Please welcome my guest author and friend, Mohammed Jacquesson. Mohammed is a Paralegal specializing in Small Claims Court matters and is providing you with some great tips today when hiring a contractor.
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As a paralegal specializing in Small Claims Court matters, I tend to deal with a lot of claims where there are disputes between contractors and homeowners. Any dispute taken to court is a long and stressful process to all parties involved.
Now that the warm weather is upon us, many people are seeking to either hire a contractor to renovate their home or landscape their yard. Here are some tips, to avoid unnecessary disputes.
1) Know your landscaper
Whether it’s a word of mouth or a directory referral, knowing your potential landscaper can save you a headache and potential costs. When scouting for the right landscaper, don’t be afraid to ask about his/her education, experience, knowledge and past projects. A good landscaper is more than willing to brag about their work and provide references. Many established landscapers have websites which showcase their past projects.
Also, check to see if the landscaper belongs to any professional associations. A landscaper that is part of a credible association will ease your mind by giving you a sense of accountability if something goes wrong.
2) Know the law
Some of the misfortunes that occur are in relation to the lack of knowledge with respect to By-Laws in your region. Be informed; know what you can and cannot do in your backyard and do not rely solely on the landscaper to be your source of information.
A seasoned landscaper will know the By-Laws of your area and will advise you on any permits and/or limitations. As a rule of thumb, do your own investigative work and check with your areas By-Law enforcement office on what is required or not.
The biggest challenges often arise when there lacks a written contract between homeowners and landscapers or when a weak contract exists. Even though oral agreements are valid, they are difficult to prove when disputes arise. Therefore, make sure all terms are taken down in writing, signed and dated.
Keep in mind the following:
a. Be specific on what you want done, on your budget, and on the types of materials you want to use.
b. Do not be afraid to make changes; remember it is your money and your property and should be how you want it. At the same time know your limitations and trust the expertise of the landscaper. Beware that changes might cost you more money; always ask when you are not sure, especially when money is an issue.
c. Do not be afraid to revise the agreement when major changes are made, and there is a dramatic price change.
d. Do not depend solely on the landscaper to keep notes on changes. Make your own notes or logs and take pictures for your own records. At the same time, maintain respect and trust towards the landscapers experience and expertise.
e. Be transparent and expect the same from the landscaper. Communication is what can maintain a good working relationship and what can break the relationship. The lack of communication between the parties will cause the project to turn into a disaster.
As part of your contractual agreement, establish your terms of payment. Determine a time line as to when certain things are to be paid for. Be upfront with your budget, so that the landscaper will be able to work within that budget. Do not expect a $20,000.00 job for a $5,000.00 budget. Be reasonable, and expect to get what you pay for.
5) Seek Legal Advice (if necessary)
Should the relationship fall apart and the parties are not satisfied, seeking legal advice cannot be harmful to any party. The lawyer or paralegal would be able to assist in informing you of your legal rights and provide legal options.
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About the Author:
Mohammed has been a licensed paralegal since 2008. His firm, My Paralegal, has been in practice since 2009 and his services are open to anyone within the GTA. Mohammed works with individuals who have found themselves alleged of any criminal, quasi-criminal and/or regulatory offence and with individuals/organizations that are in a situation where money is owed to them.
B.A., Cert. ADR, Licensed Paralegal
My Paralegal – Legal Services
562 Kingston Road West
Ajax, ON L1T 3A2