Here are a few articles giving tips on what to look for when hiring a building contractor.
Please follow the links if you wish to read the complete articles at their source.
BY LUCY SEARLE
“Cowboy builders: telltale signs you’ve hired one and how to avoid them
If you spot any of the following habits when your builder’s on site, you could end up out of pocket with a poor or even unfinished job, while the cowboy has ridden off into the sunset.
Cowboy builders can ruin a house extension or renovation project, making a large projects with a large budget even more expensive.
- A COWBOY BUILDER HAS NO REFERENCES
The builder is cagey about referrals or brushes off requests to see work they have carried out previously. Past jobs are a builder’s CV and satisfied customers are their best reference, so a reliable professional will be more than willing to show off their best work.
- THEY KNOCK AND ASK FOR WORK
Have they just turned up on the door step offering to do a quick fix of something they’ve spotted while passing? Or are they spinning a story about having completed some work in the area and have some extra materials they could use for your house. Boy scouts used to come round and ask for a bob a job. This approach by ‘builders’ could result in a bodged job.
- THEIR PRICE IS TOO LOW
If something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Always source at least three different quotes so you get a good idea of what a job should cost. You don’t want anything collapsing because someone has skimped on the proper materials.
- YOUR BUILDER WORKS OFF THE BOOKS
If they are asking for cash for the whole job, don’t want to pay VAT and don’t want to give you a proper quote, just how professional an operation are they running? Legitimate businesses don’t operate this way. If they are willing to try and fleece the tax man, they might not hesitate to do the same to you.
At least if you pay by credit card, you may be able to claim some of your money back from the credit card company if you do get ripped off. If you prefer to pay cash at any point, get a signed receipt.
- THEY DON’T WANT A CONTRACT
Paper is a surprisingly solid foundation when it comes to building work. Always get things in writing. You want estimates of how much the work will cost and how long it will take, and a legally binding contract when you decide to hire them, otherwise they could end up charging you more, spinning out a job, or denying that they ever agreed to do things.
- THEY ASK TO BE PAID UP FRONT
Would you go into a restaurant and pay the whole price up front for a meal that you are planning on booking the following week? Thought not. An established and reliable builder should be able to buy materials and be happy to be paid on completion (and when you are satisfied with the job), or in stages as work progresses.
- WHERE ARE THEY BASED?
If it appears to be out of the back of their van, they are not the builder for you. You want a registered business address, not a licence plate, so always check their back story and ask for proof that their business is fully registered. Plus, if they claim to be a member of a trade association, do your due diligence and check that they do actually belong to it.
- THERE’S AN EVER-CHANGING WORKFORCE
They’ve got a rota of mates who are coming along to help them with the job, but you’re expecting experienced professionals or apprentices who are being trained up to do a good job. Subbies who are casually drafted in for the day to do the main contractor a favour may not know their footings from a hole in the ground. If in doubt about who’s on site, ask.
- THEIR TIMEKEEPING IS POOR
It is not unusual for builders to juggle multiple jobs, but if your hired professional is disappearing for hours or days at a time – saying they’re going to be a few minutes and then don’t turn up until lunchtime, or they are constantly knocking off early – be wary. Question whether this is the start of a pattern that ends in them never turning up again and your new extension left only half-done.
- THEY KEEP FINDING EXTRA JOBS
Unexpected problems can happen, that is what contingency budgets are for, but be suspicious if your builder keeps coming to you with extra issues and offers to fix as a favour while they are on site… for a fee. This could not only stretch your patience too far, but your budget, too. “
By – Angelique Ruzicka
“You can’t tar an entire industry with the same brush, but, unfortunately, cowboy builders do exist in South Africa.
A cowboy builder is a tradesman who rips off a homeowner by overcharging for shoddy workmanship and then “rides off into the sunset” with all the cash.
For the 2016/17 financial year, the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC) received a total of 813 complaints, of which 550 were resolved.
“In the same financial year, a total of 142 home builders were suspended for offences ranging from failure to rectify major structural defects, failure to rectify workmanship-related defects, failure to enrol homes and code of conduct-related matters.
“These home builders’ names are then published in the Government Gazette and on the NHBRC website,” says Tshepo Nkosi, manager of corporate communication and stakeholder relations at the NHBRC.
While you have some protection under the CGSO, the NHBRC and the MBSA, it is best not to hire just anybody that hands you a flyer, as this can open you up to many risks.
And while you can lodge a dispute, complaints can take up to 90 days to be finalised by the NHBRC, depending on their complexity.
So it is best to avoid this as it could result in your losing money and cause extra stress. Here’s how you can avoid hiring a cowboy:
. Do your homework: “My recommendation is to get three quotes for any work that you’d like to have done. Ask for references.
“Ideally, you’d like to see their work and research them. Speak to people and ask questions,” says Mimi Rupp, who owns SmartStone in Port Elizabeth, which supplies raw materials to builders.
. Draw up a contract: “Before signing the contract, make sure that you have read it and understood it, and that the description of the work to be done and specifications of materials, finishes and fittings to be provided are in accordance with your requirements.
“Variations to these during the course of the contract can be very expensive,” warns Nkosi.
. Get clarification: “Consumers who are in any doubt as to what is being offered should ask the builder to clarify or obtain legal advice.
“Alternatively, approach any of our 23 customer care offices countrywide, or the bank financing the construction.”
. Watch out for fees: “Be aware of the enrolment or registration fee you will pay and insist on seeing a copy of the enrolment certificate,” says Nkosi.
Finally, never pay a builder in advance.
While this is increasingly the norm, don’t part with any cash; if the builder still insists, then find another one willing to do the job without payment upfront.
“Only authorise payment once work has been completed to your satisfaction,” advises Nkosi.
Shoddy workmanship on new builds and renovations can also be handled by the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO).
The organisation doesn’t separate complaints about builders on its records, as they are all categorised under “services”, but Bonita Hughes, complaints manager at the CGSO, says they’ve generally received complaints about builders not completing on time or failing to complete work despite having been fully paid.
Hughes says there have also been instances where suppliers drop off their workers without any supervision. Workers then cause damage to property or do work that is not up to standard.
She added that sometimes the material used is also not up to standard.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT BUILDER
How do you go about finding the right builder?
The good news is that there are two main associations that builders can and do belong to, such as the NHRBC and the Master Builders SA (MBSA – see contact details above).
You can always contact it for a qualified, accredited builder in your area.
“Ask to see the builder’s current NHBRC registration certificate. Remember, these are valid for a 12-month period,” advises Nkosi.
Roy Mnisi, executive director of the MBSA, says that members of his organisation should provide quality workmanship.
“Our builders, before they are accepted by our association, must meet stringent requirements,” he says.
He adds that if there are any disputes and the work hasn’t been done up to standard, the organisation will ask its member to correct all work.
Even if the builder isn’t registered by the NHBRC, you are still protected because it is illegal for them to operate without membership.
“All builders and subcontractors are required by law to register with the NHBRC before commencement of any home-building project.
“It is a criminal offence for any person to build a home without being registered with the NHBRC, according to the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act.
“The penalty upon conviction is a fine of up to R25 000 per contravention or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year,” says Nkosi.”