By Nomali Cele
One of the most popular genres of reality-horror is probably waking up in your home, months after a renovation project was supposed to have finished and finding your home still looks like a construction site.
There are stories of how what seemingly was an easy home improvement project turned into an unending money pit. Of course, this isn’t always the builders’ fault – some houses just require a touch too much TLC and not every real estate agent or seller will divulge that at the beginning. While it’s easy for any project to get off plan, you have rights when working with builders.
Before you and your builder get started, you need a draw up a simple agreement, which will outline the project in detail, payment terms and timelines. This written agreement will be a godsend one day should you find a wall torn down when the builder was only to repaint it. You can also use the agreement to stipulate that the builder may not implement suggested changes to the plan until you have discussed the changes thoroughly and seen examples.
It’s easy – in most situations – to take the stance that “ah well, the service provider is the expert,” but you’re the one that will have to live with deep dark cupboards instead of the marble colour you wanted. So as much as you don’t know the technicalities of building or carpentry or plumbing, you’re still the expert on this particular project and it’s important to remember that. Before you turn your home into a monument to regret.
Once you’ve hired the best person for the job at hand and set out the expectations, it should be smooth sailing, right? That’s the good faith expectation but in the event that things don’t go according to your expectations, the paperwork you’ve set up for will save you.
These are a few of your rights as a consumer when working with builders. These depend on the type of project (is it a new building or a renovation?) but are a good place to start.
Working with builders — know your rights
You are allowed to employ someone who will oversee the construction or revamp project, someone whose sole job would be to look after your interests and make sure things are done in a way that meets your standard. Of course, this should be a supplementary step as you should hire people whose work you trust in the first place. It’s worth it getting the services of a quantity surveyor or architect – especially when building a new home.
You have the right, as a consumer, to question where your money is being spent on an item by item basis. Has the builder gotten the best quote possible for the material in terms of cost and quality?
All builders who build new homes are, by law, expected to be registered with The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC). Check whether yours is before hiring. The association will be an important recourse step for you should your project not go well. You have a right
The NHBRC handles the following types of complaints for consumers who’ve built new homes with NHBRC-registered builders: three months in, a leaking roof within the first year and major structural damage within five years.
The NHBRC, mentioned above, encourages all consumers who have complaints regarding their newly built homes to ensure their house is in order before lodging a complaint. This means making sure that you’ve paid the builder for as agreed upon, notifying the builder in writing of the defects and giving them a chance to acknowledge the complaint and provide a solution. Before going to the body, you have to prove that you granted the builder adequate access to the house to do the fixes.
Check if there are associations that deal with the particular form of renovation you are working on and find out how they can advise you when selecting a builder or once you have complaints. Associations include the Master Builders Association, the Electrical Contractors Association of SA, of course, SABS and more.
Working with builders can be an exercise of trial and error but it doesn’t have to be.