Here are some practical tips to make sure that your rights are protected before you begin a renovation project.
Choosing a Contractor: References and Permits
To choose your contractor, it is a good idea to take these steps:
- See other projects done by the contractor.
- Speak to other clients of the contractor.
- Get estimates from other contractors to compare what they have to offer (quality of materials, services, timeframes, overall price warranties, etc.).
- Speak with people you know who have dealt with contractors to learn from their experiences.
Your contractor must have a building contractor's licence issued by a government agency called the Régie du bâtiment du Québec. It is illegal to do work without this licence.
Your contractor's licence means the following:
- The contractor has passed exams set by Régie du bâtiment's to test the contractor's knowledge and skills.
- The contractor has probably given the Régie du bâtiment money (called "licence security") or is part of a "guarantee plan" to ensure that clients will be compensated if things go wrong.
To check whether your contractor has a licence, you can ask to see it or you can consult the Régie du bâtiment's Licence holders' repertory (directory of licence holders).
Contractor's Estimate of the Cost of the Work
To help you choose a contractor, you can ask the contractor for an estimate before starting the work. Having an estimate also protects you and helps avoid misunderstandings.
A contractor's estimate usually has this information:
- a detailed list of the materials the contractor plans to use
- the cost of the work, presented in one of two ways:
- an hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours the contractor estimates to do the work
- a total amount
If you do hire the contractor, the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau) and the Régie du bâtiment du Québec recommend that you make a written agreement for the work. This kind of agreement is called a contract.
How to Properly Make a Renovation Contract
You're ready to sign a contract with your renovation contractor? Then you should think about what it should include. The Office de la protection du consommateur has some recommendations about what to include in your renovation contract.
Information Certain Contractors Must Provide
Contractors selling, repairing or installing one of the items listed below must include certain information in their contracts:
- thermal insulation
- covering for the exterior walls of buildings
This type of contractor is considered a door-to-door salesperson even if you were the one who contacted the contractor. The law provides you with extra protections when you're dealing with a contractor who is a door-to-door salesperson, such as a 10-day window to cancel your contract.
Paying for Renovations
Some contractors ask for a down payment. By negotiating the smallest down payment possible, you have some protection if the contractor goes bankrupt.
When it comes to paying for the work, you can make an agreement with your contractor to:
- pay in instalments as the work progresses, and
- keep an amount that will only be paid when all of the work has been done.
Be careful: if the contractor is not paid, he might register a mortgage against your house. Also, make sure that other people who worked on the project, such as sub-contractors, suppliers, workers and other professionals, are paid because they can also register a mortgage against your house.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.