With the Okanagan being in a building boom, it seems that there are new Contractors appearing every day. This can be great for homeowners, to have so many Contractors to choose from; however, it is integral to make sure you are hiring a qualified Contracting company, in order to avoid any unnecessary headaches down the road. You should be cautious, do your homework and have a high level of trust with the professional you decide to hire.
Here are ten things you can do to protect yourself when picking a Contractor, and ensure you’re making a sound investment.
10 steps to choosing the right Contractor
1. Check their licence
Contractors should hold a valid business licence. Contractors that hold a business licence have met The City’s licensing requirements and are permitted to operate their business within the Okanagan. Without a valid business licence, Contractors are not able to obtain necessary permits. We always keep our business license hanging on the wall in our office, so that potential clients can see that we are licensed right away.
2. Do they have a valid builder license?
Only builders in good standing are entitled to call themselves Licensed Residential Builders and carry on the business of a residential builder in British Columbia. There are very strict guidelines set forth by BC Housing, that Contractors are required to prove they meet, in order to be considered and Licensed Residential Builder. It is necessary for a Contractor to be a Licensed Residential Builder in order to obtain a building permit for The City (for new home builds, although this is not the case with commercial builds and renovations).
3. Is the contractor insured through WCB?
If the Contractor you hire is not registered or not paying its required payments to Work Safe BC, you could be liable. Always check to make sure that whoever you employ has their insurance up-to-date. It is not worth the risk, in having someone injured on your build, who is not insured. Always ask for proof!
You can get more information here: Worksafe clearance
4. Verify their insurance
Contractors should carry liability insurance in case of property damage or injury. Ask for a certificate of insurance as part of your Contract. A certificate of insurance is verified and signed by the insurance agent/agency. This is something that we always include in our contract package, and all Contractors you consider hiring, should do the same.
5. Get it in writing.
Ask for detailed estimates from many different contractors. When you have decided on a contractor, ask them to provide a comprehensive, written contract that includes both project details and business details. Having a written contract gives you control over your renovation or construction project, and is a good way to protect yourself and ensure long-term satisfaction.
The contract should include:
- Contractor’s business license number
- Estimated start and completion dates
- Full renovation plans
- Material and product specifications, including warranty information
- Responsibility for permits and inspections
- Work schedule
- Payment arrangements
- Business liability insurance information
- Worker’s compensation program information
Our company has a multi-page contract, outlining every single aspect of the build and contract, so there is nothing left untouched, and no surprises. You should know exactly what you are getting, when you’re getting it, and how much you’re getting it for.
6. Do you need a permit?
As the homeowner, you are responsible for ensuring this happens with your local municipality. In some cases, the Contractor will look after this on your behalf. Typically our company takes care of this for clients, as we have the knowledge and experience to submit all the correct documents, allowing for the build to take place sooner rather than later.
7. What kind of warranty will you get?
Homes that are built by Licensed Residential Builders are covered by mandatory, third-party home warranty insurance to protect the consumer. At the minimum, this is 2 years on the labour and materials (some limits apply), 5 years on the building envelope and 10 years on structure. Any new home build will provide you with a New Home Warranty, as it is a requirement to be Licensed as a Residential Builder.
8. Ask for references
Ask for a list of past jobs and contact information, and call the Contractor’s previous clients. Seeing proof of satisfied customers can help to ensure that you are choosing a qualified Contractor.
Unfortunately, many home owners don’t take the time to check references; instead, they make the assumption that a list of references is proof of good work. This is not always true. In addition to asking references about the quality of the Contractor’s work, you should get details about the timeliness, budget, and ease of the build process.
If a contractor is not able to or refuses to provide a list of references whom you can actually contact, you should not hire them for your project.
We always keep up-to-date testimonials, which you can find here, but we are always willing and able to provide you with the contact information of past clients, suppliers and sub-trades, to ensure that you feel confident in hiring us.
9. Holding back for builders liens.
If the Contractor you have hired, fails to pay suppliers or sub-contractors, you could be liable. A lien is a registered legal claim on personal property, most often used as security or collateral for a debt or loan. Liens are used to ensure repayment of loans or outstanding debt and are typically publicly registered. Sub-trades and suppliers can put a lien on your build, if they are not paid by the Contractor. In British Columbia, you should retain a 10% holdback of funds on every payment made under every contract in which you enter, other than a contract with an architect, engineer or material supplier in which case you do not need to retain a hold back.
You can find out more about BC liens here: BC liens
10. Last but not least!
You should actually like the Contractor you are hiring! You will be spending many hours, over several months with the Contractor you hire, and we feel it is essential to be hiring a Contractor that meets all the requirements above, and who makes you feel good. A Contractors job goes beyond building, getting permits, and managing the project; they also should bring a great working attitude to the job. Make sure you enjoy, trust and feel confident with the Contractor you hire, and your build will be a much smoother, positive process.
Contact us today to discuss the qualifications we will bring to your next project!