Protect yourself when it comes to home renovations

By Lanny McInnes
Date Posted: July 23, 2022

Manitoba Home Builders’ Association renovator members take workplace safety very seriously.

If you are a homeowner looking at hiring a renovator, you have a vested interest in knowing that your contractor is taking steps to make sure their construction site is safe. Most people 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. MHBA renovator members take steps to help ensure that the work being done in your home is done safely. By implementing safety guidelines and best practices on renovation worksites, MHBA members strive to get the project done correctly and safely.

Professional renovators are busier than ever, so it is important to also remember that when a deal sounds too good to be true when you are getting quotes for a renovation project, it likely is.

“Cash deals”, where the person doing the work is being paid “under the table”, usually mean no taxes are paid and no permits are taken out for the work done. Homeowners that don’t ensure the renovator takes out the appropriate permits take on all liability regarding the project. If the permit is in your name, or you don’t have one, you become the prime contractor by default. If someone gets hurt working on your property, you – not the contractor you hired – are responsible. This is a significant risk many homeowners are unaware of.

Having no receipt and no contract also means that 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 causes 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 will likely cost you more than having the job done right the first time.

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. Be sure 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. 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.

Lanny McInnes is the President & CEO of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.