the professional and personal lines can become blurred with far reaching consequences if the workmanship is ultimately substandard and results in additional expenditure to put the work right. Hire contractors or workman whom you believe are capable based primarily on skill, knowledge and experience rather than on sentimental or charitable considerations. Choose who is best for you, for your home and your peace of mind! Remember your home is your castle.

Some people consider themselves to be competent to do the work themselves. In many cases, these people soon find themselves out of there depth and may find they are either unable to do or complete the work, or they have ended up doing more serious damage then they set out to repair. As a result, they find themselves having to hire someone else to rectify or complete the project. Know your limitations and don’t sacrifice quality for price as it may cost you more in the long run.

In order to obtain the best price for the project you want done, have several contractors or workman provide you beforehand with a written estimate which itemizes the charges for materials if they will be supplying them. The estimate should state how long the project will take and the total costs, showing applicable taxes where applicable. Don’t hesitate to let contractors know you have discussed the proposed project with other contractors, and be suspicious of an estimate that is far below all of the others.

You must determine whether you or the contractor or workman will be purchasing and providing the materials for the project. The choice may depend on the amount of materials required, the convenience of having someone do it for you and the cost. If you can, you should spend some time comparing materials and prices at the suppliers of your choice. You may find that you are able to purchase materials directly from the suppliers and benefit from discounts that are available.

Prior to the commence of the work, it always advisable to have a written agreement, and preferably a formal building contract, between you and the contractor or workman if applicable. This should set out clearly and exactly the contractor’s full name, address and contact numbers; a detailed description of the project to be done along with drawings and specifications where necessary and the quality and the type of materials to be used. It should also include the commencement and completion date of the work to be completed if at all possible. It should also include the standard of work expected of the contractors ( i e. it be carried out in a substantially workmanlike manner ) the cost and charges associated with the project including any agreed payment schedule. The contract should also cover the removal of surplus materials and garbage from the work site; the carrying out of any remedial work and the warranty period from the date of completion to effectively deal with any defects resulting from poor workmanship or faulty construction. You must ensure that the agreement is signed by you and the contractor and is dated and duly witnessed.

You may opt to prepare yourself or have a family member prepare on your behalf a simple version of the abovementioned agreement when it comes to small projects. However, for major construction projects, renovations or repairs you may consider an attorney-at-law to assist with the preparation of a more formal contract tailored to your specific requirements.

For major projects, ask your insurance company about risk insurance for the duration of the project. You should ensure the contractor has and provides a copy of an updated WSIB certificate and also provides a Certificate of Insurance prior to starting any project.

Finally, keep a detailed journal of the dates when the contractor is on site and the work that they preformed. Be sure to obtain an official receipt for any monies paid for the work or materials, during or on the completion of the project. Also keep all invoices and receipts relating to the project no matter how insignificant you think they are. In any kind of dispute, such careful recording of everything that has occurred can be invaluable. And in certain circumstances, you may even qualify for tax relief or a tax refund; so you should always take advice on whether you should submit some or all of your receipts with your annual tax return.

 
 

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