Finding the contractor you can count on can be like a game of Where’s Waldo? ® Napping-Man-with-Beer-Gut or Creeping-Burglar-with-Mask seem to dominate the page, and as a kid, the man in red stripes and coke-bottle glasses could be frustratingly elusive.
For some homeowners looking for a renovation contractor, finding the right person can feel like a similar experience.
We’ve all heard the fly-by-nighter stories—the contractor who takes a deposit and flees into the abyss, or starts a job and leaves a homeowner with demo’d walls, exposed electrical, and no toilet (the WORST!).
But there are ways to never caught in this mess!
Not many people know,
In Alberta, it is illegal for any contractor to take an up-front deposit without being a licenced contractor.
Alberta actually has strict rules for prepaid contractors—they aren’t allowed to ask for cash up front if they are not licenced. In fact, under Alberta’s handy Fair Trade Act, contractors who ask for deposit and are working without a licence can be fined up to $300K, and, in some serious or repeat offences, face prison time. Crazy! But good for us, and good for you.
So, let’s get to the good stuff—How do you find out if a contractor is licenced?
1. Start by asking if he or she is surety bonded.
Service Alberta uses the terms “surety bond”, “security,” “letter of credit,” and “cash or term deposit” to describe the money they withhold from a contractor in the event a consumer suffers financial loss due to negligence of a prepaid contracting business.
2. Find out if the contract they present to you has been approved by Service Alberta.
Every contract must contain at the very least, scope of work, start and completion date of the job and location, pay schedule and how monies are to be exchanged. Some contractors will add their own miscellany.
For example, we like to ask permission to use the email you provide us for communication purposes, and permission to share progress and completion photos on our websites.
We also present waivers that protect us and our clients from any unforeseen liabilities on the work site, just in case Jack the Cat makes a clean escape out the front door, or rogue neighbourhood children show up and need babysitting while we are working on site.
3. Go to the Service Alberta website to look up the name of the company and contractor you are looking to hire.
4. Phone the Service Alberta Contact Centre at 1-877-427-4088 for confirmation of whether a contractor’s license is up-to-date.
At Diamond Contracting and Revolving Rooms, our Prepaid Contractor Business Licences are renewed every two years, and during the renewal, we are responsible for providing an updated copy of our contract. Service Alberta then approves our contract, and we are granted the Prepaid Contractor Business Licence.
We are sometimes asked by clients to change the terms of our contracts, but, in fact, we are not permitted to do so without it being approved by Service Alberta.
Other ways to tell if your contractor is legit?
Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) memberships are a good indication that your contractor considers outward, public accountability an important part of their business and profession.
So, it turns out a good contractor isn’t as elusive as that little guy in red stripes, as long as you do your homework!
Questions about this blog post? Don’t be afraid to contact us!