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Ask the right questions when hiring a contractor

Todd Lewys / Winnipeg Free Press

Saving a few dollars by skipping the contracts and permits on a renovation could come back to bite you.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, it was hard to predict how it would impact Manitoba’s residential renovation industry. Despite the impacts that the pandemic has had on all of us, our residential renovation industry has continued to see very strong activity and be a bright spot for our provincial economy. Over the past year and a half, as Manitobans have spent more time at home, they have also invested in improving their homes and residential construction activity was very high. Residential renovations have always been big business here in Manitoba, and 2020 was no exception.

Manitobans traditionally spend more on renovating their existing homes than they spend on new home construction. In 2020, Manitobans invested more than $3.1 billion into renovation projects to improve their homes. This created more than 28,749 direct jobs and over $1.8 billion in wages for workers in Manitoba’s residential renovation industry. With Manitobans investing that much into renovating their homes, it’s important that they hire renovators they can count on.

All Manitoba Home Builders’ Association renovator members must meet the RenoMark program criteria. RenoMark is the renovators’ mark of excellence in Canada and provides consumers a marquee source of renovation advice and professional renovation contractors. RenoMark renovators understand the value of customer service and continually educate themselves on newest trends, materials, codes and regulations so homeowners know their renovation process will be expertly handled, meeting the highest industry standards.

MHBA RenoMark renovators always provide a written contract, offer a minimum two-year warranty on all of their work, and they will take out all the appropriate permits and licences required for the project. This is your best insurance to ensure that your renovator, not you, are responsible for any problems that are encountered during or after the work is completed.

Unfortunately, many people feel that this level of protection isn’t worth the extra expense and instead choose to find someone who is willing to do a cash deal with no contract. This also means that there is no record of the work ever being done. So, if there are problems, there is no recourse for the homeowner. If the homeowner does an under-the-table cash deal, and then they encounter a problem a month or two after the project has been completed, there really isn’t anything they can do in terms of having the situation fixed.

The homeowner is also on the hook for all liability regarding the project if the contractor fails to take out the required permits or suggests that the permit be in your name. This is very important because during a renovation, your home becomes a worksite. And if the permit is in your name, or you don’t have one, you become the prime contractor by default. If someone gets hurt as a result of working on your property, you (not the contractor you hired) are responsible. It can also cause issues when it’s time to sell your home and work has been done without proper permits. These are significant risks that many homeowners are unaware of.

Saving a few dollars by skipping the contracts and permits may seem like a good option when you are hiring someone for your next renovation project, but it’s a decision that could come back to bite you. Protect yourself and your investment by asking the right questions ahead of time and hiring a contractor that will do the job professionally.

Lanny McInnes is president of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.

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