When Calgary’s economy experiences a boom, Calgarians get busy. The heightened activity is particularly evident in the real estate industry, with enough hustle and bustle to qualify as a stampede in its own right.
In such a period, everyone gets into the act, from real estate agents inking deals and lawyers drawing up contracts to inspectors guaranteeing homes are up to code and contractors hired to build a home, boost an abode’s curb appeal or help consumers personalize their new digs.
However, this flurry of transactions can create an environment where a lot of unscrupulous behavior can fly under the radar. More specifically, the media is frequently abuzz with anecdotes of fraud, sloppy work and other improprieties involving the outsourcing of contract work, despite the fact that reputable contractors in Calgary are by far in the majority. Stories surrounding shoddy workmanship, unsafe renovations or even contractors disappearing before the job is completed (or even started) abound, especially during a boom period.
To ensure consumers get the work done properly and legally, check to see if the contractor has a valid business license, which is required by law under authority of the City of Calgary. If in doubt, get the contractor’s contact correspondence and business name and call the City at 403- 539-8135 to confirm the status of the information. It also helps to find out whether the contractor is a member of a number of associations, such as the Better Business Bureau or the Canadian Home Builders Association. These organizations will also have a list of reputable candidates.
Shopping around is also a good idea. Consult at least a handful of contractors to get estimates in writing, including costs, details of the work to be done, starting and completion dates and whether the candidate also subcontracts, which in turn will require additional investigation. An added bonus is whether a contractor can take care of any building permits required for a project.
If a contractor requires a deposit, find out whether the individual or company is bonded via an insurance company and a pre-paid contractor’s licensed as required by Service Alberta. Any payment in advance that is bonded will cover such situations as fraud, theft and negligence. Questions surrounding such a transaction can easily be answered by calling Service Alberta toll-free at 1-877-427-4088 or going online at Service Alberta to conduct a provincial license search.
Keep in mind that contractors are not legally required to carry liability insurance, meaning that any property damage on behalf of the contractor might not be recouped without coverage. If this is a concern, opt for a contractor who carries such coverage and confirm the policy with that person’s insurance company. Similarly, contractors cannot sue a consumer in the course of a project, unless the latter is responsible for an on-the-job injury. Ask the contractor about coverage by the Worker’s Compensation Board.
Another oversight may involve liens against the property owner if the contractors don’t pay their suppliers or subcontractors. One safe for consumers to protect themselves is to check the property title record at a private registry. In absence of a registered lien, a consumer can pay 90 per cent of the final bill and withhold the remainder for 45 days. After than period, if there are no outstanding expenses, the final amount is paid.
Finally, most of these fine points should be covered under contract. If a contractor’s written agreement doesn’t cover these areas, or doesn’t even bother to supply a contract, continue shopping around.
By taking these proper steps, consumers like you will have extra protection against any damage to their premises, creating an unsafe work area and potential financial hardship. These precautions will also help ensure that regardless of the job, it will be completed to your satisfaction.