Are you sure about that builder?

Tips on detecting, avoiding and acting against crooked builders.

You have worked hard all year to save money for renovating your home - only to be ripped off by a builder who does a duck before completing the work you hired him for.

Be careful of bad builders, research before you hire and pay only for work done, is the message from Wayne Reddek, founder of Constructionbuzz, a new online directory aimed at helping to identify the better builders and warning others about the rotten apples.

Common pitfalls

Reddek says people have often complained about work that is left unfinished, such as painting and cracks and work that is really not up to standard.

Many builders ask for deposit money to cover expenses including building material. Reddek says this is a no-no; a builder should not be paid when no work has been done.

If a builder asks for deposit money in order to buy building materials, it is best that a homeowner buys the material instead of handing over money to the builder.

Another important thing on building material is that builders can be wasteful. If this happens, a homeowner should make the builder pay for wasted material.

Also, builders are known to give estimates of the required material which are too modest. The homeowner has to fork out more money for the material. Most of the bigger hardware stores have the facilities to do estimations and work out quantities for clients, he says.

Homeowners and builders should enter a contract that stipulates when money should be paid and should rather stick to these terms.

The important thing is that a builder should be paid for work that is done - and done in a manner that satisfies the customer, says Reddek.

For this, Reddek suggests getting a qualified inspector or an independent person and then signing off completed work with contractor.

Any extra work should be handled as if it is a total new job, with its own quotations in writing which should be added to the initial contract as an addendum, says Reddek.

Pool contractors have a particularly bad reputation. Reddek suggests that you hold some money back for at least two months when dealing with any pool company. If there are any problems in that time at least you will have money to pay another company.

Finding help

The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) is a regulatory body mandated to protect consumers and regulate the housing industry according to the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act no 95 of 1998, said Zwelakhe Mtetwa, public relations manager at NHBRC.

Mtetwa said the NHBRC is the custodian of the rights of the housing consumers and has the duty to educate consumers of their responsibilitiy, which is mainly to check if the homebuilder is reputable enough and registered with the NHBRC.

In a case where a builder ups and leaves without finishing the building works, the homeowner can contact the NHBRC to assist in tracing and enforcing the particular builder to rectify the house or the damage on the house at their own costs. This only applies where a builder is registered with the NHBRC and the house is also listed with the NHBRC.

Margot McInnes from the Master Builders & Allied Trades Association in the Western Cape said you are encouraged to use the services of a contractor who is registered with Masters Builders Association (MBA) in their own area.

If there are any problems, you can turn to the MBA for assistance in resolving the issue.

McInnes said the MBA will endeavour at no charge to resolve any complaints received in a fair and equitable manner.

However, she said the MBA cannot guarantee that the complaint will be resolved to the satisfaction of one, or both parties. Should the parties then decide to go to mediation or adjudication or arbitration, there will be charges levied by these specialists.

Article by: Denise Mhlanga