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How to hire a contractor for home renovations

Introduction

When remodelling a house or adding rooms you are likely to need to hire a contractor. By asking prospective contractors a number of questions you can find out about their reputation and level of experience, and whether they are willing to meet the standards you expect.

What should I ask prospective contractors?

You should ask any prospective contractors:

  • whether they have a current licence for the specific work involved
  • how long they have been in the business
  • whether they guarantee the materials and the quality of their work
  • whether they are willing to give you names and addresses of satisfied customers whom you could contact
  • whether they have a residential street address so that you can contact them any time if you need to

Building consents

When you hire a contractor, you should establish who will obtain the necessary building consents from your local council – you or the contractor. Any type of construction, alteration, demolition or removals will require a building consent (see How to obtain a building consent).

The terms of the contract

You should be aware of the precise terms of the contract. In particular:

  • Is there a time limit for the work to be completed?
  • Is there a fixed cost for the work – that is, has the contractor given you a quote for the work, which legally binds the contractor, as opposed to an estimate, which does not? If you have not been given a quote, does the contract set a maximum cost for the work?
  • Does the contract deal with the issue of sub-contractors? In general, the contractor is entitled to hire a sub-contractor to do some or all of the work unless the contract explicitly states otherwise or unless it is implicit in the agreement that the contractor must do the work personally.
Cautionary notes
  • Before planning the alterations or additions to your home you should check whether there are any restrictive covenants that would affect your house and what you are able to do to it. You will need to consult a lawyer for this.
  • A lawyer can also be useful for advice on what is a fair contract. It is recommended that you obtain legal advice early on.

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