Let’s face it, having home improvements done can be a stressful experience. Besides the inconvenience and expense, there is the small matter of dealing with any number of contractors. Getting your leaking tap fixed is one thing, larger projects are necessarily more complex.
The most common home improvement-related disputes typically arise around:
- Contractual issues — non-completion of a project or disputes based around payments and timeframes
- Workmanship — poor quality work and/or defects.
Disputes are a real time sucker — you really do want to avoid them. Your job invariably ends up in limbo and costing more than you budgeted for. So, how to avoid becoming embroiled in all this unpleasantry?
Have the conversation
First thing is to address the individual or business directly, detailing the issue you have. This could be in person or over the phone. This approach can yield results and help to clear up a simple misunderstanding. You can then get your project back on track!
If not, the next step is to send a written complaint via email or a formal letter. Don’t forget to keep a record of all your communications with them, specifically who you talked to and when.
If you do reach an agreement, you should confirm this in writing with the business. This is to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
If you cannot resolve the matter with your tradie, it is time to take your dispute to the public body in your state — for example, Consumer Affairs Victoria or NSW Fair Trading. There are also industry bodies, such as Master Builders, who offer a similar service. They will attempt to mediate and resolve on your behalf. This can be a lengthy process, but it can help prevent the dispute ending up in court. Think more time and more expense!
Don’t forget the details
If you want to avoid the inconvenience of a dispute, screening your tradie before you hire them is a useful first step. Whilst it offers no guarantees, it does ensure that your tradie is qualified for the work they carry out.
So take the time to ask the right questions, such as:
- Are you licensed for the work you carry out?
- Are you insured?
- Do you have recommendations from past clients?
- Can I have a written quote?
Don’t forget to get a written contract for your project. This is a legal requirement for jobs over a certain value. This varies by locality, so check before you get your project rolling. The bigger your job the more detail you need in that document, including scope of work, timeframes, warranty info and payment schedules.
Remember, communicating with your tradie from day one is the best way to avoid any misunderstandings and preempt any potential disputes. Happy renovating!
— Craig Gibson is online editor of hipages.com.au, Australia’s largest network of trade professionals.