By: Lanny McInnes

Staying safe and secure has been on the top of everyone’s mind as we’ve all collectively dealt with COVID-19 and its impact on our day to day life. This focus extends not just to our homes, but also our workplaces as well.

We all want to make sure we take the proper preventative measures to keep ourselves, our families, and our co-workers safe. Most people, however, aren’t aware that when a renovation project begins in their home, it technically becomes a construction site and workplace for those who are doing the renovation work in your home.

Manitoba Home Builders’ Association renovator members take this very seriously. MHBA members are taking steps to help ensure that the work being done in your home is done safely. By implementing guidelines and best practices, by adopting proper social-distancing measures and proper sanitation measures, and by implementing other preventative measures on renovation worksites, MHBA renovator members strive to get the project done correctly and safely.

Given the current situation, it is just as important to research who will be working in your home and what measures they will put in place to keep you, your home, and those working in your home as safe as possible when you as a homeowner start to plan for their summer and fall projects, outline your project needs and set your budget. Now more than ever, it is also important to remember that when a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

There are some key points to remember when you are getting a “really great deal” on home renovations, especially on “cash deals” where the person doing the work is being paid “under the table.” These deals usually mean no taxes are paid and no permits are taken out for the work done. Having no receipt and no contract also means there is no record of the work being done. If your contractor cuts a few corners and uses sub-standard materials, you have no recourse because there was no formal agreement. If the workmanship was shoddy or the renovation caused some damage to your home, there is no formal record of the work ever taking place. If you encounter problems a month or two down the line, don’t bother calling the person who originally did the work. Technically, they were never there. And rectifying a poor job can cost you more than having the job done right in the first place.

Not taking out the proper permits can also lead to issues further down the road, especially if you look at selling your home. Work done on undeveloped areas of you home, usually basements, require permits if there are any structural, electrical or plumbing work done. The City of Winnipeg requires permits for any type of renovation work that is being done to an unfinished area of an existing home. If you have work done to finish a basement or attic without the proper permits and look to sell your home in the future, it could lead to issues in terms of finalizing a sale or put the new home buyer in a position of applying for permits on work already done and then added cost of rectifying any issues if the work was not done properly.

Legitimate contractors take out all necessary permits and ensure that a licensed tradesperson does the necessary work. Using a legitimate contractor that ensures the work is done properly and is properly permitted and inspected, combined with a written contract, are your best insurance as a consumer.

It is in your own best interest to protect yourself when it comes to renovations. When you hire a contractor, get a signed contract with the GST/HST number on it, a detailed warranty, and a receipt for all amounts paid. Also make sure your contractor has liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage for all workers entering your home.

Make sure you get it all in writing from your renovator contractor by having a contract and getting receipts. And make sure you protect yourself from future costs by taking the right precautions. When a cash deal is “too good to pass up” on a renovation, be aware that it may end up costing you much more down the road.