Signing a contract

Follow these 5 steps to start your project off right

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Building a cottage is a big investment of your time and money. Follow these tips to start the job right.

1. Sign a contract

Don’t start any work until there’s a detailed written contract spelling out all parties’ obligations, including the price, terms, timelines, warranty, and a payment plan. A handshake is not enough and may leave you with no legal leg to stand on if something goes wrong or the work is unsatisfactory.

2. Get permits

The owner is legally responsible for obtaining all permits. The architect, designer, or builder can look after this, as long as it’s included as part of the contract.

3. Check for licences

Not all contractors are required by the government to be licensed, whereas some are, including electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling trades. Ask to see the licence and carefully look it over to make sure it’s valid: Licences need to be renewed every year.

4. Verify credentials

Architects in Ontario must be licensed by the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) to legally call themselves architects. Those who offer services to the public also need a Certificate of Practice issued by the OAA, in addition to professional liability insurance, which covers damages arising from errors, omissions, and negligent acts in the rendering of architectural services.

5. Ensure coverage

Contractors must be certain that anyone working on your property is covered for injury, usually by workers’ compensation (otherwise, you could be held liable). They should also carry professional liability insurance, which covers injury to third parties, property damage, and any damages resulting from improper work. Insist on seeing certificates for professional liability.

This article was originally published on April 8, 2008


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