Expert Advice on Avoiding a Bad Building Experience

We’ve all heard the horror stories that accompany building, such as contractors absconding with deposits or not completing work that has already been paid for, and many of us have had our own bad experiences. Executive Director of the Master Builders Association of the Western Cape (MBAWC), Rob Johnson, says that “In order to ensure that you have a positive building experience, you need to equip yourself with professional information and guidance”.
“Before calling in a contractor for a quotation, draw up a specific, detailed plan of what you want done and the amount that you want to spend”, he suggests. “Once you have finalised your plans and your budget, get quotations from at least three reputable contractors and ensure that each one quotes you on the same written specifications and conditions and that these include VAT”.
 “When choosing a contractor, ensure that they are registered with the necessary legal or statutory bodies such as the Building Industry Bargaining Council (if applicable in your area), the Receiver of Revenue and the Commissioner for Occupational Injuries. Furthermore, current legislation requires that contractors be registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council if you are building a new house”, says Johnson. “You should also ask the contractor for references of their recent work, visit their previous sites and speak with their past clients”,
“When you have decided on a contractor, you should sign acceptance of their offer only once it is in writing and after ensuring that it covers all your requirements in terms of indentifying the work to be undertaken as well as the materials to be used and that this has been signed by the contractor too”, he advises. “The offer must include: the starting date; approximate duration of the work; anticipated completion date; cleaning up arrangements during the work including the disposal of waste or rubble; the order in which the contractor will proceed whilst on your premises as well as required payment details. You can get formal contracts agreements for jobs of all sizes from your nearest MBA office and should insist that these are used. All too often we receive consumer complaints only to find that no contract is in place leaving us unable to assist with the only form of recourse being via expensive litigation in the courts”.
 “Time and time again people are taken in by contractors who claim that it’s necessary to make a deposit before work commences, however deposits should only be made to suppliers for specialised items”, states Johnson. “With large jobs, it can be arranged in the contract agreement that interim payments be made on completion of certain sections. However, for small jobs lasting for a period of less than one month, payment is normally made in one lump sum once the work has satisfactorily been completed”.
In addition, Johnson says that the contractor should be insured to cover any possible damage to your existing building and its contents and that you should also inform your own insurance company about the work that you are having done. He further suggests that clients hire a contractor who is registered with one of the Master Builders Associations affiliated to Master Builders South Africa. “We are trade associations for employers in the building industry and our primary objective is to ensure that the reputation of the building industry remains high. We do this by insisting that our members work to the highest possible standards aesthetically, technically and ethically. Clients have greater recourse when hiring an MBA member should things turn sour, plus MBA Western Cape provides its members with an insurance scheme that covers a number of eventualities that might arise during construction contract work”.
“It’s unfortunate that contractors have garnered such a negative reputation as a result of unscrupulous individuals, however these guidelines can help to prevent problems and ensure a successful relationship between client and contractor”, concludes Johnson.
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