A recent Canadian survey found that 39% of homeowners were planning to renovate their homes in 2006, expecting to spend approximately $28 billion dollars in total.
With housing renovations on the increase and a shortage of skilled labour, it is likely there will be a corresponding increase in the number of home renovation projects going wrong.
Issues in home renovations can be categorized as follows:
1. Contract problems – typically small renovations are often made on a handshake, with little or nothing written down. When things start to go wrong, both sides remember details of conversations and agreements differently, and the dispute often becomes a case of “he said/she said”
2. Changes to the Contract – During the course of the contract there can be changes or modifications that may not have been anticipated. Questions may arise as to who is responsible for payment of those changes, or whether they are considered “extras”.
3. Builders liens – The Builders Lien Act provides remedies to contractors, workers and material suppliers to prevent owners from gaining benefits from work or materials without paying for them. There are strict timelines for filing a lien; once filed, a lien can be removed by payment of money into a lawyers trust account or into court, pending resolution of the dispute.
If you are considering home renovations here are some tips to avoid some of the common problems:
- Make sure you have a written contract, setting out the price, time frame etc. and which ensures the terms are clear. Confirm any and all changes in writing, even if relatively minor
- Maintain a well organized file and keep all invoices, receipts, correspondence and email
- Take photo’s and/or video the work as it progresses
- Confirm all important discussions, decisions and assurances in writing
When things start to go wrong
Angry homeowners often want an aggressive approach to a construction dispute. Litigation is not always the practical or most cost effective approach, particularly when emotions are high. A calm, rational approach may not initially be viewed well by the angry client, but once the emotions have clamed a rational and clam approach is recommended before commencing litigation and substantial legal fees are incurred. At the end of the day, the goal of both sides is to get the work finished and the contractor paid.
Litigation is not always a satisfactory vehicle to resolve construction disputes. Often the disputed amount does not make litigation an economic or practical solution. Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, is often the most cost effective and quickest was to resolve construction disputes.
If things start to go wrong:
- Maintain a journal and keep an accurate record of dates, time and progress of work – you will need these details if your dispute ends up in court
- Take photo’s/video of the work – evidence
- Try to keep calm and avoid confrontation with the contractor
At The Genesis Law Group our experienced litigation and mediation lawyers aim to find the most cost effective strategy for our clients and focus on how to get the renovation completed to the satisfaction of the homeowner.
If the dispute cannot be resolved, it may be necessary to pursue litigation.
Small Claims Jurisdiction
The monetary limit for the Small Claims Court has recently been increased to $25,000.00. This makes the Small Claims Court an ideal venue for the majority of small construction disputes.
If the monetary value of the construction dispute is over $25,000.00, commenced in the Supreme Court of British Columbia will be necessary. New rules of court to expedite litigation have recently been enacted, so that claims under $100,000.00 can be fast tracked through the Court system within a relatively short period of time.