February 24, 2015
Complaints about home renovations are consistently among the most frequent type of complaints received by the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
One of the challenges homeowners face when doing renovations is deciding who to hire. The Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services strongly recommend that consumers ask the right questions and hire contractors who work safely and are registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Ontario REALTORS® are encouraged to share this information with their clients and customers.
Your home is a major investment, so the government cautions you not to trust your house renovations to just anyone. Make sure you do your research and get at least three written estimates. By choosing a professional contractor who carries appropriate insurance and complies with legislative requirements, you will have peace of mind knowing that the job will be done safely and properly and your investment will be protected.
Remember — home renovations can be dangerous work. Even a small slip off a roof can have disastrous consequences. Before you hire a contractor, here are some of the steps the government advises you to take:
Ask about their business. Ask for:
- A copy of the contractor’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Certificate. Make sure the contractor’s WSIB Certificate is current. (WSIB Certificates are issued every two months.)
- Confirmation that the contractor has liability insurance that protects you or third parties, such as neighbours.
- The contractor’s government issued Business Number or GST/HST number, and proof of any business licence required by the municipality.
- A written estimate that sets out a description of the work to be done, an itemized list of products and services, and their prices. Make sure that the estimate is included in the agreement you make with the contractor. This will ensure that you cannot be charged more than 10% above the estimated cost unless you have agreed to and have signed a change to your contract.
Ask about health and safety:
- Does the contractor have a health and safety policy and program?
(All employers are legally required to have one if they employ five or more workers.)
- Can the contractor provide you with a contact name and the name of the supervisor that will be at your house? It’s important for you to have someone in a position of authority that you can talk to if needed. If there are more than five workers, a competent supervisor must be on the site.
- Can you get assurances that the contractor is assigning competent workers to perform the work such as proof that workers have been trained in the health and safety requirements associated with the job?
Ensure that the contractor gives you a written contract that includes the specific work to be performed, terms of payment, and warranties or guarantees.
- Avoid paying with cash — a cash deal means more risk for homeowners and less control over the project. It potentially means no guarantees, and no proof of payment.
- Don’t sign a contract unless you are satisfied that it includes all of the necessary information and accurately and fully represents what you have agreed to. Under the Consumer Protection Act, a renovation contract worth more than $50 must include:
- the contractor’s name, address and contact information
- a thorough description of the project with details of the work to be done and the materials to be used
- a clear description of any warranties
- the total cost and terms of payment
- a work schedule, including start and completion dates
- a payment schedule, including the deposit amount
- who is responsible for clean up after the job is finished
- all sub-trades that will be contracted out and who will pay for those sub-trades
- Ask for a clear written warranty specifying what is covered and for how long.
If contractors do not provide you with a written contract, you should not hire them.
For more information, visit the website of the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services at www.ontario.ca/consumers and read: “Your rights when starting home renovations or repairs.”