Contractor or Conman?: What The Paper Doesn’t Say

What The Paper Doesn't SayAll home renovation projects start out bright and chirpy; you’re bursting with plans and ideas and the contractor you’ve engaged is nodding, smiling and telling you every plan you have for your home can be done.

But hold your horses and don’t get too carried away.

It’s just like a school exam; you’ll find that if you don’t write clearly, or read the paper thoroughly, you’ll end up with bad results and wasted fees.

So before things get dark and dreary, here’re some things to look out for in the paperwork to keep the home you’re building from falling flat like a house of cards.

Get It In Black & White

Some rogue contractors don’t even input all of the details of the agreed work into the written contract. Instead they will, as Bon Jovi puts it, “promise you Heaven, then put you through Hell”.

When you first look them up, they may make verbal promises that you’ll get plenty for an attractive price. But at the end of the renovation, you might just find that plenty of those previously discussed aspects to be non-existent in the works.

Even if you were to confront the contractor, he can just point at the series of vague terms on the signed contract and tells you that the contract doesn’t cover those aspects.

According to him, as long as it’s not written in the contract, he’s not obliged to deliver the work.

The sales staff member whom you signed the contract with has also conveniently left the company, and all that the contractor has left for reference is the vague contract that you signed.

You’re left with two choices: fork out more money to have your dream home or live without it.

Either way, you’ve been cheated.

“Optional” = Not Included

Teachers used to nag at you time and again to “read the question clearly before answering” and you’ll be surprised at how much that piece of advice can be applied to building contracts.

Read each contract thoroughly before you sign on it.

On your contract, there’s a breakdown listing plenty of items, services and work that your contractor charges for.

It may be tiring to read every single line, but whatever you do, don’t skip past items labeled ‘Optional’.

Under the Terms & Conditions of your contract and bill is usually a clause in fine print stating that the cost of anything ‘Optional’ is left out of the quoted price.

If this clause is overlooked and you go ahead with the project based on that contract, if all the ‘Optional’ items have been included in the project, your final bill is going to be much higher than the amount you thought you agreed to.

The Final Clause

So if you want to pay a fair price for your dream home, don’t get carried away by the wave of euphoria when your contractor initially agrees to everything you say.

Insist that every one of your demands and their promises are written down clearly and explicitly on the contract. Insist that they aren’t labeled as ‘Optional’ and that their costs be included in the final quotation.

Only decide to go ahead with the project after you’ve revealed all the initial costs that the contractor is trying to hide from you.

Detailed descriptions on the contract safeguard you and your home, so don’t be afraid to spell it all out.

(This story is the second installment in the Contractor or Conman? series)

Has a renovation contract left you feeling cheated? Share your experiences and views on the issue on our forum thread.

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Armed with a mildly morbid fascination with the English Language, Cheak writes and edits content and copy for FortyTwo Magazine and FortyTwo Super Store. He's also known for his insatiable appetite and impressive but rather useless ability to stuff his entire fist in his mouth.