How to avoid a building disaster

Do not immediately accept the lowest tender

Make sure that you ask at least two contractors to quote on the work you want done. Compare the tenders to ensure that both contractors have priced all items and then evaluate the tender. Compare all prices against each other to evaluate why one tender is cheaper than the other.

Do not sign any documentation prior to formally awarding the tender

Do not sign any documentation until you are ready to award the contract. (See point three)

Request specified tenders

Request the contractor to specify in his tender, in detail, what materials are to be used and where. This is to avoid disputes later on by preventing either party from taking unilateral decisions. Contractors will price some items provisionally. This is generally because they are unsure of the quantities involved or to allow you to choose some other products. Make sure that tenders allow for the same provisional quantities and products.

Do not sign a biased contract

The Gauteng Master Builders Association sells standard building contracts which protect both parties.If a contractor provides his own contract you can be reasonably sure that the wording is biased in his favour.

Read the contract

It is amazing how many people sign contracts without reading them and being aware of their obligations.

Do not appoint a contractor without checking his references

Ask for references and check them. Do not do this only by phone, go and see work which was previously carried out. Check whether the quality suits you and find out how the contractor treated his clients before signing.

Do not pay deposits without security

It is common for contractors to request large deposits up front. One should be wary of such requests and make certain that the contractor provides security against absconding with the money.

Do not pay whenever the contractor requests

Payments should be scheduled in the contract. Beware of making payments outside of that schedule.A record of all payments including deposits, made at any time should be kept and it is advisable to get the contractor to sign for a receipt of each payment.

Keep records

A full record should be kept of date and time of all decisions reached between yourself and the contractor. It is normal for decisions to be taken during the contract to change original specifications. Before the contractor implements any changes, make sure he has given a price (the additional cost or the saving) for the change, and be sure that you keep a tally of all additional costs. You will be amazed at how quickly these extras can mount up in value and may exceed your ability to pay.

Do not negotiate “in good faith” without documentation

This refers back to the previous point. All decisions should be in writing and priced and accepted by you before the contractor carries them out.

Do not accept poor workmanship

If you are unhappy with the quality of any portion of the work, insist that it is rectified immediately and not left for the plasterer or the painter or somebody else.

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