Questions to ask potential building contractors

2016-06-01 06:00

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BUILDING or renovating a home or commercial property is a massive undertaking. Horror stories about fly-by-night building contractors, who disappear halfway through a job, are plentiful. Before you invest a substantial amount of money on a project, we suggest that you pose the following questions to any potential building contractors to ensure that they are professionals of good repute.

Are they registered with and certified by the National Building Registration Council?
According to The Housing Consumers Protection Measurers Act, any individual or company in the home building industry is required, by law, to be registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC). Regulated industry criteria concerning construction, technical and financial capabilities need to be met by all building contractors. The NHBRC only certifies those who meet these requirements.

Steer clear of any company (sub-contracted electricians or plumbers included) that is not certified or registered with the relevant bodies in order to avoid putting the safety of both your building and financial investment in jeopardy.

What certificates will I receive once the building has been completed?
Once the project is completed, building contractors are required to hand over certain legal documents to the property developer or owner. For example, all electrical wiring needs to be approved and then certified by the relevant municipality.

A procedure that is often neglected, or alternatively is attempted by uncertified building contractors, is the poisoning­ of the property soil. This is done to create a chemical barrier which prevents subterranean wood destroying termites from getting into your house. This task must, by law, be performed by a registered pest control operator. A list of all such operators is available from the South African Pest Control Association (SAPCA). This procedure is crucial as termites are prevalent throughout South Africa.

If your building contractors do not hire professional pest control services, the structural safety of your building is at risk. Professionals who are certified to do this task will offer a five- year guarantee – unlike building contractors who are not qualified to complete the task.

What type of industry experience does that company have?
As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Many building contractors attempt to lure potential clients by bending the truth about their previous experience.

Ask potential building contractors for testimonials and the contact details of their past clients. It is advisable to get in touch with previous clients in order to find out about their experience first-hand. In addition, you may want to visit some of the properties to inspect the quality of the workmanship.

Are they registered with the Compensation Fund in terms of the Compensation for occupational Injuries and Diseases (Coid) Act?
All building contractors are required by law to be registered with the government-regulated compensation fund. In order to do this, they have to meet a set of stringent requirements. Only then will they be awarded with a letter of good standing. If your builder is not in possession of the document, it is advisable to look for alternate building contractors.

The legal ramifications, should a worker be injured while on the job, are serious. This means that it is of paramount importance you verify that the builder in question is in possession of this document.

If you have used building contractors who are not registered, you may be held liable in the event of the death or injury of a worker.

What is the builder’s current capacity?
It is useless going through the process of briefing your building contractors only to find out that they are busy for the next three months. Establish whether your builder has the time to take on your project

Many building contractors will burden themselves with too many jobs at once – make sure that yours is absolutely honest about what they can and cannot handle. No one wants their building project to be a job that is neglected nor do they want to wait six months for the completion of a project, due to their contractors having too many clients.

Do you have a detailed contract agreement in place?
In the event of anything going awry, the contract agreement between you and the building contractors will be your saving grace. The contract needs to explicitly state the agreed-upon budget, time-frame and job specifications. This should include methods of payment, labour costs and the cost of building materials.

In addition, the contact numbers of the foreman in charge of the site is also of utmost importance.

Before building commences, sit down with your building contractors and go through everything – in detail – to avoid any costly misunderstandings.
- www.thespecialists.co.za

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