Contractors and Homeowners in Small Claims Court
It’s the time of year when a homeowner’s thoughts turn to renovation and landscaping projects. Nothing fills the dockets of Small Claims Courts throughout Ontario like disputes arising from these sorts of projects.
SW Legal Services has represented homeowners and contractors alike. Time and time again the same issues crop up. Insufficient (or non-existent) written contracts result in the parties having different ideas as to the scope, cost and duration of home improvement projects.
It is absolutely vital, for the protection of both parties, that a written, detailed and signed contract be in place before the first sod is turned, the first nail driven and the first dollar changes hands. Make sure all parties to the contract are identified by their proper legal names. The contract should include as much detail as possible and address such issues as:
Who is responsible for removal of demolition/construction debris?
When is the projected start date?
How long will the project take?
What warranties/guarantees are included?
How is the job priced; time and materials or a flat fee?
What is the payment schedule?
A good written contract protects everyone and helps ensure that there is no misunderstanding about what the parties are agreeing to.
Once a contract is agreed signed and before any work starts the best practice is to take photos – lots of photos. Not just of the “before and after” variety, but throughout the project. Photographic evidence will be crucial should something go wrong and the matter end up before a judge.
Open and honest communication is also vital to a good working relationship between contractor and homeowner. Delays happen and often cannot be avoided. Sometimes unexpected expenses come up that could disrupt the payment schedule. Good communication helps mitigate the effects of unforeseen events and the business relationship can carry on. The homeowner needs to be able to trust the contractor to do the work on budget and on time. The contractor needs to be able to trust the homeowner to pay as agreed. Communication is key to establishing and maintaining that trust.
If you’re a homeowner in a dispute with a contractor or a contractor that can’t get paid for work you’ve done, give SW Legal Services a call and put our years of experience on both sides of these issues to work for you.
A typical “no written contract” landscaping project gone wrong is sorted out by the Small Claims Court here: